This month, Chris Parkin from Omniture, a Bazaarvoice partner, shares his insights on the rapid evolution of the web analytics industry and the new measurement and optimization challenges that go hand in hand with the rise of social media & commerce.  Chris has been a key contributor to the wide industry adoption of Omniture Genesis, the company's highly successful partner integration platform, so we were eager to pick his brain.    

1. User-generated content and word of mouth marketing provide a new opportunity for analytics solutions to demonstrate value.  What are the unique challenges of UGC and WOM?

I’m a big fan of John Hagel’s blog “Edgeperspectives.”  Some of the concepts he advances are particularly pertinent here, especially with respect to companies’ need to “adapt or perish…”  The world of UGC and WOM is really about collaborative marketing – embracing your customers’ perception that THEY own your relationship with them.  This is a significant hurdle for traditional marketers to overcome.

There is no “I” in adapt.  Conventional marketing attempts to:

  • Intercept: target and expose customers to your message wherever you can find them
  • Inhibit: make it as difficult as possible for the customer to compare your product or service offering with any other options
  • Isolate: enter into a direct relationship with the customer and, wherever possible , remove all third parties from the relationship

There are “A’s” however.

  • Attract: create incentives for people to seek you out
  • Assist: one of the most powerful ways to attract people is to be as helpful and engaging with them as possible
  • Affiliate: mobilize third parties, including other customers, to become even more helpful to the people you interact with
  • Analyze: as you are embarking on these new strategies it’s critical to have a compass.  Analytics provides the critical insight needed into what’s working, what isn’t and where to optimize.

2. Put yourself in the shoes of the VP of eCommerce at a retailer that uses both Bazaarvoice and Omniture.  What would be your top priorities, with respect to our solutions, and why?  What KPIs should Bazaarvoice clients be monitoring regularly?

I would first ensure that our respective technologies are integrated via Omniture Genesis so that the business has clear visibility into strategy performance. There are many areas that one could focus their time, but if I were the VP of eCommerce, the two optimization priorities I’d focus on from the word “Go!” are:

Popularity Optimization: Identify the contributors as well as the UGC that attracts the largest audience.  The KPIs to keep a close eye on here include: number of views, repeat frequency and time spent on the site.

Influence Optimization: Popularity is great, but it’s also good to understand the influence that specific contributors and content have on driving success.  KPIs for the eCommerce VP here should be order participation, and revenue participation.  What they may quickly learn is that one contributor’s reviews are more popular, but may generate fewer orders and revenue than a less popular contributor. They should craft strategies to better leverage influential contributors.

3. Bazaarvoice is an accredited and featured Omniture Genesis partner.  Why is Genesis so important to Omniture’s strategy?  What new developments will we see in 2008?

First, we are proud to have Bazaarvoice as an Accredited Genesis Application Partner.  This is no small distinction as the requirements for accreditation are robust.  Genesis Accreditation is not a simplistic logo swap program like others peddle.  There has been serious joint engineering effort, testing and validation between our companies before accreditation is ever awarded.

Genesis is critical to Omniture’s strategy of creating the platform for online business optimization.  We do what we do very well, as do our partners.  Genesis allows customers to integrate multiple marketing technologies into an ecosystem that is made fundamentally smarter by Omniture’s best in class analytics.

With respect to Omniture and Bazaarvoice joint customers, Genesis enables them to quickly and easily integrate our respective technologies through an elegant “plug-and-play” interface that’s designed for marketers – not a complex IT tool kit.  The value of this integrated ecosystem increases exponentially as our customers integrate with more technology providers via Genesis.

Imagine our VP of eCommerce again – she launches a campaign that achieves 6% conversion.  Great she thinks!  Yawn.  What about the other 94%?!! How can she go after those that responded but didn’t convert and identify more revenue opportunity?  Through Genesis, the process to remarket to the 94% of non-converters with a targeted email are automated. This could include adding relevant product offers complete with Bazaarvoice ratings and reviews.

4. Our industry is data-driven to the extreme, but not all data is useful.  Too much of it can cloud and complicate decision-making, but it’s not always easy to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Can you share a few principles or best practices related to this challenge?

A real challenge for online marketers is to analyze hundreds of millions of behaviors fast enough to take action on them in real-time.  Traditionally, there has been a trade-off between speed and level of detail in their analysis.

Business success will depend greatly on access to timely, relevant information about online customers, campaign performance and emerging business trends. Online marketers need to be able to parse data into meaningful segments and scenarios to gain deeper insight into online customer engagement.  Omniture offers a solution called Discover that allows companies to explore this kind of granular data in real time.  But being able to measure data quickly can only help if you are looking at the right things.

Companies need to measure what matters most.  Too often they focus on popularity rather than on what is really producing revenue.  Does it really matter which Web page is most popular?  Shouldn’t we be measuring which pages and items are producing the most revenue?  A lot of statistics are nice to know, but don’t really help drive revenue.

5. A few years ago the big “policy discussion” in the web analytics industry was the frequency of cookie deletion, first-party vs. third-party, etc.  What is the next big policy discussion in your industry?

It happens every couple of months: a company is seen to be misusing customer information and we renew the debate about the need for increased customer privacy.  Facebook’s Beacon program recently brought privacy concerns to the forefront.  But, what it really boils down to is intention.  Is a company accumulating information to ultimately give the visitor a better experience, or is there an ulterior motive?

To the lay-person, the term “behavioral targeting” might mean something nefarious, but if you really think about it, this practice should always lead to a better user-experience.  Think of how much easier it would be to buy groceries if you could “configure” your very own shopping aisle!  You would walk in the store and go directly to your personalized aisle.  Your aisle would contain just the items and brands you wanted to purchase.  Now, combine this with your very own checker – someone to carry your groceries to your car- and you begin to approach what is possible with online marketing—catering to every visitors’ unique needs.

In today’s marketplace, customers demand relevancy. If what you’re trying to communicate doesn’t connect with them and their issues in a split second, you’ve lost them.  Web analytics is about providing customers with the best experience possible.

6. As with social commerce, there are many levels of sophistication among users of Web analytics solutions.  Can you give an example of a customer that is truly capitalizing on what is possible with the Omniture platform, both online and off?

It is especially difficult to get an accurate picture of the success of marketing campaigns for multi-channel retailers.  A company such as Borders, which operates more than 1,100 stores worldwide and is launching a new Web site, faces the challenge of understanding customer needs both online and in-store.

Borders.com uses Omniture’s SiteCatalyst to see how customers actually use the future site’s various features, including inventory search and reservation functions, marketing and sales promotions, and more. Borders will also use Omniture Discover to segment customer behavior based on criteria such as purchasing behavior and geographic location to personalize the online experience.  In addition, Borders will use Omniture to aggregate customer behavioral trends associated with its in-store kiosks, which will eventually be connected to their new Web platform.

Omniture is helping Borders understand how customers are using the piloted features on the beta site, such as the Magic Shelf™, a realistic looking, three-dimensional shelf of book, CD and DVD covers displayed as they would be in a store.  The Magic Shelf allows customers to quickly and easily view new releases, staff picks and “picked for you” titles, which are suggested selections based on the customer’s subjects of interest.

These Omniture solutions will allow Borders to accurately measure the effectiveness of its marketing campaigns while taking into account returns and other items that affect revenue.

In addition to Borders, we have a great automotive industry customer that is using Omniture to better determine the types of vehicles to ship to various regions of the U.S. and other countries based on the kinds of online vehicle configurations that customers are creating for themselves. Certain car models, features, colors and other criteria have a specific affinity for customers in one part of the country vs. another. This is a truly innovative way to use online data that effects offline business decisions and actions.

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