Web Analytic Vendors Answer Questions At The EMetrics Summit

April 20, 2006

At the eMetrics Summit today, there was one session where the vendors got up at the longest table in the world, and the audience could ask questions (no matter how tough.) All the vendors were web analytic software vendors or testing vendors. Vendors were, in alpha order: ClickTracks, Coremetrics, ForeSee Results, Google Analytics, Maxamine, Offermatica, Omniture, Optimost, Unica/Sane, WebTrends. I did a pretty good job of capturing what most people said but rarely captured their words exactly. When I couldn’t understand what they were trying to say, I didn’t include their comments at all. And I missed the first question entirely, so sorry.

Question: I’m curious to know how you handle the situation when a customer is not allowed to use cookies(asked by a government customer.)
Google Analytics: We do work with sites without cookies
Omniture: We do too. They are only one way of measuring. Usually, software has a fallback to IP user strings when cookies aren’t to be found. Other options are unique user identifiers (UUID).
NetTracker: Not all tools are all created equal. There are tools where they don’t have cookies, it shows you more visitors than visits (but I won’t say who I’m talking about. ) Everyone bursts out laughting.
ClickTracks: Just about any tool that can accept a log file can work without cookies. Also, there is an interesting intersection w/customers who want to use cookies and javascript but don’t want the data to leave the company. Our product can do that, Webtrends can do that, I *think* that Urchin [GA] can too. So can NetTracker.
WebTrends: We’ve worked a lot with the government standards group on this. Yes, you can work without cookies but what reports are you going to miss?

Same person asks another question: We don’t use cookies at all, we don’t use session identifiers at all on our static site, how do I connect the static site with my dynamic site (which does use session identifiers?)
ClickTracks: This is not an unusual problem. Lots of times the software has to reconnect sessions.
Omniture: Suggest that you use a service like HitWise, gives you some broad pathing perspective.
Another vendor: Create a non-cookie that identifies the session

Question: In a world where there is nothing like a page (he is referring to an earlier presentation on measuring Flash, AJAX, etc) how will you measure?
Omniture: I came from MacroMedia and I don’t see it as a technological barrier.
Foresee: Customers don’t think in terms of pages, we need to think in terms of what matters to them.
Google Analytics: Lots of times, it is about building in the analytics to the application.
Offermatica: We don’t track pages. We track elements.

Question: I want to ask about data integration and multi channel issues. Each customer can put up a NASCAR chart with all their vendors. Why should my web analytics vendor be the center of my measurement universe – why should I import to you instead of export from you to other applications?
Clicktracks: You have so much data in the analytics piece that it is just easier
NetTracker: I agree. But if you prefer, you can take everything out of NetTracker and put it into the other applications.
Maximine: We’re focused on a complete solution. I’m probably the only guy at this table who is really focused on structure. Think about an airline company that is so preoccupied with booking, meals, ticketing, etc. They will have lots of happy customers going into mountains. He says something like, “I don’t want to own the universe” Summit organizer Jim Sterne interrupts to ask, “How many people up here aspire to own the universe? Google Analytics raises his hand for fun and everyone applauds.

Question: What are your solutions for measuring RSS?
No one jumps to answer.
Omniture: At our recent summit, we did a whole seminar on measuring RSS.
Google Analytics: We recently aquired MeasureMap, it is analytics for bloggers.
Anyone else?
ClickTracks: It’s hard

Question: As a Yahoo person, my fear is the amount of data that gets measured, we’re building big data warehouses and tools. Are you thinking about creating statistically significant models where I don’t have to measure everything? How will we deal with the volume?
Google: Sampling is definitely done for the largest of sites. Companies with small conversion rates need all their data for statistical significance.
Omniture: We work with the largest customer. I assume he means eBay and we don’t sample. Never forget that we are talking about people. Web analytics are very uniquely positioned to show you information all the way up the funnel. There is a lot of information and (no disrepect to the original Webtrends) that must be what brought logfiles to their knees.
Webtrends: We have customers with hundreds of thousands of page views per day.
Omniture: That is so 2005.
Jim Sterne: Do you guys want to take that outside? Audience bursts out laughing.

Jim: Any other sampling info vendors want to share?
Clicktracks: We have sampling tools and we can’t persuade people to use them.
Maxamine: The vast majority of enterprises are sampling already. We routinely see 60% of tags missing. The audience breaks out in laughter and applause.
NetTracker: It’s important to keep all your clicks to do, say, data mining. Should you keep it forever? Probably not.
WebTrends: You may capture all data, but selectively keep some of it.

Q: What happens when the analyst is happy and his boss is not? What do you tell to your clients in that position, and how is that different if they come to you as a new customer?
Audience appreciates what a loaded question that is.
WebTrends: We always just want to know what your issues are, no matter what your situation is. When the customer comes to us and has WebTrends 3.0 (from 1996), we can understand why they aren’t satisfied – we’ve changed so much.
NetTracker: Dissatisfaction generally stems from training.
WebTrends: Lots of times, people are dissatisfied because they are using logfiles, and just moving into tagging will fix that (WT now supports both.)
CoreMetrics: Any sales person is happy to hear that the analyst likes it.
Maxamine: If I am the vendor and I don’t see the problem coming, I’m not doing my job.
Everyone weighs in and says, our job is to help the client.

Q: Following up on the scale and volume question: most ASPs are charging by pageview, so aren’t you penalizing us for growing our business? Applause from audience.
Google Analytics: The answer is, don’t charge for pages (everyone applauds because GA is free.) Education is important
ClickTracks: You can buy our software and own the data and still get tagging. No cost per pageview.
CoreMetrics: We are just passing on the load from our servers onto our larger customers. That way, we are not penalizing the smaller users. Like electricity or cell phone minutes, people who use the most, pay the most. Using sampling would help this.
Omniture: Our prices are on a server call, not a page view.
Maxamine: We sell at a flat price. Any customization or innovations are included, so the bigger and more innovative you are, the cheaper our product is.
Foresee: We have a really simple model so we base our pricing on our costs. Cell phones are not based on costs, the incremental cost of a phone call is almost zero. That’s the best pricing model for both sides.
ClickTracks: If you are going to do sampling, you can’t do sampling at the page view level. You have to decide if you are going to sample that entire session or not, but you cannot decide if certain pages get included in the sample.

Q: Where is the line between web analytics and business intelligence?
NetTracker: There are two sides to this question: WA includes BI sometimes, but there is also a very nitty gritty side of WA that is not about BI
CoreMetrics: A lot of our data is being pumped into Cognos, Business Objects, etc. It is surprising that the BI tools have not integrated well with WA. Once the web group is not some guy sitting in the corner, but is an important piece of the business, everyone wants to know about the data and we’ll see more integration.
Maxamine: Consolidation is happening. You’ll see it.

I tried hard to get all the responses- any mistakes are mine, and vendors are welcome to correct me in the comments section here.

Robbin Steif