Increase revenue by 35 percent. Hire 57 new employees in the sales department. Double your customer base. Every successful business needs objectives and a set of goals to strive toward. The challenge is balancing what is desired for the company with what is realistically attainable, and planning accordingly. The interactive marketing community is constantly shifting as consumers are receiving more and more of their information online. What was effective for reaching your customers in 2005 may be obsolete in 2007.
Interactive marketers are beginning to realize the importance of using web analytics to better understand their customers' preferences and online behaviors. In online advertising, web analytics help us understand where people are going, where they came from, where they drop out and what might help them to convert. Companies can deliver more targeted and relevant email campaigns by measuring open, clickthrough and unsubscribe rates. Search marketers can monitor and optimize their campaigns in real time, adding and deleting keywords as they go.
These are just a few examples of how web analytics can help marketers improve their online campaigns; however, with so much information at their fingertips, companies would be foolish not to look beyond these day-to-day metrics to see the bigger picture web analytics provides.
Some people agree that the term web analytics does not do justice to the increasing importance it has in delivering valuable business insights. Neil Mason of Applied Insights, a web analytics and predictive modeling consulting agency based in London, says, "The name 'web analytics' doesn't really mean anything or do justice to the outcome or value. It's not just about the web, it's about business over the web. Similarly, it's not just about analytics, it's about insights."
Regardless of the name, web analytics is not just for the IT or marketing department anymore. Any successful business should realize the importance of research and measurement and how to use data to effectively plan for the future. For monthly, quarterly or yearly planning, web analytics can be utilized to turn that data into actionable recommendations about company objectives and bring e-business insights and important trends to C-level attention.
Imagine if you were to build a house without first laying down a solid foundation. Your house would be unstable, unsupported and susceptible to the shifting of the earth. Similarly, without web analytics and the consumer insights and trends it provides, your company's business objectives are susceptible to the shifting of your customers' online preferences, purchasing and web surfing behaviors.
Web analytics should be considered a foundation of information on which strategic company decisions can be built from the ground up. For example, businesses can determine what is attainable in their future by evaluating past successes and failures. Also, by analyzing trends across marketing channels, marketers can learn which strategies have the most impact on their consumers, and therefore determine which areas of the company are thriving and which need improvement.
By understanding how web analytics can report global key business performance indicators, companies will be better able to balance what is desired for the company with what is realistic, feasible and most effective for their specific audiences. Though changing the name of web analytics may not be the solution, businesses must realize that web analytics is more than just data for the sake of data, and more than just a way to optimize a website. It is a valuable tool in shaping overall business objectives.
Jim Sterne is the president of Target Marketing. .