SES Chicago: Retailers Who Dislike Their Analytic Packages

December 07, 2006
By Robbin Steif

It was interesting to hear, this morning at one of the last SES Chicago 2006 panels, how some retailers are unhappy with all web analytic packages and are dying to design their own in-house packages. Some have already started.

This was a panel with five retailers (Pier One, Baby Age, SpinLife, Tool Barn and Vintage Tub & Bath.) One agency/consultant, Range, was on the panel. So, not very statistically significant but interesting nonetheless. The moderator asked all the vendors to address what they liked/didn’t like about web analytics. Note: I didn’t tape record this, and did the best I could to capture what people actually said, but as usual, the mistakes are mine, mine, all mine. All the comments in square brackets are mine (and aren’t a list of regular expressions…)

Pier One. We use Webtrends 7. Our site generates multiple duplicate URLs, especially after someone uses our on-site search, and the analytics packages can’t handle it. We are trying to create our own software. [I found that Pier One has GA runnning on their site, but obviously can’t see what server side analytics they have.]

Baby Age: We have pretty much used every package out there except Coremetrics and have been pretty unhappy. For a while we were using Omniture and a couple of ROI trackers and they were off by 30 percent. We are using GA now and it seems to be the most accurate, but we are writing our own analytics now. We are working with local universities who have students getting masters degrees in mathematics and statistics and are getting histograms that we would never get from our analytics package. We are working with Penn State — their professors are looking for projects like this. [Baby Age currently has both SC and GA installed on their site.]

SpinLife: Our experience was similar to Baby Age. We launched in 1999. We had our own analytics up front. We couldn’t wait until we could afford a big package, and decided to go with CoreMetrics. We found that the large packages are skewed toward customers that sell simple SKUs. It was inconsistent with the kind of products that we sell. Coremetrics tried very hard and they could not make it work for us (lots of our transactions finish over the phone.) We went back to our home-grown package. We are moving toward a package called RedZone. We need something that handles phone orders well. [Sorry, I couldn’t find the package she was referring to, any comments are welcome.]

Baby Age: Our biggest challenge was tracking deferred revenue.

Tool Barn: We use Index tools. We find that we don’t have much time to read our reports [audience bursts out in laughter], and we like Index Tools because the info is force fed to us — it is emailed to us. Index Tools also emails exception reporting, huge spikes etc.

Range: from the agency side, we have looked at just about everything and seen all these problems. The thing that drives us crazy is when people have four packages. None of those things are ever going to line up.

Tool Barn: Along those lines, we are participating in a case study with a dozen packages that will all be on our site. [I assume he means, the study that SEOmoz encouraged. ]

Vintage Tub & Bath: We use Omniture. You can have the best tool in the world but if you don’t have someone looking at it, who cares? [I swear that I heard him say this, but when I went to his website to get the url correct, I found that they only use Google Analytics. Perhaps I misheard.]

Audience question: How do you get buy-in from management to create your own tool? Answer: Buy gifts for the IT staff. [Laughter]
Pier One
: I really mean this, in a way. IT loves to make things work correctly, and I watch them create stuff for me on their spare time in a few days that I expect would take months. [This reminds me a little of the guest post that Jodi McDermott wrote on IT vs Marketing.]

Robbin Steif
LunaMetrics