Measurement amid a downturn

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Jim Sterne is an analyst at and chairman of the Web Analytics Association. BtoB recently asked Sterne about the impact of the current economy on Web analytics and the hot trends in marketing measurement. BtoB: What has the economic downturn meant for the world of Web analytics? Sterne: On the one hand, some executives are cutting Web analytics as an expense. They are saying, “Gee, it's noncritical; it's that or fire people so let's get out the big, blunt ax and cut things off.” On the other hand, there are executives that take out the scalpel and say, “Rather than cut off the whole limb, let's remove some pieces that aren't working.” Web analytics is an excellent scalpel; you can use it to review all your advertising and marketing expenditures to find out what's working and what's not, and cut back on [some] marketing—yet be more effective overall. BtoB: Have the ways that marketers use Web analytics changed due to the economy? Sterne: It depends on what they are selling, what their goals are, what the politics look like. You need technology people to set [a Web analytics platform] up to collect good data. And you need businesspeople on the other end to take the results and make good business decisions. In between the two, it's all about turning data into actionable insights, and that requires analysts. If you have them, then Web analytics is a terrific tool. If not, it's easy to find them and hire them by the hour, bring them in for a day or for a project, pay them by the drink. BtoB: What topics are drawing the most attention in Web analytics right now? Sterne: How do we measure social media? It's all new and fun, and it's very exciting from an insider perspective. Out in the real world, it's interesting as well, and it's starting to have a serious impact that people are just starting to understand. It's dramatically changing how you describe, define and measure the success of your brand. Companies are out there measuring social media; now they want to tie that into business outcomes. Everyone is talking about the latest blog post, but does it make people come to the site, buy stuff, increase leads? But there's a big difference between what's interesting and what's useful. That's the challenge—to link it up with business outcome. That's always where the money is. —R.K.
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