Quite a few people have spoken up on this topic over the years. Back in 2006, Avinash Kaushik made a claim that traditional "web" analytics was dead in reference to the metrics we need to report on, and he was right. Nowadays, similar sentiments are being expressed by vendors such as Webtrends and other luminaries in the industry with regards to the reporting we know and love and websites themselves. The reasoning? It's pretty simple, actually. There is a momentum shift towards multi-channel analytics in our industry, which extends beyond just the website and web channel in general.
So, you may be expecting me to agree with everyone that "web" analytics is dead. But, I don't agree completely with that statement. While the web channel is changing and growing more complex every day, and while offline data is becoming more and more important, there is still a need for traditional web analytics in this industry. As evidence of the need for "web" analytics, vendors such as Webtrends and Adobe have recently released new, powerful functionality to enhance their "web" analytics reporting at their respective user conferences.
Let's take a look at the web channel. I wholeheartedly agree that the web looks nothing like it did a couple years ago, let alone within the last 8 to 10 months. It's not just about a website anymore. But, fundamentally speaking, the business requirements from a reporting standpoint have simply gotten more complex and still require traditional reporting. The web channel now includes standard web traffic, social media, affiliates, mobile, and many more. However, the goal is still to drive people down the path to conversion; the path has simply gotten more complex and the website is still one of those paths. Sure, attribution has gotten a heck of a lot more difficult to solve (and it was never easy to begin with), but there is still a need to leverage the data you might find in a SiteCatalyst or NetInsight report to help paint the picture.
From a maturity standpoint, the industry simply isn't ready to just throw out the "web" analytics portion of the reporting. Simply put, organizations are still scattered across the maturity spectrum and multi-channel analysis isn't even on the radar in some instances. It's a slow adoption process, just like testing and targeting has been. Stepping away from the forty thousand foot view and looking internally at some of these organizations, I find it hard to believe that the requests for standard web reports will go away. Sure, the reports and metrics will change and become more complex, but "web" analytics is not dead. History is cyclical, and just as Avinash pointed out back in 2006, we are simply at another stage of evolution. With any process there will be plateaus and breakthroughs and we are simply hitting another breakthrough as an industry.
Now, with that said, Stratigent is extremely excited to see the industry making this shift towards multi-channel analytics. For one, we have been preparing for this for years as evidenced by the partnerships we've formed, the skill sets we've built internally, and our focus of being a multi-channel analytics agency for our clients. Additionally, there is a lot more data to analyze and gain value from...and that's exciting! The way we see it, there will always be report consumers in the organizations and those reports will change over time as the data enhances. Consequently, business intelligence and predictive analytics will continue to make more of an impact on data analysis. We have seen quite a few acquisitions to point to this, such as Teradata's acquisition of Aprimo, IBM's acquisition of Coremetrics and Unica, and Salesforce's acquisition of Radian6 to name a few.
The web channel is in the dating phase with offline data. We are going to continue to see quite a few changes: new 3rd party technologies that specialize in a specific datasets, acquisitions, and new channels to name a few. The challenge vendors face is in accepting that their system is not going to be the "be all end all" for reporting. Rather, vendors need to continue improving the accessibility of their data while at the same time working towards flexibility in their own systems to accept and report on data that extends their model. I, for one, am extremely excited by all of this and you can count on Stratigent to continue to focus on being a pioneer in this industry to help you mature your usage of analytics.
Bill Bruno is the CEO - North America, Ebiquity.