Customer-Centric Web Analytics

I got a bit of a wakeup call this week. An event I thought was a long way off is getting closer. The Emetrics Summit is now only a few weeks away, and organizer, Jim Sterne, has been marshaling his speakers.

I’m moderating a track called “The Voice of the Customer,” and there’s a great line up of speakers, including my fellow ClickZ columnist Jason Burby from Zaaz.

I’m really pleased this is happening. If you regularly read my columns, you know I believe Web analytics is too site-centric and not customer centric enough. In other words, people focus too much on site analysis, rather than on analyzing the people who are trying to use the site.

The inclusion of this track in the Emetrics summit means we’ll get exposure on some of the issues, challenges, and opportunities of working with surveys and other customer data sources alongside the data collected from Web analytics systems. I’m looking forward to it.

Sterne’s instructions to the speakers got me thinking about the whole area again and just what some of those challenges and opportunities are. The opportunities are plenty and pretty obvious. Augmenting your understanding of site behavior by adding additional insights into who visitors or customers are, and what they think, provides both sides of the story. I often tell clients Web analytics data tells you what’s happening on your site. Survey data tells you why.

Despite the many benefits, many organizations still place data in silos. What are the challenges to getting a more holistic approach to an online marketing program’s effectiveness?

They fall into three main areas:

  • Technical challenges

  • Competency challenges
  • Organizational challenges

The technical challenges focuses on data integration to make data easier to analyze. I’ve written about macro data and micro data integration. One good trend is Web analytics systems vendors are making it easier for us to integrate survey data with site data. Most major vendors now say they can integrate survey data into their systems, but look closely at exactly what they mean by “integration.” One Scandinavian Web analytics company, Instadia, has gone so far as to make customer surveys an integral part of its product, with the ability to write, launch, and analyze surveys from within the system. Collected survey data is stored in the same database as the visitor’s behavioral data. That’s what I call integration.

Competency and organizational challenges are two sides of the same coin. Analysis and reporting of continuous marketing data and the development and analysis of customer surveys are different skill sets. The Web analytics industry isn’t yet mature enough for individuals to have had the opportunity to be exposed to survey work before getting involved in Web analytics, and vice versa. Typically, these are separate functions within an organization. Web analytics data may be owned by the online marketing function, and surveys may be owned by the marketing research or consumer insight function. Each may be unfamiliar with the other sort of data, so they’re rarely brought together.

There are lots of challenges and opportunities, but things are definitely moving in the right direction. I’m looking forward to hearing other speakers explain how they’ve met those challenges. I’m also interested in hearing from you. Send me some good examples of how you’ve successfully integrated Web analytics and customer data.

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