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Web analytics raises online stakes

Christian Annesley

Organisations should take a fresh look at the potential benefits of using web analytics to drive their online business, according to Gartner.

Bill Gassman, research director at Gartner, told delegates at the summit that the market had developed rapidly in the past year as the spread of broadband has made the internet a more attractive channel. He said enterprises needed to keep up with what was on offer.

In a crowded marketplace, said Gassman, it was important that companies were clear about the purpose of their website, as that would govern how to apply analytics productively and which commercial offerings to consider.

He said the purpose of websites varied widely. For example, the effectiveness of a media content site would be measured on completely different terms to a customer support site.

"It seems obvious to say that the return on investment of a site will be shaped by its purpose, but the range of alternative models is still striking," he said.

At its broadest, web analytics covers either campaign analysis, where you monitor the effectiveness of a particular promotion; or site optimisation, which aims to show developers how to alter a site to shape visitor behaviour.

Gassman said the reporting methods for analytics varied enormously, but firms should avoid making buying decisions based on the visual appeal of a results presentation.

"Instead, evaluate the analytic power of a solution in the context of scenarios that are relevant to your site."

Gassman said the effectiveness of analytics tools was demonstrated by firms such as Overstock.com, which derives most of its revenue from its online channel and which saw a 21% increase in customers entering its checkout process when it cut the steps they had to take to complete the process from seven to three.

Gartner's call to arms comes only days after Jupiter Research said web analytics was about to take off among businesses, with interest boosted by the rapid take-up of Google's free web analytics services.


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