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E-Business Intelligence: Use It or Lose It

Published
  • September 01 1999, 1:00am EDT

Click. It's a Thursday night and I get on the Internet to do some errands (e- errands, as it were). Click. I check airline ticket prices to Atlanta. Click. I check out my bank account balance. Click. Click. I pay some bills. Click, I try to buy some khakis from my favorite retailer, but I get frustrated in the checkout procedure and ­ click ­ I leave the site. The whole time I am on the Internet, my click-stream data is being captured by the companies with whom I am doing business.

Analyzing click-stream data from Web customers can be extremely valuable for organizations that desire a better understanding of the interaction between their customers or clients and their site. Click. A new form of business intelligence has evolved ­ e-business intelligence, or e- BI.

What value can e-BI click-stream data provide? Companies can determine patterns such as:

  • Which areas of their Web site get the most customer interest and which areas do not;
  • Whether customers (like me in the example given) are leaving their site prior to completing their purchase, and where in the business process that defection is occurring;
  • Which marketing messages are succeeding and which are failing;
  • Which inventory items are not selling so they can be removed from their catalog;
  • Which inventory items are getting high traffic so their product offerings can be expanded;
  • And much more.

You get the picture.
Tools that analyze Web traffic have emerged and will continue to emerge. Players are exploding into the market and vary in their ability to automate the analysis of data and the ability to act on that analysis. Some vendors that have Web usage analysis tools (and/or tools that can help business act on the decisions derived through analysis) that are available today are Andromedia, net.Genesis, Marketwave, Accrue, DataSage, E- Dialog, RightPoint, Epiphany, Net Perceptions, Verbind, Blue Martini and others.

Click-stream data is very valuable indeed. But think what we could do if we tie this online data to offline data ­ data that resides elsewhere. When legacy application transaction activity is linked with Web usage data, we can go beyond just Web marketing and get into overall customer relationship management as well as other business activities. And that's what provides real value.

Which customers use the Web channel as well as physical channels? And under what conditions does that usage occur? Can we design a customer experience in both channels that will foster customer retention? How does usage vary by overall customer profitability? Imagine if the customer service call center staff had access to Web usage information in addition to legacy order, product and transaction information for a particular customer. They could utilize Web navigation history to assist the customers with transactions or purchases and could provide training to the customer as well. In fact, they could identify opportunities for cross-selling products and services based on the customer's navigation history. And the customer would most likely feel like the company knows and understands them better because of the information available to customer support staff. Ahhhhh, the stuff on which customer retention is based!

Tying Web usage data to other data can help develop a business orientation toward action. While critical, this integration of online (Web) and offline (legacy) data may indeed be difficult to achieve. At the heart of it is the issue of definition and identification of customer. Is a customer defined the same way in Web applications and legacy applications? Is the customer identifier the same in both areas? Good information design up front can ensure ease of integration as well as usefulness of output. In fact, without it, the business will always be second- guessing the outcome of analyses. Making data design a core competency is key to converting retail insight into data and code that can drive sales.1

Eighty-nine percent of companies have an Internet site.2 If you're not mining your e-BI data and linking it to your legacy data, you should be. E-business is hot, and e-business intelligence is even hotter. Data design is at the heart of good e-BI. It's what can make us or break us in this competitive marketplace. Utilizing e-BI becomes like the old saying, "Use it or lose it!"

References

1 Forrester Research Report. "Online Retail Data Strategies." May 1999.

2 Booz Allen & Hamilton. June 2, 1999.

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