Omniture Summit: Trends in Analytics

This past week I attended the annual Omniture Summit, the analytics firm’s annual customer event. I was invited to speak and share client experiences as well as cover material from the book I coauthored, “Actionable Web Analytics,” and topics I discuss on ClickZ. I also attended sessions and talked with attendees to hear more about what others are focusing on and struggling with and the common roadblocks they’re overcoming.

I’ve attended this and many other industry events (tool-specific and general Web conferences) for a number of years, and I was really impressed by some of the things Omniture is doing and the level of discussion among attendees. I heard there were more than 2,000 attendees, and judging by the number of filled seats in the general sessions, I’d say that was right.

Author Seth Godin, a presenter, stated multiple times that the audience represented interactive marketing’s cream of the crop. He went as far to say the event is “theconference for online marketers.” Again this really wasn’t about Web analytics. Web analytics is simply a means to an end, the end being improving your companies business online. Godin covered a lot of great material in an entertaining fashion and greatly raised the bar in terms of the conversations — it wasn’t about Web analytics or optimization specifically. It’s about intelligent marketing and improving your Web business. That was a constant theme throughout the entire conference.

A few interesting observations from the summit:

  • Arrival of analytics. It feels as if analytics has finally pushed its way squarely into the hearts and minds and perhaps even into the new DNA of digital marketers. The center of gravity is now conversations about marketing issues and opportunities. Barely present were conversations about hits, page views, visitor counting methods, and, thankfully, third-party versus first-party cookies.
  • Testing and targeting. After these packed sessions, I heard lots of great discussions continuing. It seems that a year ago, people were starting to understand testing and just learning about targeting based on behavior, whereas this year, people are talking about how to make their targeting and testing work together across the site. Many more folks weren’t asking “how is that possible?” but “how should I best structure my real estate for targeting?”
  • Attendees. People in all sorts of different roles were in attendance. In the past while there were a few people whose roles weren’t exclusively Web analytics, this year the diversity was really impressive. They included designers, developers, Web strategists, CMOs, information architects, project managers, business analysts, merchandisers, and every possible role you could think of on a Web or marketing team. Clearly, the Web is seen as a hub of many marketing departments. While it’s not the only important aspect of marketing, obviously it’s a very key component.

It’s encouraging to hear marketers talk about segmentation, optimization, revenue, profit, return on ad spend, ROI (define), and so on. Ted Cannis of Ford shared lessons learned from becoming a data-driven organization. He discussed how the automaker has transformed from a company that used to look at data into one that tests and tunes all aspects of their site and analyzes visitor interactions on site, off site, at dealers, on partner sites, media, and so forth. Cannis’s financial background (he was previously a CFO for Ford in South America) brought a unique perspective that opened a number of people’s eyes.

Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of Web analytics content there. In fact, the power Web analytics sessions were packed, too. I led a session with my colleague Jason Carmel on Web site monetization, prioritization, and optimization. It had to be relocated from a room with 80 seats to one with more than 400 seats at the last minute, proving business value and driving contribution are top of mind now. Believe me, it was the topic, not the presenter — although Jason was very entertaining! These are business issues that marketers feel compelled to understand and are very different from late-night brawls about third-party cookie rejection rates that don’t really matter much in the big picture.

Web analytics has moved to its home now. And it’s about time. In the past, you’d talk to an Web analyst working at a large company bemoaning that she was the only one who got it and that her internal customers were clueless about Web analytics’s power and the insight it generates. Marketing folks, in many cases, have caught up. And with their new thirst for the addictive testing and targeting results, one could say they’ve taken over and aren’t relinquishing the insight again. The smart ones (and this conference was full of those!) understand the road to the CMO title will likely come from interactive channels in the very near future. But they must have a holistic view of the Web channel and its impact on- and offline and the understand of the importance of continual improvement.

Beside the great conversations, Omniture, which is far and away the leader in its space today, announced a number of product launches and a new ecosystem for Omniture tools. First, it announced SiteCatalyst 14, a unified marketing suite that has consolidated its analytics and reporting product into one solution area. It also announced a new version of SearchCenter, with improved scalability, automation and features. Finally, it announced the conversion products (based on the acquisitions of Offermatica and TouchClarity), which are now called Test&Target.

While the event was great and Omniture is doing revolutionary things, the most impressive things were the conversations among practitioners. As you explore new technologies and changes in offerings, always consider these questions: What are your business goals? What value does the Web channel play in the success of your overall company? And how can you leverage technology to better serve your customers and prospects? It never should be the other way around. It’s clear Omniture is committed to providing the tools for companies to be successful. The ball’s now in the court of corporate America’s interactive pros to determine how to best leverage these technologies to maximize their online success.

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