Where to go for ideas, data, and advice. Part three in a series.
I don't know about you, but I love to discover a new source of information. I'm happiest when it's free. We pick up this week in the middle of a discussion about sites where marketers can get cold, hard... data. Read on for the latest discoveries, and don't forget to refer to part 1 and part 2 for any you may have missed.
First, a few more stats-oriented sites before we move on to other categories:
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development The OECD is a good source for international economic data. Data focus on various economic aspects of the 30 OECD member countries, of which the US is one. Much of the data are available in Excel format and everything is easy enough to find. Just look under Statistics in the main menu. International per-capita alcohol consumption, pesticide use, traffic accidents resulting in injuries... it's hard to know how to classify this site. Let's just say that for the data-fiends among us, it's interesting to explore and you just may find it worth bookmarking for your next highly-targeted, economic- data need.
ClickZ Stats (formerly CyberAtlas) No, this isn't a shameless plug for ClickZ, although I'm sure the powers-that-be appreciate it. ClickZ Stats is a good source for marketing-related, current-events focused statistics. ClickZ culls multiple data sources. This not only gives you quick access to a variety of data points, but it's also a great way to find even more sources for future reference. One recent ClickZ Stats article not only quantified e-commerce by ethnicity, but also led me to The Media Audit, a source I'd yet to discover. Next thing I know, I'm reading a report about the Internet usage habits of folks right here in Atlanta. An added bonus: often, you'll find nuggets of data from research services like Jupiter and Neilsen/Netratings normally available only to their clients.
Online Publishers Association The OPA conducts online advertising research with the goal of "advancing the online industry." What does that mean for you? More free data! The research section isn't as stats-intensive as some other sources I've mentioned, but includes OPA-commissioned studies as well as data from other sources. The Multi-Channel Media Brand Study was particularly interesting to me. Be sure to check the dates; old research (well, old by Internet standards) is mixed in with the new.
Case Studies and White Papers from Vendor Sites
This category of information sources comes with its own issues, but is nonetheless worthwhile. You'll find everything from hard, objective data to advice and ideas.
Almost every site requires you to register before viewing a white paper or case study (as marketers we understand, right?). So it can be time-consuming to cull this category. Bear in mind the most important issue: it's research sponsored by a vendor who wants to sell something. Be alert to bias as you peruse the offerings. That said, I find this category to be an excellent source of data and ideas. Here are a few examples.
WebSideStory offers "Web Analytics: It's Surprisingly Simple ,which is helpful for anyone who needs a crash course (or just a refresher) in the basics. This guide gives an intro to Web analytics and some straightforward examples of what to measure.
WebTrends has a free Resource Center that contains interactive presentations, (try "Improve Conversion by Measuring the Key Scenarios on Your Web Site" from ClickZ's own Bryan Eisenberg), white papers, case studies, and an analytics newsletter.
Insight Express posts the results of industry surveys (registration required) and (gasp!) you don't even have to register to view them. Tip: when you click a survey to peruse, choose "view results online" from the subsequent, slightly-confusing menu.
I only mentioned a few examples that I've visited in the last couple of weeks or months. To find new sources of your own, consider the vendors in whatever industry or arena you're interested in and check their sites for free information. (I chose Web analytics vendors for obvious reasons. Feel free to explore on your own).
Competitive Data & Information
The Web has certainly made it easier to gather competitive intelligence, hasn't it? Here are a few favorites from that perspective.
The American Customer Satisfaction Index The ACSI's research is often quoted in articles, case studies and third-party research regarding customer satisfaction. The site provides access to years of customer satisfaction scores by industry, by company, and by quarter. Check out the scores by industry for e-commerce categories. It's interesting to compare sites with their customer satisfaction scores in mind, but you'll have to draw your own conclusions about why one competitor ranks higher than another. I don't know if you'll have the same result, but I find myself getting off-topic and browsing categories just for the fun of it. Sure enough, Coke and Pepsi are still neck and neck in the race to please soft drink consumers.... But back to the task at hand, this site is certainly worthwhile for evaluating your competitors on their ability to satisfy customers.
I think I can get away with one more installment in this series before the editors tell me to wrap it up. Based on your feedback, you're been looking for this kind of information. So check back next time for more.
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Melaney Smith is a freelance marketer with more than ten years of experience in marketing, finance, and data mining. She evangelizes the need for businesses to mine their data and make it easily accessible for decision makers. She specializes in helping businesses utilize customer, transaction, and other data to improve or create sales and marketing programs.
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12:00pm ET/9:00am PT