Apologies for the several week delay between posting partner interviews, but I am pleased to share the following interview with John Squire, Chief Strategy Officer of Coremetrics. John has been quite busy recently, driving the launch of Connect and preparing for a major product release in May, but he took the time to share his outlook on a variety of industry issues. We welcome your comments and invite you to suggest questions and topics for future partner interviews by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. It’s 2008. By now, every online business understands that without a web analytics solution, they are flying blind. That said, not all businesses are sophisticated users of web analytics. On average, how would you grade the industry overall?
I think it’s fair to say that most online business owners recognize that flying blind is far from ideal. Understanding an issue and actually working to overcome it are two entirely different activities. I would give the entire industry a C- overall. That said, there’s certainly a class of businesses that are far and away excelling at their use of web analytics.
2. What are companies doing extremely well?
Looking at the leaders in the field of using web analytics to manage their business, a casual observer would likely conclude the secret to their success is that they are actively and constantly monitoring the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) of their web business. That’s a common trait among each of these, but what we’ve seen that separates the high performing companies from the distant followers is that their organizations truly embrace the notion of data driven decisions. I realize that is easy to say, but these companies look at both the macro trends of their business and constantly break down each KPI to understand the causal factors that drive those trends. From that, they build business models that describe how a % increase or decrease in those causal factors will impact the value created servicing their online visitors and customers. It isn’t easy! Businesses that lead in this area work hard to map their online and offline investments to their topline objectives: Sales, Leads Generated, Advertising Revenue Generated, Bookings, Applications, and the many metrics for Customer Satisfaction, Engagement, and Service.
3. What big opportunities are routinely being overlooked and why?
The odd thing about the online business is that there are so many articles, case studies, and books available on the best practices online businesses are deploying, that it can be daunting to know where to start. What I see is that many companies don’t start or don’t value the importance of constantly evaluating their business for improvement. I think there are two areas where a majority of business owners have huge opportunities:
First, many don’t do the math to understand the impact they could have on their business top and bottom line. Many businesses only look at their KPIs, but have little time, expertise, and patience to look further upstream to explore the complexity of inputs that can impact each and every KPI.
Second, only the very best companies routinely ask their customers if each point of their website is easy to use, meets their needs, and could be improved. My second point doesn’t stop there, the best companies actually take and embrace that feedback to improve the overall customer experience.
4. Coremetrics has invested heavily in product development that helps online marketers attribute conversions to the right marketing sources. The online advertising landscape is already complicated enough, so how does the rise of social media and user-generated content further complicate the process of attributing your marketing results accurately?
Since our founding in 1999, Coremetrics has been focused on delivering analytic solutions that provide marketers the most accurate measure of conversions to each and every marketing source, whether it’s a first click, last click and/or any click in between. To do this, Coremetrics doesn’t rely on just measuring a visit or session, but is focused on measuring each and every interaction a Visitor and Customer has over time with all Marketing and content. Measuring the impact, influence, and value of social media and user-generated content on Customers and the business is something Coremetrics does right out of the box without need for additional site tagging or customization. Measuring and attributing value to these is not hard for a web analytics solution that is inherently Visitor based. What’s hard is determining how to influence customers in both the social networks and those users generating content. If you dialed back to year 2000 to the first marketing message of Coremetrics, you would find our tagline was short and to the point: Optimizing eMarketing. And to that point, that is exactly what we are focused on today as we continue to enhance our applications that optimize eMarketing: Coremetrics Search, LIVEmail, and Intelligent Offer.
5. Product recommendation solutions are becoming a must-have technology for many of our customers. Coremetrics’ Intelligent Offer solution competes with offerings from Aggregate Knowledge, Baynote, Certona, and several other vendors. What are the key advantages of using Intelligent Offer vs. going with a “best of breed” vendor that is exclusively focused on this space?
The VC investments in companies that offer product recommendations has really heated up over the past 18 months and we’ve seen a lot of new players enter this market in that time. What many people don’t recognize is that Coremetrics started developing Intelligent Offer in 2002. The very first client we delivered this solution to 5 years ago achieved more than $5 million in incremental revenue in the first year. Since 2002, we’ve invested years into the R&D on the algorithms to deliver highly relevant recommendations that dramatically improve upsell, cross-sell, and merchandising depth. In 2008 we are on track to deliver over 150,000,000 product recommendations. Intelligent Offer stands apart from the “pure plays” on three distinct fronts:
- Business User Interface – Most of the pure plays have early stage technologies lacking in flexible and accessible user interfaces. This means professional services are required to tune the algorithm and set up business rules. Intelligent Offer provides an application interface distinctly designed for the needs of online retailers. The algorithm is easily tailored for a site’s behavior patterns, product mix and recommendation use case. The impact of these changes can be previewed instantaneously right in the application interface. Intelligent Offer is integrated across the Coremetrics application suite. For Example, Clients using Coremetrics LIVEmail to target customers via personalized e-mail marketing can automatically insert Intelligent Offer recommendations into their e-mail program.
- Easy Implementation – Intelligent Offer is designed specifically to be implemented quickly. It requires no new tagging and utilizes the largest and most detailed Customer Behavior dataset. All the new pure plays require site tagging and considerable time to build up the data from which highly relevant recommendations can be generated. There is a substantial opportunity cost when you consider lost revenues during the “cold start” and “tune” period.
- Greater ROI – Intelligent Offer allows clients to quickly leverage product recommendation data across more customer touch points to achieve greater ROI. Distinct recommendation styles can be enabled for various site touch points such as product page, cart and order status. Recommendations can be scoped to match items in print catalogs so call center representatives can up-sell callers within the context of the print catalog the caller has in hand.
6. Congratulations on the recent launch of Coremetrics Connect. How is Connect different from other partner programs and integration platforms?
We designed Coremetrics Connect from the ground up as an integration platform that facilitates the ability for our clients to achieve closed loop marketing. Unlike other programs in the market that are primarily promoted as partner programs, Coremetrics Connect is distinctly providing certified technical integrations that are focused on achieving one click integrations with leading solution providers servicing the online marketing industry.
7. How will you gauge the success of Connect after 1 year? After 5?
We expect the primary measure of success will be based on how rapidly our client base adopts the Connect Certified solutions. Already we are hearing directly from our client base concerning the vendors that they want certified in Connect. We certainly recognize that our partners have a limited amount of resources to devote to partnering activities. Therefore, we’ve identified a set of technologies and more importantly a Product and Service team that will work directly to enable our partners across more than 1100 client sites. Whether the time horizon is 6 months or 60 months, the success of Coremetrics Connect will be measured by the value our client base recognizes as they continue to adopt these solutions.
8. Bazaarvoice and Coremetrics offer an integrated reporting solution through the Connect program. How do you see our integration evolving as our joint customers become more sophisticated in their use of web analytics and social commerce?
I think the first reporting solution we jointly developed really helped the early pioneers in this market explore the value created by customers using the social commerce solutions. Those early case studies certainly helped the market accelerate the adoption of the wide variety of social commerce solutions available from Bazaarvoice. As social commerce continues to grow and evolve the analytic needs have expanded. To meet that rising analytic need, Coremetrics introduced an exciting new application named Explore. This new set of analytics enables our joint clients to deeply and flexibly analyze the business impact of social commerce.
9. Understanding the conversion impact of user-generated content is very important, but what are the deeper analytics questions you would be looking to answer if you were VP eCommerce of a company that uses Coremetrics and Bazaarvoice?
We are hearing from our clients that it is imperative to measure the value of engaging the customer community over time. The VP of eCommerce is being measured on consistently delivering value to the business utilizing a wide range of technologies and services that are ultimately focused on creating a compelling multi-channel experience for their client base. The questions we help our customers answer include “What is the long term impact of engaging customers via the Bazaarvoice solutions? What is the lifetime value of customers that engage? What are the multi-channel impacts? What are the surprising unintended positive impacts to my business?" The surprising part about user-generated content is both how rapid its influence on online business has grown and how willing unique customers are to share their time and energy interacting with a brand.