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We have started to pull together our 2006 Web Analytics Buyer’s Guide and it’s clear that a lot has moved on in the last few months.

Should we re-name this topic entirely in the face of criticism that the title Web Analytics doesn’t do justice to its strategic importance and growing role in delivering valuable business insights?

This issue has occasionally reared its head in the past but is now becoming a subject in need of resolution if the sector is to gain more traction.

Neil Mason, of Applied Insights, says that Web Analytics should be called something along the lines of e-Business Insights. He adds:The name Web Analytics doesn’t really mean anything or do justice to the outcome or value. It’s not just about the web - it’s about business over the web. Similarly, it’s not just about analytics – it’s about insights.”

Meanwhile, Malcolm Duckett, of speed-trap, which sells e-business intelligence, says that our buyer's guide should be re-named the “Online Business Intelligence Buyer's Guide."

Their views reflect the opinion of many industry experts that there is a perception and branding issue associated with the current name for this fast-growing industry.

For more enlightened organisations, Web Analytics feeds into a wider function of the business which can have a variety of different names including Customer Insight, Management Information (MI), Management Information Systems (MIS) or Business Intelligence (BI).

Online data is only part of the business intelligence picture and it is therefore increasingly important for companies to pull together and analyse data from different sources.

It was clear from our February Web Analytics roundtable – or should I say our Online Business Intelligence roundtable – that companies are having varying degrees of success in terms of unifying different data sources (e.g. web analytics and CRM software) and getting a single view of the customer.

While many organisations recognise that they should be more strategic in their use of online data, it is often difficult to reach a single-view nirvana which will enable the most valuable strategic insights.

But despite these logistical and political difficulties, the good news for vendors and businesses is that there is now much more impetus towards turning data into actionable recommendations.

The vendors realise that they need to help businesses interpret their data, while their clients realise that they need to employ business-minded analysts who can turn the information into something meaningful.

The upshot is that, while we feel it is too early to abandon the name Web Analytics, the buyer's guide will come with a strap-line or sub-heading which makes it clear that this subject is about business decisions and strategic insights, and not just data for the sake of data.

Linus Gregoriadis

Published 5 July, 2006 by Linus Gregoriadis

Linus Gregoriadis is Research Director at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn or Google+.

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Comments (4)

Malcolm Duckett

Malcolm Duckett, VP Operations & Marketing at Celebrus Limited

It needs to be recognised that many solutions ARE web analytics providing things like the famous "proportion of images loaded by compression technique" report (e.g. gif v jpeg etc.) (was that WebTrends?) or ABCe's madness of "counting" unique visitors by using IP Address and User Agent strings (guessing would be a better term....). Much like trying to predict your future luck from the stars or chicken entrails...

Just adding a sexier name is not helping the buyer. We (the industry and the analysts) need to separate the "wheat from the chaff" and recognise that there are a great range of solutions on offer SOME OF WHICH are e-business intelligence and some of which are most definitely not... no matter what it says on the tin...

about 10 years ago

Matthew Tod

Matthew Tod, CEO at Logan Tod & Co.

This smacks of rearranging deck chairs on a sinking boat! Web analytics is a perfect description of the current state of the industry – both the technology and the way the technology is used. So in my experience 95% of organisations are doing standalone web analytics, and an elite 5% are taking the web analytics data into a warehouse and doing smarter things!

If you look what happens when web analytics is fully integrated into the company analysis infrastructure it is submerged in business intelligence. OK, you might call it Customer analytics to differentiate a bit, but the reality is that it is business intelligence vendors who play in this space. Vendors like SAS, Microsoft, Business Objects, Cognos and Teradata all integrate data from multiple sources; and to them web analytics data is just another source of data. For the analysts it is just the same – web data is just another part of the whole customer picture.

As for the aspiring web analytics vendors, well they need to stack up their claims alongside the business intelligence leaders. They need to prove to potential clients that there is a need for a standalone e-business insight tool, and that they should not use their existing business intelligence application. To my mind that is a very hard sell to clients and there is no proof yet that by doing it the client would get better insight.

Vendor are pushing this “web analytics” centred view against the “customer centred” view because they fear becoming reduced to the role of data feed to the business intelligence tools. I cannot see the “web analytics” centric view succeeding, so moves like that of Speed Trap to really partner in great depth with SAS to offer something that is both new, unique, powerful and easy to buy are really really smart.

Vendors may want to move to something sexier, but does your audience and is it a reality? I say keep publishing a web analytics report, keep focusing on how these tools can help analysts generate insight that will improve efficiency of online marketing and the effectiveness of web sites at converting interest into action.

about 10 years ago

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Ben Hopkins, Founder at The Hopkins Group

It's true that web analytics alone is just that. It quickly becomes clear that what is useful for information architects or programmers is not true Business Intelligence. WebTrends and Omniture have tried to become this new breed of service, but still fail because because they are limited in both reach and core knowledge of what any singe business is all about.

U.S.-based companies such as Psynchronous Communications have coined yet another term by targeting Marketing Communications Professionals. What is particularly intersting about them is they are a MarCom agency - not a typical software shop. Their Gravity platform is considered a "Marketing Communications" platform and while web analytics is one spoke in the wheel it definatly integrates other modules for a more complete picture. This enables them to actually profile cusomters and market to them automatically. It is this type of deep embedding that companies need to actually receive benefit from what is, often times, an expensive endeavor.

I think there will continue to be a "shake out" as the cream rises to the top. The only way to really be as strategic as they want will be to have the continual ear of the CEO and their often changing needs met in a timely way. While this may prove a difficult task for web analytics vendors taking more of a one-size-fits-all product approach... it is the only true way to become the BI/CI solution.

about 10 years ago

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colin mcdermott, partner at easiserv.com

What about URCHIN?

about 10 years ago

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