WebSideStory eyes e-commerce ROI

WebSideStory on Tuesday targeted small to midsize businesses with a new version of its Web analytics service that features enhanced e-commerce functionality.

HitBox Professional Version 3 provides users with the ability to gauge the effectiveness of a variety of e-commerce-related marketing campaigns and other selling strategies, according to Michael Christian, senior vice president at San Diego-based HitBox. New analytics features dish out real-time information about which e-mail promotions, banner ads, and affiliated Web sites are driving traffic and generating the most revenue.

Version 3 also allows companies to see which keyword purchases are giving them the most bang for their buck, Christian said. Keyword purchasing is a popular trend in which companies bid auction-style with search providers like Yahoo Inc. or Google Inc. to have their URL displayed as the top result of a search based on certain keywords.

An example would be a store that sells ski goggles online, which wins the bid with Google to have its Web site URL show up as the top result in a search on "ski goggles." HitBox Professional Version 3 would allow that store to check in real-time via a browser how much ROI that keyword purchase is actually delivering, Christian said.

"There's a huge market for the attention of people doing searches online," said Christian. "If you have good Web analytics, you can make more informed decisions about what's working."

Version 3 is the second iteration of WebSideStory's subscription-based service for small to midsize customers. Site analysis is done via the placement of JavaScript or "beacons" on a Web site that feed information about traffic, customers, and other data in real time to WebSideStory's servers. This approach contrasts with the Web server log monitoring that software companies -- such as Webtrends -- deploy widely.

According to Aberdeen Group Inc. analyst Guy Creese, the Web analytics industry as a whole is moving toward a hybrid model of both Web server log monitoring and JavaScript beacons.

WebSideStory also offers an Enterprise edition that comes with more in-depth support and consulting services, as well as customized analytics for individual Web sites.

"HitBox Professional is more of a self-serve service that is easy to implement, and it can't be as flexible [as Enterprise Edition] because it's trying to meet 95 percent of the needs for 95 percent of a target market -- without customizing," Christian said.

Other new features include real-time reporting on orders, revenue, and browse-to-buy ratios; the ability to generate reports based on specific date ranges; scheduled reports to be sent to specific parts of the organization; and exporting of reports to Word or Excel.

Pricing for the service starts at US$24.95 per month through Sept. 15, then goes to $29.95 per month.

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