Tracking and Analysis Tools: Part 2

In my last article, I mentioned that I would provide an overview of a class of tools that will enable one to “do simple and complex analyses of marketing and other data from across the enterprise.”

But I have since realized this statement might imply that the tools I mentioned do not do analysis. This is not true; most do.

Certainly some applications simply track and report on site activity. But the majority of tracking applications on the market offer at least some level of analysis functionality. The three I mentioned as examples — NetGenesis, Personify, and Accrue — each offer pretty robust solutions, in fact.

For the purposes of trying to understand which tools might be right for you, let’s look at two aspects of analysis: reporting and analytics.

Reporting

Most of the applications on the market (ranging from WebTrends to NetGenesis) provide basic reporting functionality. The power of most of these tools is that they also allow users to define and configure reports specific to their needs.

On the less complex side, tracking and reporting solutions such as NetTracker. focus on reporting on log-file activity and may provide some simple analytical capabilities. Predominantly, though, these types of solutions are focused on effectively reporting on site traffic trends. If you are running single server sites (which is unlikely) or have simple reporting needs, it might make great sense to look toward this class.

Analytics

There are other tools, though, that provide more advanced analysis (and, consequently, greater reporting capability). Online analytical processing (OLAP) tools from providers such as Cognos, Brio, and MicroStrategy allow marketers and other business agents to perform complex analysis on a massive array of data. Though such tools require a greater investment of financial and human capital to integrate, configure, and deploy, they offer significant strength and flexibility in building reports and analyzing enterprise activity.

It should also be mentioned that planned or recent releases of some tracking applications such as NetGenesis and Accrue have embedded OLAP engines to enable a greater analytical capability.

Putting It All Together

It is the triumvirate of these tools (tracking, reporting, and analysis) that will provide you the foundation for making intelligent decisions about how to segment, market, and respond to your customers. Though each application boasts its own merits, they are all focused on providing the answers to the vexing questions you probably face each day: Who are my best customers? Is the online channel profitable and effective for all segments? Is the online channel more or less profitable than a field sales force?

And, while the solutions are focused on the answers, it is still up to you to ask the right questions. (Don’t think you can find a tool to do that for you just yet!)

As the market matures, the differences among these types of tools may in fact become academic. In trying to assess which solution is right for you, focus on defining the questions you are seeking to answer. Finding out the number of visitors referencing a product catalog calls for a much simpler solution than one that helps you determine the profitability of segmented customer groups.

So using these last two articles as a foundation, I am going to delve into the great and terrible world of personalization next time. What does personalization mean? What does it mean in a B2B context? What solutions exist on the market?

And, above all, what do tracking and analysis tools have to do with personalization?

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