Going Where Analog Marketers Have Not Gone Before

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Searching for the right analytics software to suit your particular needs is a little like pointing the Hubble Telescope into the great black beyond.

One of the missions we attempt to accomplish here at Direct Marketing News is to keep marketers abreast of developments in technology and alert them to interesting new tools that might—might—make their jobs easier. We stress “might” because cherry-picking the orchards of tech start-ups for solutions that can be easily installed and show revenue gains in short order has become a career in and of itself. It's kind of like the Hubble Telescope, an incredible astronomical advance that has identified a couple of thousand star systems in our galaxy that could support life. Astronomers are actually doubling the rate at which they can make these verifications every two years, but estimates are that the Milky Way boasts at least 100 billion life-supporting star systems. Ever get the feeling that star systems and start-ups have something in common?

This week, Trustradius, an online community of marketing tech users (actual line marketers, not marketing techs on loan from IT) released a “Buyers Guide to Digital Analytics Software” based on 230 in-depth reviews by authenticated users. Trustradius undertook this effort because it believes that, while tech analysts have their place, their recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt. Users, says Trustradius CEO Vinay Bhagat, are the true Hubbles of this marketplace.

“The folks who comprise the review panel are mostly marketers, hands-on users. That's important, because you have to understand where your company is on the digital spectrum before you can make an intelligent decision on analytics platforms,” Bhagat says. “There is no one-size-fits-all answer. The right solution is going to depend on your use case. Even big and small doesn't always matter. You can be a small operation with a high-traffic website or a large enterprise with low traffic.”

One thing that does fit all budgets, however, is free technology, and Google Analytics appeared at the tops of users' lists at small, medium, and large companies alike. “People are often generous with their ratings for something they don't have to pay for,” Bhagat notes. “Most often, Google Analytics is used in combination with paid tools in more sophisticated organizations.”

Indeed, free applications seem to do the trick for companies with under 51 employees. The average rating of analytics platforms from that group was 4.2 out of 5, and leaders were either totally free, including Google Analytics or Piwik, or offered a free version, such as StatCounter.

Ratings from reviewers at midsize companies (51-500 employees) were more rigorous. Piwik here merited only a 3.3 and IBM Digital Analytics didn't fare much better at 3.4. Products rated as “strong performers"—including GoSquared, AT Internet, and KISSmetrics catered largely to e-commerce companies and focused on ease of use and real-time capabilities. Adobe Analytics, a product catering to enterprise-level clients, rated in the top echelon, as well.

Practical considerations emerge in the enterprise segment. Google Analytics Premium ranks high on users' lists along with Adobe because both are designed to crunch larger volumes of numbers. But—and you all know this—even the well-heeled can't turn down a freebie. Piwik, shunned by the mid-market companies, reemerges as a favorite among enterprises.

After doing their own analytics of the reviewers' choices, Trustradius offered these tips for all marketers shopping for software:

1. Get executive-level support for your efforts. From the highest level of your organizations, a mind-set should emerge that digital data should be used to improve the business

2. Ask the right questions. Understand what your needs are before you seek to fill them

3. Build the right analytics team. Make sure they can handle all departments and all of those departments' specific needs

4. Find the tool that fits your analytics maturity level. Where are you on your data discovery journey?

5. Other tools matter. Web analytics is just one part of tracking the customer lifecycle.

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