Companies lack Webmetric know-how: study

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In terms of businesses' collective understanding of Web analytics as an organizational process, companies still have a long way to go before the majority are deriving solid financial value from their investment in technology and people, said Eric T. Peterson, CEO and principal consultant at Web Analytics Demystified Inc.

Mr. Peterson and the Web Analytics Association announced the results of the largest global survey to date of Web analytics usage and attitudes. The study, titled "Global Use and Attitudes Towards Web Analytics - March 2007," found 69 percent of respondents do not believe that most people using data in their organization actually understand that data.

"The implication is that companies invested in Web analytics need to redouble their efforts to take advantage of their existing investment in Web analytics," Mr. Peterson said. "There is such a tremendous potential for all businesses in the available data. All companies need to do is figure out how to unlock this potential."

The study also found 31 percent of respondents indicate that Web analytics currently answers fewer than half of the questions they have about their Web site and Web visitors.

Sixty-three percent of respondents work at companies still under-staffed for Web analytics projects, and 56 percent of respondents consider Web analytics to be difficult.

In addition, 54 percent of respondents said their company does not track Web analytics return on investment. Only 7 percent of respondents report working at a company taking a process-oriented approach to Web analytics.

"Invest in process," Mr. Peterson said. "Web analytics requires technology, people and processes, with a heavy emphasis on processes, to be truly successful. Put another way, Web analytics is not about technology: It's about how people use technology in a repeatable way."

The study also found that Web analytics consultants have a different interpretation of how companies use Web analytics from the companies themselves. When asked how integrated Web analytics was in their organizations, more than half of the companies reported some level of "strategic" use.

When consultants were asked the same question, the number of companies getting strategic leverage from Web analytics went down to 22 percent, and the number of companies who are "not sure how to integrate Web analytics data into their decision-making process" went up to 28 percent.

"The implication of this finding is that companies are still under-utilizing their investment in Web analytics," Mr. Peterson said.

"While Web analytics tools are great for generating tactical data, the highest-value use of the tools sold by companies like Omniture, Coremetrics,WebTrends and IndexTools is to be strategically integrated into all online marketing and sales efforts."

In addition, the people in the industry who are knowledgeable when it comes to analytics still see room for improvement in their clients' leveraging of it.

The study recommended training throughout the organization regarding the Web analytics data available and its benefit to the company. The study found a gap between the number of people who need the data and the number of people who understand the data. When people don't understand data, they fail to fully take advantage of the opportunity the data provides. By clarifying which data are relevant and using key performance indicators, or KPI-based dashboards, Web analytics can be simplified in way that a greater percentage of the organization can take advantage of the data.

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