Web analytics need to be better understood, panel says

29 04 2010

Panelists discuss the future of web analytics

The panelists in the FutureWeb session on web analytics may have given the audience quite a surprise when most agreed that analytics is somewhat failing in today’s society.

Panelists included Nathaniel Lin, president for advanced analytics at Aspen Marketing Services, John Lovett, senior partner at strategy firm Web Analytics Demystified, Phil Mui, senior product manager for Google Analytics and Bob Page, VP, analytics platform at eBay. Michael Rappa, founder and director of the Institute for Advanced Analytics, moderated the panel.

“With the advent of much cheaper of storing data…everyone wants to keep everything because it’s possible,” Page said. “Not because it’s useful but because it’s possible.”

Page said businesses need to understand how to use analytics better.

“Most people think data itself is a byproduct of what we do,” he said… “There’s a disconnect between the data and the business value of the data.”

In turn, Mui said analytics need to be easier to use for businesses.

“When people hear the word analytics, they think of tools and technologies,” he said. “If you focus on the technologies, you’re looking at it from the wrong end…If only an IT person can use a tool (and marketers can’t)…then we are not putting the tool at the easiest access level where it can be used for influencing business outcome.”

The panelists agreed the rise of social media has also played a role in how web analytics is used.

“In many ways social media is new lipstick,” Page said…”It’s a new vehicle for having a two way conversation with customers.”

But the ways businesses utilize social media can be dangerous, Lovett said.

“Many organizations don’t have a strategy for social media.” he said. He described how business create Facebook and Twitter pages but don’t understand how to use the data they receive from those platforms.

“I think that web analytics, to a certain extent, needs to get easier for the masses,” Lovett said.

Lovett also said there is a problem with web analytics and standardization.

“To a large extent, I think web analytics has failed,” he said. “All the measures don’t mean a lot, there’s not standardization…You can’t get insight out of it.”

Page said a lot of it has to do with the dismissal of collaboration among people.

“I don’t think this is a technology problem,” Page said. “People don’t want to think, they want the answer.. For all the sharing that goes on in the analytics community, there’s not a lot of sharing.”

Lovett also said there is a lack of confidence when it comes to web analytics.

“If we want analytics to rise up to the sea level of an organization…there has to be a huge amount of confidence behind that data,” he said.

Web analytics is making progress though, Lin said.

“You can now slice and dice data,” he said… “If you can apply this data…and be creative…over time you can make it simpler.”

He said consumers need to start realizing the importance of data and it should not just be used to observe market trends. Otherwise, he said, the demand for data will grow in the coming years.

Page’s reaction?

“The world’s going to get worse,” he said. “Analytics is going to get worse before it gets better.”

ADDITIONAL DETAILS FROM THIS EVENT…
Video and more written FutureWeb coverage:
http://bit.ly/imaginingtheinternet
FutureWeb YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Futureweb2010#p/u
Flickr photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/38539612@N02/sets/72157623891937652/

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