Web analytics now a marketing must

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B-to-b marketers are realizing that Web analytics aren't just a good idea anymore-they're a necessity for businesses that want to optimize lead generation, create more "stickiness" and loyalty, and boost customer experience.

Last year, businesses spent $378 million on analytics software and services, said Eric Peterson, Jupiter Research site technology and operations analyst. That number will jump to $463 million this year and $931 million by the end of 2009. Much of the growth is coming from companies looking for ways to combine multiple pieces of data and get a larger company picture.

"The analytics applications are pretty mature," Peterson said. "All the vendors are offering the same feature set for roughly the same price. What you're seeing is customers wanting more, so the analytics providers are expanding their measurement footprint and partnering with companies in other industries such as campaign management, e-mail marketing and search."

Analytics firms add services

Case in point: WebSideStory recently announced a deal to acquire search and Web management content company Atomz. Digital River bought Blue Hornet Networks, an e-mail marketing provider. CoreMetrics created partnerships separately with e-mail service providers @Once, CheetahMail, Digital Impact and Responsys.

Even if their analytics provider doesn't partner with a search or e-mail provider, many marketers are now using their Web analytics package to make decisions about their overall marketing plan-and their business in general.

Quill, a $1 billion subsidiary of office supplies retailer Staples, garners between 50% and 55% of its sales from its Web site. The company had been using barebones Web analytics stats but wanted to know more than how many visitors came to the site and whether they bought anything, said Sarah Alter, Quill's VP of channel marketing. Last May, the company contracted with Web analytics provider CoreMetrics.

CoreMetrics, which has a partnership with online rating service, was a perfect fit, Alter said, because she could marry her site's customer feedback with its click patterns. If Quill received a poor rating, it could go back and see exactly how that customer perused the site. "If a customer gives us a low score on price, we can go back and see what other products they were looking at," she said.

Allows daily adjustments

Michael Kahn, senior director of consumer marketing at Socrates Media, an online legal form provider, said his company uses Omniture's Web analytics offering to monitor almost all its marketing efforts. Kahn said he creates a monthly performance report with 23 different parameters and makes daily adjustments to his site and his marketing spend. He uses analytics to determine which of Socrates' 15,000 search terms are most successful. He's also using results to tweak his on-site merchandising.

"We know that people come into the site from a paid search term. But analytics gave us visibility into the fact that they got to the landing page and immediately used [Socrates' on-site] search," Kahn said. As a result, Kahn quickly realized that his team needed to improve its search tools and landing pages.

Ross Jenkins, senior analyst with networking specialist Ciena Corp., started using ClickTracks Web analytics tools for a similar reason: to know if his marketing spend-online and off-was justified.

Ciena uses pay-per-click placement and offline print advertising, and needed a way to merge click-throughs with conversion data, Jenkins said. He knew, for example, that while click-through rates were often high, conversion rates were low. "We wanted to figure out the stuff in between that connects your ad to why someone moves forward on your site," he said.

Using the ClickTracks data, Ciena realized that the content prospects were seeing wasn't doing the job. "We stripped out the superfluous navigation links and made copy more segment-specific based on keyword terms," Jenkins said.

After overhauling the existing landing pages, Ciena immediately saw an increase in click-throughs and conversions. M

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