Even though my daring prediction of a Buffalo Bills-Detroit Lions Super Bowl clash in February 2011 came to naught, looking back on some of the web analytics trends I had my eye on for 2011 brings mixed results, now that two-thirds of the year has washed away.
For those of you keeping score at home, and I know all of you were, here’s the link to the surprisingly non-embarrassing original, and even though I can’t buy my Aston-Martin with winnings from my Super Bowl picks, we’ll take a look at the state of play through the end of year and look ahead to 2012. (I vividly remember waiting with baited breath for nothing to happen with the Y2K bug – how did 2012 get here so fast?)
1. Social media listening platforms consolidate as web analytics providers move in.
The major players in web analytics definitely leapt in with both feet here, and that wasn’t so much a bold prediction but a statement of the obvious. Social analytics and web analytics are both in the A/V club’s yearbook picture, and so it’s the most natural thing in the world that they would get hitched eventually.
Witness cool stuff like Adobe SocialAnalytics that wires all the slickness of Adobe SiteCatalyst to a social listening platform — although someone in the Adobe marketing department must not have a functioning space bar on their keyboard. Google rolled out Social Plug-in Analytics just in time for their new foray into the social world. WebTrends, of course, is all in with http://social.webtrends.com/ and Coremetrics is right there too with IBM Coremetrics Social Analytics.
The demand acceleration for measuring the business impact of social media is driving the fast integration of these types of online data streams as marketers and their bosses want to know whether all that tweetin’ and likin’ is, you know, actually making them any money. I expect the tools to get even more sophisticated, but one of the few downsides to thinking that, à la Ghostbusters, crossing the streams would be bad, could be that analysts get hopelessly lost in more data than they could ever hope to usefully act upon to grow their businesses.
2. New trends in voice-of-customer solutions
This is another area where social listening is advancing, but simply asking people what they think about your website will always have value. It’s tempting to fall into the pit of thinking that nobody ever fills those things out, but people do, and there’s gold to be had in them ‘thar hills, if not always for your website itself but for how your entire company fares in its report card with customers and prospects.
Certainly the sites I routinely deal with for my own personal financial, domestic, cultural, informational, and psychological needs are finding new ways of wanting me to vent my spleen through triggered messaging campaigns and other avenues that don’t disrupt my overall user experience with those properties.
However, the next trick is tying all that information together seamlessly across multiple channels of communication. From particularly frustrating experiences with DirecTV, whose left hand never knows what its right is doing with its customer interactions, to the glacial pace of interactions with some banks online while attempting to refinance my house, many companies have a long way to go to reach the increasing demands of customers who, let’s face it, are more selfish than ever, i.e., “Why didn’t I get a free gift at my front door simply because I thought about your orange juice this morning? You should have known that, Minute Maid.”
3. Privacy smackdown from Washington
This got hot for about half an hour, but the battle certainly isn’t over yet. Thankfully, the gridlock of Washington, the eternal sausage-making of legislation, and the need to focus on other national priorities has cooled off some of the potential for quick activity in privacy.
However, developments in Europe such as the requirement to ask for permission for even the most benign of cookies, such as the privacy message at the top of the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office site and the rise of the so-called “supercookie” as detailed in the Wall Street Journal mean that the issue is far from dead in the U.S., and it’s only a matter of time before something happens to make one’s workday unpleasant.
However, the “something” that happens might just have more to do with information security than data tracking privacy, as the exploits of hackers have dominated news feeds for much of the year.
4. iPhones and apps and Androids, oh my!
Yes, it seems like the “year of mobile” that had been promised, more or less annually since Charles Dickens first mentioned it in Great Expectations in 1861, has finally arrived, and we’re glued to our smartphones and tablets and e-readers like never before. Apple revolutionized (again) with iPads, just as with iPhones and iPods before, and so the need to measure and analyze performance and acquire customer intelligence across multiple channels and platforms is more complex than ever.
Mobile measurement may even ultimately become the conduit for the Holy Grail of multichannel revenue attribution. The need and the capacity to engage with customers across multiple touchpoints and multiple sessions and locations brought about by the mobile lifestyle again generates titanic quantities of customer data, whose interactions with companies are seldom in a vacuum and are often tightly linked to other channels, such as website visits, e-mail marketing efforts, social interactions, broadcast or direct marketing channels, and in-person events. So, while for many companies and many vendors the concept of multichannel analytics has remained strictly a dream unless you’re on the high end of marketing budgets, the ubiquitous technology demands that toes get dipped in the water.
5. The last holdouts came over to the dark side!
This “prediction” was always more like wishful thinking. The fact remains that web analytics is still in its infancy at far too many companies who should know better. While many online retailers have terrific positions, B2B companies are often lagging behind strategically and tactically.
The 10/90 rule of 10% spending in tools and services, and 90% spending in analysts to achieve effective insights from web analytics can at least be approached with a short investment of time to set up Google Analytics, but it is still surprising how many companies fail to take that step. Or even worse, consider companies whose web analytics data is such a closely guarded secret within organizational silos that those responsible for the growth of the business cannot even get access to the tools, let alone begin down the path toward quality analysis.
My fear is that a national and global economy sliding again toward recession will force companies to abandon their efforts in this strategic area. But it is exactly when times are difficult that companies should, instead of hunkering down in a ditch with their faces covered, devote resources to the areas that can help them grow their business, increase their customer intelligence, or reduce costs and streamline wasteful spending – all of which can be achieved with well-deployed web analytics strategies.
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