Web analytics could increase marketing reliance on IT

More enterprises are integrating Web analytics tools with their existing marketing software to bolster Internet marketing strategies, according to a recent CMS Watch report.

Data from Web analytics tools are often imported into promotional software, such as e-mail campaign software and keyword bid-management tools, to automatically kick off the next slew of marketing activities.

“This is something that really makes sense from an integrated marketing perspective,” said Phil Kemelor, lead analyst with CMS Watch Web Analytics report. CMS Watch is an Olney, Ma.-based consulting firm that evaluates content management technologies.

The report was based on interviews with 13 Web analytics suppliers.

The idea of integrating tools – be it from one or multiple vendors – makes sense from a customer perspective, said Kemelor. “They might have a different vendor for search marketing, one for e-mail campaigns, and one for cross selling – so the idea is that they are able to integrate the analytics data into these other tools.”

Andy Bober, senior manager of customer intelligence solutions with SAS Institute Inc., acknowledges that customers often look to take advantage of existing tools they are already using, by only purchasing some software from them, and not the pre-integrated suite from SAS. “A lot of times, we’re brought into companies who might already have an investment with another tool, or they want to do something a little different.”

However, Bober said that by choosing the single-vendor approach to integration, customers can be guaranteed that various modules will interoperate.

SAS is a provider of business intelligence and analytical software and services, headquartered in Carey, N.C.

Mark Morton, product marketing manager with Cognos, has also observed this approach among organizations looking to beef up their marketing strategies, in particular integrating multiple vendor tools in the process. “It just makes sense, if you already have a set of tools in place, why not use those same tools. It’s a very sensible approach and it does work quite well actually.”

The approach has been around for several years, however, it’s gaining traction, said Morton. “It probably hasn’t completely crossed the chasm yet, but it certainly looks like it’s going to.”

The fact that vendors of Web analytics tools like SAS and Cognos deliver integrated suites, has been very much driven by recent consolidations in the Web analytics marketplace, said Kemelor. “Vendors are trying to make some of the promise of these integrations a reality.”

For instance, he said, Omniture acquired Instadia, a provider of analytics tools with a survey package. “Although they haven’t come out with an offering that includes a survey package, the expectation is that there is one to come out of that,” said Kemelor.

The report also found that online marketing staff using integrated Web analytics tools are having to increase their reliance on the IT department. “I think that if marketing owns the analytics tools, they are really going to need to involve their IT folks more, because they’re going to need that full understanding of how systems work together.” 

In particular, he said, marketing staff may need the assistance with managing the import and export of data from the analytics tool into a corporate data warehouse, for instance.

Bober said he’s observed varying degrees of IT reliance among organizations, particularly those in retail where Web sites tend to be more complex. “Depending on how [the Web analytics tools] are capturing data, it requires a lot of ongoing maintenance – not the kind of maintenance that a marketing person is going to want to do.”

“Changing prices, model numbers, product colours, whatever that change is, keep up with all that and maintaining your meta data is onerous.”

Morton agreed that adding Web analytics to the equation complicates the situation. “As soon as the Web is involved in some sort of application, there is by default more IT involvement. There are more groups: the Web server management group, IT infrastructure group, network group.”

Outsourcing the project in part or in its entirety is another option, he said.

Morton also suggested that organizations looking to integrate different vendor tools should use providers who have prior experience of such an implementation.

There are, however, drawbacks to integrating multi-vendor tools, he said. In particular, it’s important to ensure that applying updates and patches to one tool will not have an adverse effect to another.

Also, he added, when choosing an additional tool from a different vendor, it should be ensured that architectures are compatible.

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