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Innovations in Web Analytics

Experts in eCommerce have never expected more from their web analytics than they do today. The analytics industry has evolved from merely tracking site visitors to key eCommerce metrics including where these visitors come from, how much they spend, and how successful each channel is at finding visitors who convert into customers. The web analytics industry is changing in many ways. Online retailers now have more information available to them about their customers than ever before, but not all countries are happy with this level of knowledge. The European Union in particular has enacted mandatory opt-in notifications for tracking cookies on websites, a move which could greatly hinder the web analytics industry to track even simple analytics data. With so many recent and future changes I sat down with our web analytics expert, John Runyon, to get his opinion on the changes in the industry…

Given the recent innovations in web analytics, what are some relatively new key indicators brands are starting to look at to maximize their ROI in their online retail efforts?

More brands are looking to move away from the “single silo” mentality when it comes to looking at analytics. Instead of just looking at web analytics or e-mail analytics and figuring out how to increase conversions on each channel, brands are beginning to tie different channels together in attempt to measure how the entire customer experience affects the purchasing process. Are people who post on the brands’ Facebook page more likely to buy? Do people who open e-mails at night make a purchase shortly thereafter? These are just a couple things brands are looking at when they focus on the entire purchasing cycle. Personally I’m starting to use more of a “Venn diagram” style with brands to bring all of these channels together and easily display how they interact and overlap with each other – both online and offline.

Social media in particular seems to be a layer which is always changing as new mediums (i.e. Pinterest) are emerging and added into the mix. Some of these social tools can be frustrating for integrating with existing web analytics as sometimes these analytics are still in the infancy or merely offered as an “add-on” without being thought of as a core component of the social service.  


Recently a directive took effect in Europe which makes online retailers gain consent before placing “cookies” or tracking code on web browsers. How will this change affect the analytics industry and do you think this could happen in the U.S. soon?

This change will definitely affect the analytics industry, to an extent these tracking “cookies” are the lifeblood of the industry. Without these cookies even basic statistics such as unique visitors would be impossible to track, making it especially difficult for international retailers to look at their analytics as a whole throughout different geographies. Another factor of opt-in “cookies” is that you’re automatically segmenting your audience based on the people who opt-in, so your customer profile is more based around consumers who opt-in to tracking than consumers who may actually be shopping on your site. This could potentially be a major issue for brands as there would be a bias in place and it could be difficult to gauge the interests of an entire audience if only a specific segment of that audience is tracked. Could this happen in the U.S.? Who knows, if a similar directive were to be enforced here it would definitely change the web analytics industry here!  


It seems more retailers are interested in using “big data” to expand customer marketing information to work between channels (e-mail, social, etc). How difficult is this task and how realistic of a goal is it for retailers to obtain?

The term “big data” may be a little overused in my opinion as the goals of marketers haven’t changed even though more data is accessible. Marketers can and will strive to understand their audience as much as possible and will continue to do so. The ability to tie all channels together is the ultimate goal of the marketer. This “big data” movement has been the goal of web and retail analytics all along, only recently have web analytics become the main focus of these efforts. The task of making this data available to marketers is getting easier and easier and I foresee big advancements in this area in the coming years, not decades. The main goal of this “big data” is to understand what influences purchasing decisions not only online but in-store. It’s a complex puzzle and as we are able to get more pieces to solve it we are able to better comprehend exactly how customers interact with and are influenced by each touch point a brand has.  


What area of web analytics do you see growing the most in the next five years?

Attribution, or what channel specific revenue can be attributed to, is one area in particular which is really starting to take off and helps to optimize marketing messaging not only within that channel but all channels. As a whole, web analytics is becoming more integrated with the entire marketing experience and more decisions are being driven off of data. There is less “guesswork” now than there was five years ago and brands who use the tools available will be the ones who thrive both online and offline.

Thanks John for some great insight into the current state of web analytics and how the changes in the future will affect the industry moving forward. As more brands look to grow their business online and in different countries, web analytics will play a key role of determining the impact of the investment and how successful it can be. As we’ve recently seen major online retailers make mistakes in developing countries, the desire to grow must also match the need in these markets for future growth.