The recent downturn has caused every business to evaluate its cost structure. In some cases businesses have simply cut costs across the board. Since there are free (and often easy) tools claiming to be “web analytics”, some businesses have chosen to remain with or switch to free tools for their reporting.
There is growing evidence that this is a false economy...
The strategic viewpoint
Firstly, a considered approach is to view web analytics as being the critical weapon in the battle to optimise expenditure. Businesses want to cut costs in the right place and increase the effectiveness of every pound, euro or dollar spent. In order to do this successfully they need a business and marketing optimisation platform, rather than just a web stats reporting system.
Furthermore, successful companies generally seek to differentiate themselves from their competitors. As free stats tools have become so popular, businesses that use them often end up with no "competitive advantage", for the simple reason that their competitors also use the same tool!
However, perhaps the worst impact of free stats tools is that it sends a clear message throughout the organisation, that the web channel data is not considered "valuable". This is destructive and works against the desire to achieve efficiency gains.
The tactical limitations
On the ground, there are many tactical limitations which afflict the majority of free stats tools, such as:
- Inherent inaccuracies in the core numbers
- Limited data models, that are unable to provide 'visitor' based metrics, only overall 'volume' metrics
- The absence of comparative PPC data, for example Yahoo Search vs. Google Adwords
- Key web data cannot be extracted or shared with systems such as CRM or Email
- Lack of personal contact, support and expertise covering installation, maintenance and analysis
Putting web data to work
In the enterprise space, the old days of only using “web analytics” for weekly and monthly management reports have gone forever. Most organisations are now interested in using the insights available to optimise their marketing and business systems; They want to put their web analytics information to work.
The availability of visitor centric information means that it is possible to automate the integration of website visitor behaviour with CMS, Email and CRM. It is this area that creates the most interest since it can solve some of the biggest issues facing marketing teams. Behaviourally targeted communications can provide spectacular results and completely alter the relative effectiveness of email, SEO, PPC and advertising.
Indeed, the signs are that innovation at the enterprise end of the market is accelerating and will continue to do so. Contrary to popular opinion, the gap between the "free stats" tools and the paid for business optimisation solutions is widening. Although both occupy the space known as “web analytics”, they are now very different.
Far sighted organisations that embrace this opportunity are re-allocating budgets and reducing costs without affecting their top line. It is these innovative organisations that have weathered the storm and are best placed to take advantage of the up-turn.