By Manoj Jasra – September 15, 2006
Mature e-business involves using analytics and other customer and competitive intelligence to make educated decisions, and also involves using those same data sources to quantify later successes. Web Analytics and tracking user behavior are more popular than ever before, partly because of the availability of robust tools, and partly because of the need in the wake of a growing competitive landscape. It isn’t enough just to be online anymore, like it was in the early nineties, now, with e-retail anticipated to grow by over 30% this year, you have to be effective and efficient to capture a larger share of your target market. Whether you are an advanced user who is looking to dissect conversions and PPC campaigns, or you are a basic user who simply enjoys seeing how many referrals from Hotbot you have received each day, your future success is inextricably tied to using your web analytics to the furthest reaches of its capabilities.
There are thousands of websites that have been around for years and years, and many of them are built on top of proprietary content management systems. These systems can often be very difficult to work with from an analytics implementation perspective because in order to paste 10-15 lines of analytics code, it requires a person to search within multiple levels of imbedded templates to reach the correct file and location in the source code. Finally, when you arrive at the right file and code section, webmasters/SEO consultants conclude that they cannot implement friendly page names on all 1,000 pages because it would require them to update each page individually (and they are paid by the hour). Problems such as these can transform what was originally expected to be a 3-week, fully functional implementation into a 6 month phased project that is only ever partially complete.
If your IT team decides that an analytics implementation project is too daunting of a task to code on individual pages, I would suggest that you start with a cost/benefit analysis. Get the IT dept to estimate their time (and cost of that time) to complete all the coding properly, then estimate your potential revenue gains if your conversion rate goes up 1, 2, 3% or more and project this into the future. According to the time value of money, the NPV of a 2% higher conversion rate (and revenues associated with that) will more than likely be worth a lot more than the cost of the implementation in the first place. The lifetime value of the implementation means that you’re losing money every month by not doing it.
In my past analytics implementation experiences, I have found that the most difficult sites to deal with are the ones for which the stakeholders have not been proactive in thinking about web analytics. Implementations are difficult because every site section either requires a custom programming solution or requires extra consideration so that the net effect on the website can be calculated.
The most trouble-free setups have come when the website is developed with web analytics in mind and they both are cohesively implemented. This way, a more diverse tracking strategy can be applied because you know that you can develop your site based on the best interest of the web analytics. A simple example of this is developing a separate page for confirmation for a support request rather than having the same page execute the confirmation. Having a separate confirmation page allows for more accurate conversions tracking than having your scenarios linked to the click of a submit button.
Whichever road you choose, I believe it’s beneficial to seek the aid of a good analytics consultant. This person will be able to help your IT team with best practices in the implementation process as well as help your marketing team and other key stakeholders address key performance indicators that the web analytics solution should be tracking specifically for you. A consultant can also help in creating custom dashboards with metrics that are important to all levels within your organization, so the entire executive suite can see your successes and trending in a single snapshot.