WebSideStory marries analytics with search

WebSideStory this week is announcing that it will marry its back-end Web analytics engine with consumer-facing search engine technology in Search Version 4.0.

Company executives believe the shaping of site search responses based on behavioral data collected by analytics will result in higher sales for WebSideStory's enterprise customers.

The technology, dubbed Active Ranking and Active Navigation, allows the search engine to write to a suite of APIs in the analytics engine to pull data out of the system. Consumer searches on retail sites, for example, could present results based on most commonly purchased model, color, or style of product.

How a user navigates a site can be changed based on what users typically want to see first, said Steve Kusmer, senior vice president, general manager at WebSideStory.

Although the marriage of analytics and search is not new, Susan Aldrich, senior vice president at Patricia Seybold Group said until now the push has been coming from companies offering search first and adding analytics later.

Everyone wants to rank for their customers the best sellers first. However, their capabilities for deciding what is best is limited, Aldrich said. Other vendors have to look at shipment or master inventory files, but WebSideStory can look at real-world data collected from the customer site.

"Even if there are two items on a site and 10 people look at Product A but buy Product B, a typical site might drop Product A. WebSideStory knows Product A is important because everybody looked at it," Aldrich said.

Driving search results based on analytics was typically a behind-the-scenes manual operation, but now it can be automated, Aldrich said.

Jennifer Clark, manager of e-commerce marketing at retailer Brooks Brothers said that since implementing Version 4.0, there has been a 25 percent increase in online sales.

"It looks at the product pages being viewed and how many times customers bought products and incorporates that into our business rules we set up to generate search results," Clark said.

Because WebSideStory is delivered as a software service, Clark also said IT involvement has been minimal.

"Except for setting up the original tests, it was rolled out with no IT involvement. They have enough on their plate," Clark said.

However, there are definite benefits to working closely with IT, especially when integrating the product catalog.

"WebSideStory could find the data by crawling the site, but working with IT will make it easier and you will probably get more information," Aldrich said.

Active Ranking and Active Navigation are available now. Users must have HBX analytics starting at US$15,000 per year and search starting at US$40,000 per year. The Active module is an additional US$12,500 per year.