NetIQ digs deeper with Web analytics offering

Promising a simplified interface and more custom-tailored reporting, NetIQ Corp. this week unveiled an upgrade to its flagship WebTrends Web analytics software.

WebTrends Reporting Center 5.0 is designed to let companies measure the effectiveness of their Web sites via multidimensional analysis and reporting on such things as Web-based marketing campaigns, online promotions, and sales. The software also provides granular information about the number of customer visits and their buying and browsing habits, company officials said.

Sporting a "dashboard-like" interface and a wizard-based system for customizing reports, the latest release aims to let business users pre-determine what they would like to measure and analyze about a particular Web-based business initiative or scenario, said Rand Schulman, director of WebTrends product management at NetIQ, in San Jose, Calif. By requesting only the most relevant data on a particular campaign, a company avoids having to wade through pages and pages of Web server log reports of all its site activity to find what they need.

"We are doing Web customer analysis, rather than just reporting on Web traffic," Schulman said. "The prime benefit of the product is for understanding your ROI and total cost of ownership, because a content site wants to increase its stickiness, while a commerce site wants to sell more products."

Reporting Center 5.0 is NetIQ's client-based Web analytics software. The company also offers a hosted service dubbed WebTrends Live that underscores a growing trend toward outsourcing in the market.

A recent report by Boston-based analyst firm Aberdeen Group Inc. found that ASPs' share of the Web analytics market grew to 22 percent in 2001, from 13 percent the previous year. Meanwhile, ASP-based revenues for Web analytics were up 54 percent in 2001, while packaged software revenues declined by 30 percent, according to the report. The ASP that has made the biggest gains in the market is San Diego-based WebSideStory Inc., which recently was awarded a patent for its online visitor path-tracking technology.

"If you do Web analytics in house, it becomes one of systems you have to support, joining ERP [enterprise resource planning], CRM [customer relationship management], and supply chain," said Guy Creese, industry analyst at Aberdeen who authored the recent report. "There is attractiveness to farming out this out to someone who does it as a full-time job."

The technology approach to Web analytics has also traditionally differed between packaged software and ASPs. Software solutions historically have relied on analyzing Web server logs to collect data in batch for customers, while ASPs use Java scripting to place browser tags or "beacons" on a Web site that reports activity back to a third-party site in real time.

But according to Creese, this "religious war" over techniques is beginning to wane as Web analytics companies increasingly employ both technologies. NetIQ officials, for example, said they are using a combination of Web server logs and browser tags for data collection.

"Because we have both [software and hosted] solutions, we can see what the best of the different data collection technologies are create a hybrid," said Jeff Seacrist, WebTrends group product manager with NetIQ.

WebTrends is putting out two versions of Reporting Center 5.0. The eBusiness Edition, priced starting at $3,500 includes the following:

-- WebTrends Desktop, which offers a more simplified user interface that lets business users monitor Web site performance through a series of reporting templates;-- Dashboards, with predefined views targeted at Web site activities in e-commerce , marketing campaigns, technical reports, and visitor activity; and-- WebTrends Map, which lets business users select the items they wish to analyze.

The Enterprise Edition, priced starting at $10,500 includes all the features found in the eBusiness Edition plus the following:

-- Scenario analysis, which tracks visitors step-by-step through any part of the Web site to help analyze customer behavior;-- Custom reports, which extend capabilities beyond the pre-built templates to let users tailor analysis to their specific business objectives;-- Comparative reports, which allows for analysis of visitor behavior over time; and-- Customizable dashboards, which let users create their own views of analytical reports blended along with external information from data sources such as an Excel spreadsheet.

Both versions are available now.

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