Web Analytics Trends: What I Learned On the Road

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been participating in the Achieving ROI Marketing Seminar Series in five cities across the country with Avinash Kaushik, Shane Atchison and Brent Hieggelke. As I wrapped up the final session in last week, I took a few minutes to reflect on a number of trends that carried through to each city.

Our seminars were designed for marketing executives, not for Web analysts. We heard some of the same things I’ve been writing about and cover in my book, but in a number of cases with a slightly different flavor.

Some of the highlights I heard in city after city:

It isn’t about Web analytics
Web analytics isn’t the be-all, end-all of marketing. It’s simply a means to an end. The end is improving site performance and overall business. Executives don’t get excited about Web analytics, they get excited about what Web analytics and 10 other data/insight sources can tell them about their overall business.

Senior marketing executives do see the power in analytics, and are interested in understanding and improving site performance
Marketing executives see the upside and value in data, and want to know more. Even 18 months ago, you didn’t see this as much as you do now. They’re seeing they can be smarter and do better online, they realize the online channel can and does significantly impact offline behaviors, and they can be more strategic with how they loop together the overall customer story.

Organizations still don’t have solid, consistent Web channel goals
In each city, I asked attendees if they felt their companies had defined, specific, consistent, agreed-upon site goals. Typically, zero to 10 percent raised their hands. When I dug in and asked specific questions, most admitted it wasn’t as far along as they hoped. As I’ve often written, defining those site goals and desired behaviors, with buy-in from the overall Web team, is the foundation for any successful Web analytics and optimization initiative.

Too few conducting on-site testing and behavioral targeting (but there’s more interest than ever)
Few companies say they test. When the question changed to how many are considering it, nearly everyone raised a hand. While nearly everyone’s interested in testing and have plans to engage in site optimization over the next 12 months, most feel they don’t know where to start. It isn’t about the available testing tools, but all the best practices and organizational changes that need to be in place for success.

There’s consistent desire to truly understand the Web channel’s impact and role in regard to the rest of the business
The Web is one of many channels. Again, it isn’t standalone, and top marketing execs aren’t thinking of it as such. They’re striving to understand all the related variables of offline media, online media, social media, physical stores, catalogs, resellers, etc. Just knowing how they’re doing online isn’t enough in their minds; they are looking to understand the full picture from a customer experience standpoint.

See the value, embrace the opportunities and change organizations
Marketing executives see the value of understanding visitor behaviors and are beginning to embrace the opportunities. But they’re also realizing online success involves much more than just buying tools and trying to work them into the regular Web update cycle. They’re beginning to understand they need to change their organizations, how they make decisions, how they share data, and more.

In coming weeks, I’ll revisit some of these issues and the other hottest topics of the seminar series.

Nominate your choice of technologies, companies, and campaigns that made a positive difference in the online marketing industry in the last decade. Nominations end August 3 at 5:00 pm (EDT).

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