Web analytics and measurement are playing an increasingly pivotal role as marketers strive to deliver the best possible customer experience, according to two pieces of research published by E-consultancy this month.

According to marketers surveyed for the annual Online Customer Engagement Report, produced in partnership with cScape, the use of web analytics is regarded as the single most important method for gathering intelligence in the context of improving engagement with customers.

An overwhelming 91% of marketers believe that web analytics are either ‘essential’ or ‘important’ for this purpose, a higher percentage than for usability testing, customer feedback and insights from customer-facing staff.

Of course, in order to have the best chance of success in understanding and improving the customer experience, companies should use a variety of different tools and resources. Any approach used in isolation has its limitations.

In an interview published by E-consultancy this week, analytics expert Eric Peterson stresses that clickstream data should be used in conjunction with qualitative data which gives insight into the ‘voice of the customer’.

The owners of web analytics and ‘customer experience’ within organisations are finally becoming acquainted with one another because of the healthy focus on effective interaction with customers, whether offline or via digital channels.

A key reason why web analytics has gained so much ground as a sector  – the 2007 Web Analytics Buyer’s Guide, published this month, found that spending on web analytics by UK businesses will grow 25% this year – is because marketers are getting better at extracting useful and actionable information to make better business decisions and to improve customer engagement.   

However, an on-going challenge for marketers is to establish exactly what ‘customer engagement’ is and how this should be measured. The Customer Engagement Report found that marketers understand this topic in a number of different ways.

Healthy debate will continue to rage around an exact definition and best measurement of customer engagement, but what is not under any dispute is the critical importance of interacting with customers effectively both online and offline.