Imagine sitting at your desk with your company Web site up on the screen. What would you like to know at that moment? How about a scrolling list of companies visiting your site at that second, with the ability to find out which office location was browsing and maybe even get some information for a few leads to follow up on? ¶ If that kind of Web traffic tracking piques your interest, analytics vendor DemandBase Inc. has a new application that brings these kinds of slick tricks to life. And DemandBase is not alone.
Web analytics platforms are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Not only can they process more data and integrate Web stats into other corporate systems, they can incorporate such data feeds as social media and influence information. Just as important, the latest systems can present these metrics via intuitive interfaces that allow marketers to plot subsequent actions—often down to targeting an individual lead prospect.
Couple those new capabilities with increasing economic pressures to do more with less, and the Web analytics industry finds itself at the heart of how b2b companies are doing business in the downturn.
The Web analytics industry was established around the time of the last economic downturn—the dot-com collapse—when the first analytics vendors began delivering platforms that moved beyond crude Web analyses, such as how many “hits” or visitors a site received, to deliver more detailed insights into Web traffic statistics.
And during this latest downturn, the industry again finds itself at a key turning point: providing products that go well beyond basic stat tracking to offer key analytics affecting all corners of the businesses.
“We're definitely seeing a heightened sense of interest in Web analytics. We're seeing a certain kind of energy there. It's almost countercyclical. As companies have less to spend, they are investing more in making good decisions,” said Tony Byrne, an analyst at CMS Watch.
“We're also reaching a certain point of reality where you can install some really cool analytics tools and generate all sorts of reports, but without an experienced person to interpret them, they don't really help you much. Real analytics require human analysis.”
That's a problem many b2b marketers are struggling with. In some companies—especially ones where Web analytics are used to delivering basic Web site traffic data and little else—the Web analytics team is among the first to be cut in layoffs. But for marketing organizations that have fully staffed analytics teams delivering real insights, things have become much trickier.
“There's no question that management is demanding more data to support decisions,” said Galen De Young, managing director of b2b search engine optimization firm Proteus SEO. “Yet, fewer people within the organization can provide that data. People who had the knowledge and understanding to track, analyze and extract meaningful information are no longer there or have been reassigned.”
As a result, Proteus is seeing more reliance on consultants “who can provide not only the expertise but stability and consistency as well,” De Young said.
Another recent trend among marketers is to use Web analytics to score easy wins with quick ROI, said Jim Sterne, an analyst with Targeting.com and current chairman of the Web Analytics Association (see Q&A, page 15). Examples of this would include fine-tuning email campaigns, which remain a key avenue whereby b2b companies create and nurture leads.
“[Marketers] are still learning how to put together email scenarios and use analytics to measure results in terms of real dollars and cents,” Sterne said, adding that another quick-ROI analytics solution is to conduct multivariant landing page optimization, which allows marketers to fine-tune a number of marketing efforts that end with a customer hitting one landing page or another.
Test and measurement vendor National Instruments is using Web analytics this way, doing highly granular tracking of landing pages and is even beginning to correlate Web traffic with specific lead activity (see case study, page 15).
“We're definitely seeing a lot of interest from going to the aggregate level of analysis to individual Web analytics,” said Akin Arikan, director of product marketing and strategy at Unica Corp., which provides the analytics platform for National Instruments. “Marketers want to know what prospective companies are coming to a Web site and what products and pages they are looking at—whether or not they register and become a lead.”
Such an approach is quite different from the usual tack of using Web analytics to get an aggregate view of Web traffic. But it tracks with the overall trend of marketing departments using the Web channel—and related tools, not just Web analytics but marketing automation and lead-nurturing platforms—to move potential customers through the sales funnel.
B2b financial services company FactSet Research Systems is using the new Web analytics-driven lead platform from DemandBase not only to turn identified customers into leads but unidentified masses of Web traffic as well, said Meredith Binder, FactSet's VP-global marketing.
“Previously, we didn't have a way to know the types of visitors to our Web site,” Binder said. Now, using DemandBase's analytics, FactSet can better identify the types of visitors coming to its site, including the geography and even the company they are browsing from.
DemandBase accomplishes this feat by combining traditional Web analytics with massive amounts of marketing data aggregated from such partners as AccuData, Hoover's and LexisNexis, said Chris Golec, DemandBase CEO. “Companies have no idea what percent of their Web traffic is actually from their target customer base,” Golec said. “They may know they have 100,000 visitors, but they don't know if 10% or 50% of those visitors are actually potential customers. There's tremendous potential to turn that [as-yet undifferentiated] Web traffic into actual leads.”
Using Web analytics for more than just aggregate intelligence is an important new trend, said b2b SEO expert De Young.
“We see an increased desire to analyze unique customer segments, not just broad segments but thin ones as well. People want analytics that allow them to easily define, isolate and understand segment behaviors, and adjust site content and landing pages as appropriate,” De Young said. “[There's also] a strong desire to link online behaviors to offline conversion. Ideally, we'd have sales tools and analytics that allow us to go back and analyze each buyer's online behaviors during the purchase process. [But] we're not there yet.” M