Web Analytics 2007: Tools Diversify, Vendors Consolidate

No sooner than you know it, another year’s gone by. One wonders whether we’re any further ahead in the quest to improve digital marketing efforts’ performance. Let’s look back at what’s happened over 2007.

Having given it a bit of thought, I was struck by certain somewhat random things about the last year. First, there’s vendor consolidation that everyone’s been talking about for awhile. For us in Europe, the year started with Omniture acquiring Instadia, then TouchClarity. Some commentators started to refer to Omniture as “Omnivore” because its acquisition appetite stretched to Offermatica and Visual Sciences.

On one hand, consolidation is good because it can lead to the best technologies being brought together. I met some senior team members at Omniture’s summit in London this year and was impressed by their vision for the future. The potential downside of acquisition and integration, particularly of similar but competing systems, can be disruption. I hope Omniture’s customers don’t lose momentum at a time when many are driving value from historical investments in data.

This year also marked the growth in nontransactional analytics. As the majority Web sites don’t sell things, it seemed like an issue in need of attention. My conclusion: you can’t successfully measure the effectiveness of nontransactional sites just by staring at reports from a Web analytics system. You need a broader set of tools than that. Since then, WebTrends has made some contributions to address the challenge by launching Score, which enables value to be assigned to particular events or behaviors. Perhaps 2007 has also been the year when “engagement” has become all the rage. For me, it’s still a term looking for a definition, but no doubt that debate will continue.

Looking back at my predictions from last year, I see I was incorrect on some points involving the U.K. market. I said we’d see greater use of targeting and optimization technologies. I also said we’d see a greater focus on retention marketing and, as a result, the need to have various marketing technologies speak to one another and for customer activity data to be shared.

Indeed, there’s been greater adoption of targeting and optimization technologies here in the U.K. Both Optimost and Offermatica established offices here before their acquisitions. But I don’t think there’s been the growth and adoption that I expected. No doubt organizations are starting to develop and implement systematic testing programs, but many organizations are perhaps aiming to undertake these initiatives in 2008.

I fared better with my second prediction. From the work we’ve been doing in 2007, I’ve seen organizations trying to make sense out of all their data and how to get a single view of their marketing activity’s effectiveness. We are at least in the planning stages, with organizations asking the right types of questions: How do I attribute sales to different channels in a more sophisticated way than now? How do I understand the impact of offline marketing activity on online performance and online activity on offline performance? This type of joined-up thinking requires merged data. If I were to make any predictions for 2008, it would be that we’ll see more organizations planning and implementing data integration strategies.

The last think that struck me about 2007 is how the market’s continued to diversify and grow. It’s difficult sometimes to keep on top of all aspects of online marketing performance measurement and optimization. There’s now a huge range of disciplines in this industry: testing, optimization, social media measurement, customer experience feedback, and so on. This diversification will continue into 2008, and the challenges for practitioners, agencies, consultancies, and the industry itself in the form of the Web Analytics Association will be to keep pace with the rate of change. If I’m to make one more prediction for 2008, it would be that I don’t think it’s going to be a dull year!

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