Web Analytics: Convergence Continues

Earlier this year, I examined the analytics software marketplace. In January, as Omniture gained momentum and Visual Sciences acquired WebSideStory, I wrote Convergence is inevitable,” and that it couldn’t arrive fast enough in online media, analytics, and optimization.

Since then, a lot has happened in the analytics marketplace. Omniture last week said it plans to acquire Visual Sciences; this winds down nine months of convergence activity. In the optimization space, Omniture purchased Offermatica, and Acxiom bought Kefta. Interwoven last week said it plans to buy Optimost. These moves effectively put the leading optimization vendors into the hands of much larger companies with much broader agendas.

In the media space, Google’s planned purchase of DoubleClick was followed by WPP’s acquisition of 24/7Media and Microsoft’s massive ($6 billion) acquisition of aQuantive. As with the software vendors, the advertising technology and placement solutions moved into the hands of larger and stronger players.

What does this mean to you as a marketer?

A bellwether of maturity, convergence is good. Instead of dealing with multiple vendors, multiple solutions, and increasing divergent technology, you and your team can now focus on overall solutions. Your goal: drive the most ROI (define) from your marketing programs and make the entire process as easy on your team as possible. These industry changes enable you to do exactly that. I even believe you can stop making choices about a particular feature or channel and start thinking about your marketing plans and analytics models as part of an overall marketing platform. Remember: vendor convergence should drive program convergence within your organization.

Perform an audit of the analytics software you use both on site and off. Look at the scorecards, and map each cell back to a data source. Where has convergence paid off? Can you simplify the inputs and streamline the actions you take based on those data? Find the places where technology has been rolled into one company and call your sales rep. Ask her what she can do to help you get the most value from the consolidated solutions.

Every marketer dreams of having one software package to manage all marketing channels, leverage all data, and make deployment and experimentation capabilities available with the push of a button. We’re not there yet, but we’re potentially closer now than a year ago. However, there are also potential pitfalls along the way.

Remember SFA (define) and CRM (define)? Weren’t Siebel, now part of Oracle, and Salesforce.com going to give you the sales and marketing platform necessary to drive greater ROI? Are these solutions a dead end or simply a different path to the same outcomes offered by analytics firms? Siebel and Salesforce.com approach the fundamental sales and marketing problems from a very different perspective than analytics vendors, and they’ve found ways to partner and integrate with vendors like Omniture, but is that enough? Each vendor has the desire and business need to provide the most complete solution possible to its customers. These companies are looking for ways to cooperate today, but their own consolidation could easily put them at odds with each other tomorrow. Fortunately, solution is inevitable: convergence.

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