The State of European Web Analytics

About a year ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Emetrics Summit in both Santa Barbara, CA, and London. In my very first ClickZ column, I compared the state of the Web analytics markets in the U.S. with that of the U.K.’s, and I found some significant differences. Because of the scale of the U.S. market, there had been much more investment in product and people. There was also greater evidence of data integration for a more holistic understanding of visitor behavior.

Although I didn’t make it to Santa Barbara this year, I was at Emetrics in London two weeks ago. It was a good opportunity to get another take on the health of the Web analytics market in the U.K. and the rest of Europe.

What was initially most interesting was the strong representation from other European counties. Delegates attended from Finland, Belgium, Holland, Hungary, and others. This is a sign of the European market’s developing maturity and fellow professionals need to meet and share best practices at these types of events.

So what was the buzz at the conference in London last week? When discussing Web analytics with clients, I like to describe it as a journey, not an event. You don’t suddenly start doing Web analytics. Rather, you begin a process that’s unlikely to be end. That journey has three phases:

  1. Performance tracking. Putting in place the core key performance indicators (KPIs) and reports; measuring the right things right

  2. Process optimization. Using data to optimize business processes; test, learn, and adjust
  3. User-centricity. Focusing on visitor usage, behavior, and profiles; customer focus

I felt last year that my American counterparts had moved beyond talking about getting business buy in and setting KPIs. More emphasis was placed on using data and becoming more user-centric. In the U.K. last year, talk centered more around the challenges of starting a Web analytics program, the first stage of the journey.

Was it different this year?

Overall, the industry’s moving on in the U.K. There were a range of speakers across verticals and contributions from consultants and experts. Presentations from end users in organizations this year were more likely to talk about how they use analytics data to change the way they do business online and the benefits they glean from it. They talked about how they look at issues like process optimization, improved use of site real estate, and increasingly online metrics placed in the context of a multichannel environment. Certainly, there was more evidence businesses are deploying Web analytics and seeing the benefits.

Holiday-rentals.com gave a presentation about how it’d built a separate Web analytics database specifically for its SEO (define) work. It was using one of the vendor’s visualization tools to look at search engine spiders’ behavior on the site to understand how well the content was being indexed. It wasn’t rocket science, but it was a really neat approach.

Speakers tended to talk about issues around user centricity. Fellow ClickZ columnist Bryan Eisenberg was in town to talk about persuasion architecture — and I think most people were able to keep up with him! Matthew Tod shared a case study about using Web analytics to drive outbound behavioral marketing activity across multiple channels: Web, email, and direct mail. My own contribution looked at the use of segmentation techniques to better understand customer behavior and profiles.

One frustration is a lack of any evidence that companies are engaging in systematic testing. The challenge here in Europe is one of scale. Internal or external costs of running testing programs are probably too high, except for the very largest organizations. Hopefully, the technology costs will come down enough to enable more companies to use this type of analytics as part of the way they do business in the future.

If an Emetrics conference is a barometer of the state of the industry, there’s progress to report. Things are moving in the right direction.

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