Drill Deep Into Data to Mine Marketing Nuggets

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It's becoming too common a scenario: A marketing manager reports to the business unit chief and describes the performance of the company Web site by citing the number of hits, user sessions and page views. The chief listens politely to the dizzying gaggle of metrics, only to ask, "But how is the Web contributing to the numbers for this quarter?"


It once may have been frustrating to be asked such a question, but it doesn't have to be any more. These days, the tools exist to instantly analyze and manipulate user data and maneuver the site accordingly. Marketing, advertising and editorial professionals, tasked with analyzing Web-generated data, have the capability to create a degree of accountability never before seen in any other marketing channel. The Internet can not only capture unique visitor data, but integrate it with offline knowledge and practices, analyze results and influence future behavior on a individualized basis, in real time.


When marketers move to unleash the accountability of the Web, they are often faced with unintelligible in-house data. Site reporting was originally developed for IT managers to monitor the performance of the servers hosting a Web site. Critical issues include traffic volume, link performance, bandwidth, protocols in use and quality control. WebTrends and Marketwave are popular performance solutions that provide these metrics, some of which can be used for overall business analysis.


For instance, it is possible to review the effectiveness of navigation, portal strategies and offline advertising by assessing traffic origin and determining the top destinations in a site. User sessions can indicate if visitors are lingering or lost in the site. Most performance solutions provide the top five sequential page views, which reveal interests of overall visitors, but not the granular data marketers need to develop business strategy and measure success.


Marketers need data that meets the four R's of direct marketing: right offer, right message, right time and right place. The online environment poses a challenge to most marketers because every business unit or product group has its message available to all visitors. This makes it difficult to single out the results for a specific message or offer strategy. Additionally, there are unlimited route variations leading to single or multiple products, ranging from unique URLs to Web banners. URLs themselves are often labeled in esoteric ways that do not allude to their content and can be difficult to identify within HTML frames or dynamically-generated databases.


Several site analysis and e-commerce solutions enable marketers to drill through these layers of complexity and obtain detailed data that can be digested in intelligent ways. For example, Andromedia's Aria activity-analysis solution can detect the page or banner from which a visitor decided to put an item in a shopping cart, which items are abandoned and which are completed sales. WebTrends' newest product, CommerceTrends, allows marketers to identify specific navigational paths and assign preset values, thus demonstrating a hypothetical ROI for specific Web site behaviors per campaign or product.


While this information is valuable, it does not directly correlate to multi-channel business plans typically developed by product groups or units organized around customer segments. To do so, marketers need to understand a "visitor" as a customer type, identified by characteristics underlying their segmentation strategy.


Thus, a fifth "R" becomes critical online: right person. Marketers need to understand Web activity from a total customer viewpoint on a one-to-one basis, in their own terminology and across multiple channels. Thankfully, available technologies can deliver both the data and the online intelligence to fully capitalize on the Web's real-time, data-driven marketing capabilities.


Accrue's Insight 3.0 is one of the most robust site analysis and reporting tools. It offers data integration capabilities, capturing Web data across multiple servers and linking it to customer databases, retrievable in "My Accrue" customized formats.


NetPerceptions' partnership with net.Genesis links personalization solutions that track and predict what a visitor will want to buy or see with customized reporting solutions to provide intelligence that can be leveraged at other offline, customer touch points.


Andromedia's partnership with Broadvision synthesizes personalization technologies, site-specific business logic and e-commerce reporting. Andromedia's Likeminds collaborative filtering software groups visitors into profiles based on multiple offline and online data sources, while Broadvision's One-To-One Commerce Solution allows merchants to match content based on a series of business rules. This solution will be integrated with Aria to provide comprehensive site reporting of customer type e-commerce behaviors.


Marketers can make the accountability of the Web work for them, rather than against them, by implementing solutions that translate Web site data into meaningful statistics while integrating offline and online data in ways that deliver market intelligence across the enterprise.


Thus, a response to "So how is the Web contributing to the numbers for this quarter?" can be answered with precise statistics.


Andrea Remyn is director of strategic planning at online agency K2 Design Inc., New York. Reach her at aremyn@k2design.com.
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