Of course your company has a Web site. Since you are involved with Web analytics, your daily activities are almost certainly entwined with the interactive marketers who send email campaigns and buy search engine keywords. But how often do you draw on the experience of the database marketers in your company who send direct mail? And how well do you know the call-center agents who are responsible for delivering retention or cross-sell offers?
No doubt your company is using multiple channels to acquire customers and foster loyalty, but as marketers, not all of us are as adept at crossing channels as we are as consumers. Despite this fact, the planning, execution and measurement of these activities are often not integrated; and customer relationships are rarely siloed around a particular channel. As consumers, we are already comfortable with this cross-channel reality. We check in online to our flights, we print out our movie tickets at home after buying them online, we research online and then buy in the store, and we buy in the store and then get help online.
This cross-channel reality also means that marketers can no longer push communications to consumers because consumers have the choice to determine through which channels they communicate with us. Moreover, marketing, sales and service opportunities are no longer discreet events; a customer that calls into a call-center becomes not only a service effort but also a marketing and selling opportunity. All of these factors single the growing complexity of marketers relationships with customers.
How has your companys Web analytics responded to this complexity? How integrated is your measurement of campaigns across channels? How much of your customer data do you pull into your Web analytics system? How much Web data are you pushing into your customer data warehouse? It is one thing for your customers to cross channels, or even for your company to put messages into the market through multiple channels; it is quite another to fuse those marketing activities together in an intelligent way so as to maximize response and conversion rates.
Given this backdrop, two key actions are required. First, marketers must correlate the aggregate measurements from all channels, both online and offline. This activity provides a holistic understanding of which investments work well, which can be improved, and which should be abandoned. Second, marketers must take their cross-channel measurements beyond the aggregate level down to the individual customer. By doing so, marketers gain a competitive advantage through the ability to target timely and relevant communications to those individual customers.
Marking the Change and Evolution of Web Analytics
It is difficult to discuss change in the Web analytics space without acknowledging the recent changes in vendor landscape. It is easy to mark the evolution of the space with these changes, particularly because they provide definitive milestones such as acquisitions (Omniture buys Visual Sciences), management shake-ups (WebTrends replaces CEO), and new product releases (pick your favorite announcement of a new feature-packed version). Even though Web analytics has been around for more than a decade, gauging evolution and maturity of the practitioners and their companies is more difficult.
If the mandate is to measure individual customers across channels and Web analysts are going to be the agents of change, how do you get from here to there? What do the milestones look like? How can you not just recognize them, but facilitate them in your own organization? The right steps taken at the right time are crucial. Organizations typically go through four phases of Web analytics usage:
Phase One, Initial Deployment: This phase is characterized by establishing a baseline of simple, site-level metrics. Static, out-of-the-box reports are often the focus. There is usually a heavy emphasis on creating production reports that are scheduled and periodically distributed to various parts of the business. This stage of adoption is very focused on answering tactical questions, such as how many hits, page views or visitors does the Web site get? While important foundation knowledge, these counts do little to help you effectively monitor and improve online success. If you feel that you are drowning in data, buried by reports and perplexed by generic key performance indicators, it is time to evolve to the next phase of adoption.
Phase Two, Integration of Business Context: The modern day Web analyst has discovered that activities must be tied to business goals. This generation of Web analytics enlightenment is less about reports and more about providing actionable insights, monitoring changes and analysis with business context. Managers use the analysis to review choices, such as selecting the right search engine keywords, landing pages and check-out paths. In this phase, there is a strong focus on costs associated with programs and the incremental results. Most practitioners and organizations find themselves in stage of maturity.
The next stages of evolution for Web analytics is less about aggregate results and more about individual customers.
Phase Three, Online Profiles for Individual Customers: The vanguard interactive marketer can take action at the individual customer level, has individual visitor profile analysis for behavioral targeting on site and through other online channels like email in order to drive more business from existing customers.
The goal of this stage is to improve the likelihood of turning prospects into customers. This approach makes sense in the young, high-growth, land-grab market in which the online space has operated as it displaced offline activities and budget dollars. However, the online space is maturing, as can be seen by the stabilization of keyword bid prices. Interactive marketers will soon follow the path of their direct marketing colleagues, driving more business from existing customers. The result is a natural extension of this trajectory to include the next phase.
Phase Four, Profile Integration across Marketing Channels: The transition into this phase can only be led by a true renaissance marketer. Its distinctive attributes include integrated multichannel relationship marketing, cross-channel experience management and combinations of these relationships and experiences across all channels as individual customer profiles.
Both online customer profiles and integration across channels necessitate analytics and actions at the one-to-one level. It is here that traditional offline direct marketing methods are married with online activities to best determine which prospects to target with which offer. The result: interdisciplinary marketing from Web analytics, Internet marketing and data warehouse architects.
These two stages have one major implication for both Web analytics and direct marketing: integrated customer profiles. Forrester estimates 80 percent of direct marketers don't have any Web behavioral data in their customer databases.1 Direct marketers must integrate Web data into their customer database, and Web analysts need to pull data in from other channels. While Web analytics was born in relative isolation from the rest of the business, it can finally become deeply integrated into normal business process. Such integration will enable businesses to successfully leverage the dollars already spent on customer data warehouses and business intelligence systems.
To create integrated customer profiles, there are implicit requirements for your analytics program, including:
- A plan for return on your investment, framed in terms of improved acquisition, cross-sell and retention.
- Open systems that enable data interchange and integration.
- Customer-level information in all systems.
- Customizable systems that adapt to customer data and business needs, not vice versa.
- Common keys between online and offline profiles customers. One way to accomplish this is through loyalty cards and online registration. In both cases, the company must "earn" this information by providing value in return.
- A strong focus on people, process and methods, not just capabilities.
The call for integration and coordination of marketing efforts across channels doesnt require uniformity across all channels. Instead, be pragmatic about the fact that the effectiveness of different promotions, different offers, different merchandise, different contact strategies and different creative treatments will vary across channels.
Customers are still in the early days of aligning their organizations to focus on integration and one-to-one customer communications. These stages are relatively new in practice, but ones that can yield significant return on investment if approached in a focused, methodical way. Change for the Web analytics industry will no doubt continue. How will you and your organization change with it; not just to adapt, but also thrive? This discussion is not hypothetical. These next frontiers of interactive marketing are already being explored and settled by industry leaders anxious to gain a competitive advantage, improve acquisition, and foster customer loyalty. The stakes are high, but so are the potential rewards.
- Eric Schmitt. "The State of the Customer Database." Forrester's 2005 Database Marketing Benchmark Study: July 18, 2005.
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