Web Analytics Year in Review 2010

On several accounts the darkest days of the recession are well behind us, and we’re starting to make significant strides in streamlining online business improvements, due in no small part to advances in web analytics.

It’s obvious that today’s C-suite understands the need to shift the emphasis from talking about huge (irrelevant) numbers to quoting net business impact by identifying risks, and seizing opportunity.

The year that was 2010 can really be defined as one of the first years businesses stopped, assumed responsibility for meaningless reports and asked “so what?” from their web analysts.

It makes sense, if you think about it. What does a million page views get you at the end of the day?

It’s much easier to tell a story about revenue growth, cost-savings, or improved customer satisfaction associated with data driven decision-making.

The C-suite now talks our language. They’re able to distinguish the difference between an A/B and multivariate test; keen to ask whether competitive intelligence data is ready for last month; and how online data insights might support offline channels.

The goal is answering business questions, not “data puking.”

This shift of analytics maturity is evident when you look at some of the biggest stories this year:

  • Although Stephane Hamel’s Web Analytics Maturity Model is a product of 2009, he really garnered significant attention in 2010 as organizations took stock of their capabilities and enacted changes to transform themselves from “analytically impaired” to “analytically integrated.”
  • Steve Jobs was the unfortunate recipient of an expert web analytics scolding by Eric Peterson of Web Analytics Demystified, after Apple announced new restrictions on data collection related to app measurement. Apple later moved to relax some of the language surrounding clause 3.3.9. Look for opportunities in the mobile measurement space to really take off in 2011 with the anticipated launch of the Apple iPad 2, and competitive tablets from Android and RIM.
  • Back in October, Bryan Eisenberg wrote an intelligent story that echoes a cry coming from many employers in the online marketing industry: “We need more people!” This need is directly proportional to the increase in appetite big business has to scale actionable insight. If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to read it, and retweet it, as it’s an important subject.
  • Cyber Monday 2010 set online spending records with over $1 billion. So what, you ask? Sales growth in 2009 was 14 percent and 19.4 percent in 2010. Again, so what? Average order value also increased 8.3 percent over last year.
  • Although it’s too soon to tell its impact, so-called “Do-Not-Track” legislation seems to be looming that may impact the way web analytics vendors collect visitor behavior data. From initial reports, it appears many representatives in a House Subcommittee are only concerned about personally identifiable information and easier opt-out mechanisms, but many analysts don’t seem to be too afraid.

In other news, acquisitions in the web analytics industry were plentiful this year, especially in the niche social media analytics space. Who were the major movers and shakers of 2010?

One of the strongest contestants has to be IBM, which — one might argue — now stands for “I Buy Measurement” after big blue completed two major acquisitions this year:

Although they weren’t ever going to beat Adobe’s $1.8 billion acquisition of Omniture last year, with over $600 million invested this year IBM sits atop our unofficial leaderboard for biggest web analytics “mover and shaker” of 2010.

As mentioned before, the niche social media monitoring space was also a seller’s market this year, as more startups started asking businesses the question: “interested in trending topics”?

With so many of the biggest brands in the world engaging and investing in social media, it’s no surprise that there is a substantial need to track social media success. After all, anything worth spending money on is also worth measuring.

This is evident after reviewing the sheer volume of acquisitions made in the social media monitoring space in 2010:

Looking back at the Web Analytics Maturity Model, it’s obvious that analytics and service vendors are keen to help you go from being “analytically impaired” to being “analytically integrated” so that soon after, you can take the next step and be an “analytical competitor.”

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