Personalization and Web Analysis Sink In

SAN MATEO (07/13/2000) - The practice of determining who is visiting and buying at a Web site has evolved from a simple marketing pulse-check into the critical exercise of logistically tracking and identifying the course of a company's e-business scheme.

The rash of e-commerce site closures has prompted e-businesses to more closely monitor and analyze Web visitor behavior to aid in adapting themselves to be more effective, according to Guy Creese, decision support research senior analyst at Boston-based Aberdeen Group Inc.

"In the early days it was literally counting Web hits," Creese says. "But suppliers have begun to recognize [the need] to truly analyze Web visitor behavior -- it's not only pulling data from Web logs, sniffer, or server plug-ins. It's demographic information; it's historical purchase information from company files. It takes more than one shot to sometimes figure out what's occurring."

In June, retail giant Macys.com chose to beef up its online analytics by choosing to deploy Fremont, Calif.-based Accrue Software Inc.'s Accrue Insight 5 and Accrue Insight Commerce module to measure ROI.

Through the new software, Macys.com hopes to identify and retain prospective customers, better operate and maintain its online store, and develop new marketing campaigns, according to Gary Berberman, director of Technical Research at Macys.com.

Accrue Insight 5 offers detailed analysis of Web visitor activity by funneling customer data points, including online transactions, advertising effectiveness, and Web site functional placement strategies.

Because brick-and-mortars are bringing their traditional point-of-sale data segmentation of customers online, smaller companies and dot-coms are being forced to abandon "gut-feel" analysis and be more fact-orientated, according to Aberdeen's Creese.

Another vendor catering to e-businesses, WebTrends, in Portland, Ore., recently launched CommerceTrends 3, its "visitor relationship platform" for carrying out Web site traffic analysis and concocting customized marketing pitches.

The browser-based system offers real-time Web traffic reports and behavioral Web analysis that can be integrated with CRM (customer relationship management) and ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems and organizational databases.

Unique visitor interaction and identifiers are appended for each session and assigned before the information is sent to a data warehouse, says Colleen Carey, WebTrends' director of product marketing.

New features in CommerceTrends include revenue forecaster Campaign Analyzer and a single-view data-providing add-on OLAP (online analytical processing) module.

The product provides Web analysis processing on Windows NT, Windows 2000, Red Hat Linux, and Sun Solaris.

StudioNorth, a Chicago-based Web site design company, is beta testing Visual Insights' new 3-D Web analysis eBizinsights product on its servers. StudioNorth Senior Web Developer Steve Greenhow says companies can ill-afford to have Web site information solely in the hands of technical staff.

"[Web analysis] data has always been one step removed from the real decision-makers, which is bad," Greenhow says.

Launched last month, eBizinsights measures e-business performance behind Visual Discovery and real-time 3-D animation. Used on Microsoft SQL Server 7 and Windows 2000, it offers visitor demographics, buyer behavior, promotional success, and site performance analysis.

Visual Insights, in Chicago, plans to release eBizinsights XL in the coming months for larger commerce sites and eBizinsights CS for the Microsoft Commerce Server 2000.

Toward the end of this month, Cambridge, Mass.-based NetGenesis will announce a partnership with MicroStrategy to develop a Web analysis and reporting platform targeted at enterprise-class e-businesses, according to NetGenesis officials.

Al Noyes, executive vice president of Smarterkids.com, says he chose NetGenesis' online behavioral analysis product, NetAnalysis, to track customer profiling because of its scalability features. With more than 100 "hot spots" on his company's home page that are monitored daily, he says the product has become "indispensable."

Smarterkids.com, in Needham, Mass., sells educational books, software, compact discs, and toys.

"If you've got something you think is important on your site, and your visitors aren't seeing it, you either do something about it or change your perception," Noyes says. "Customers are extremely happy with the site, and I think a lot of that is because we pay so much attention to how they use it."

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