Analytics Data Technology

Tectonic earthquakes in web analytics

By Ron Person |

April 13, 2012 | 5 min read

As part of The Drum’s analytics supplement, Ron Person, director of analytics at Sitecore, provides a timely insight into the changes waiting to shake up web analytics.

Can you feel the tremble? We are about to be hit by one of the biggest societal and technological earthquakes in history. It’s on scale with Guttenberg’s invention of the printing press, an earthquake that ripped learning from the hands of feudal lords and the church. It’s on scale with the industrial revolution that created large population centres and gave rise to the middle class. The tectonic earthquake we’re facing is the just the first part of the worldwide adoption of the internet. If you thought change has been happening quickly, hang on. It has just started.

If you’ve seen the sigmoid (S) curve showing the adoption of new technology you know that change starts gradually and then increases rapidly. The point we seem to be at now is the inflection point where upward acceleration begins. But, there’s a serious barrier we must hurdle if marketing is going to adapt to this rapid growth. Traditional web analytics has to change.

Traditional web analytics has been around for about 15 years. It’s based on a commodity model. That means that no matter what your business model or strategy, your web analytics are focused on increasing your website’s volume of visitors. Most web analytics use a variation on the number of visitors, visits, time on page and number of conversions.

This is a recipe for disaster. Traditional web analytics cannot keep up with the changes demanded by the internet’s rapid growth, by the expansion of ecommerce and by our use of the web as a social connector. As the web and ecommerce become even more pervasive, more and more businesses quickly adopt each other’s tactics. This causes a downward spiral of cutting costs and standardising services. When one marketer innovates it takes little time for another to duplicate and match their advantage. No one stays unique for long. And no one keeps their customers because in a commodity market customers switch easily.

This commoditisation of e-marketing and web analytics is going on at the same time as major changes in technology and the way people use the web. In just the last two or three years we’ve seen a huge expansion of ‘Big Data’, the capture of data from web interaction, RFID tracking, retail Point of Sale, aggregation of credit databases and more. Data is becoming so huge it’s moving into the Cloud. Yet, web analytics keeps tracking the same old metrics.

We also see people using the internet for more and more social interaction. Every few weeks we’re faced with yet another social media. Yet, web analytics keeps tracking the same old metrics.

Marketers are faced with greater pressure to optimise and improve, yet they can’t measure their cross-channel marketing impact or Marketing ROI. Yet, web analytics keeps tracking the same old metrics.

As ecommerce becomes more commoditised, people have no problem shifting from one faceless vendor to another. The lowest price wins. Yet, web analytics keeps tracking the same old metrics.

So what can we do as business people? What will happen? eMarketing and analytics have to change in the near future. Any business or vendor that wants to stay on top must harness these technological and cultural shifts so they can adapt to larger data sets, personalised engagement with visitors (rather than commoditised) and a new set of engagement analytics that works across channels.

Some of the changes that web analytics have to adapt to in the near future are:

  • Engagement metrics that work across channels and enable marketers to easily compare performance across channels
  • Personalisation and marketing automation fed by new metrics that make visitors feel they have a personal relationship with online vendors and organisations
  • Big Data storing and analysing petabytes of data and finding unique patterns that are hidden from standard statistical methods
  • Artificial intelligence that guides marketers in making better decisions faster

With all of these changes that must come in web analytics we’ve asked some of the top industry analysts for their opinions on what is critical in online analytics now and in the near future…

Ron Person is director of analytics for Sitecore. In the most recent Gartner Group ratings Sitecore was ranked as the leading visionary in Content Management Systems. Ron recently played a major role in developing Sitecore’s new Engagement Intelligence Analytics system, a system that brings Business Intelligence to cross-channel marketing.

Ron’s experience includes twenty five years as an independent consultant, the first half as one of Microsoft’s first consultants and the second half improving business performance as a Six Sigma Black Belt and certified Balanced Scorecard consultant.

The Drum’s analytics supplement is available for subscribers to download here

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