Three People You'll Meet with Web Analytics 2.0

Here's a shortened-for-blog edit of my October "Effective Website" column, "The Three People You'll Meet with Web Analytics 2.0."The full article is available at the Multichannel Merchant site.

The next generation of web analytics is less about reports, more about actions and outcomes. It’s about what happens on your website but also about why.

It’s less about waiting for an elusive “ big win” to justify expensive software, more about investing in people and a series of changes that can make a real difference to your web business’ bottom line.

According to the Web Analytics Association ( WAA):

"Web Analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of Internet data for the purposes of understanding and optimizing Web usage."

But Web Analytics 2.0 is also about people - all kinds of people.

Another definition:

People are the intelligent, irrational, distracted and determined folks your site needs to serve for your business to succeed.

Sadly, this special interest group (people) has been historically under-served by web analytics.

For years, web analytics software vendors chased marketshare by offering increasingly complex tools with more and more features.

A related challenge, and one that remains, was the lack of trained analysts to extract value from the tools that companies purchased.

The last two years have seen big changes:

  • Google rocked the competitive landscape with its free Google Analytics software. (And now offers a free multivariate testing tool, too.)
  • Web 2.0 technologies diminished the primacy of the page view, and other key metrics in first generation web analytics. Cookie deletion and javascript breakage haven’t gone away either.

These factors -- too many reports and too few analysts, a credible free tool, and disruptive technologies -- drew the curtain on the first generation of web analytics.

Now let’s meet three people who can shape the outcome of the next generation of web analytics in your business.

1. Meet You- the decision maker.

You might be the owner, site manager, or the VP- E-commerce … you’re the person who decided to launch (or resuscitate) a web analytics program in your firm.

To guide your program to success, start by looking away from the screen.

Answer this vital question, in 15 words or less:

Why does our company have a website?

Your answers may look something like this:

  1. Sell product.
  2. Get catalog requests.
  3. Get email addresses.
  4. Answer customers' questions.

Your answers may vary ( you may be a lead generation site, or a customer service site). The point is to isolate the critical few business outcomes that spell success for your site and keep your web analytics program laser- focused on attaining these outcomes.

Focus your team:

What are the key business questions you need your web analytics program to answer?

Example questions:

  • How does our website impact sales in our call center?
  • Which of the articles in our help center are really helping conversion?
  • Which of our online marketing channels are most efficient?

Next, meet your go-to people for the answers.

2. Meet your customer

Listening to the voice of your customer is the secret to shaping a web analytics program that tells you not just what people do (or don’t do ) on your site, but also why. Without the why, its easy to reach wrong conclusions and make unproductive changes.

Avinash Kaushik advocates using online surveys to ask site visitors 3 critical, “primary purpose” questions.

  1. What is the main task you’re trying to complete on this website today?
  2. Were you able to complete it?
  3. If no, why not?

With insight into what people are really trying to accomplish, and how the site helps or hinders, you can help your visitors meet their goals.

When you hear your customer’s voice, you may find opportunities to remove obstacles to purchase, but you’ll also learn that not every customer shows up to buy. You gain a more realistic look at the true size of your conversion rate opportunity. You also get the chance to help more customers complete their current tasks and leave satisfied, increasing the likelihood that they’ll come to you when they are ready to buy.

3. Meet your Web Analyst

The third person you'll meet in Web Analytics 2.0 is your Analyst . How will you recognize this person? She’ll be expert with your chosen web analytics software of course, and able to work with data from offline channels as well.

Excellent quantitative analytic skills are mandatory, but they’re also just a starting point. Here are a few questions to consider as you recruit or grow the right Web Analyst.

  • Does he know the difference between reporting and analysis?
  • Does she embrace qualitative, voice-of-the-customer data as a valid complement to quantitative / clickstream data?
  • Does he see the big picture? A great analyst pays to attention to detail without getting lost in it.
  • Can she tolerate ambiguity? A great analyst is not paralyzed by imperfect data.
  • Is he a great communicator? Can she tell a story with data, and let it persuade stakeholders who disagree with her and may outrank her?
  • Does she partner with the internal customer? A great web analyst syncs up with all the teams that shape a company’s web business.

Remember, to satisfy your customer and meet your business goals, your web analytics program’s primary investment is in people.

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