Imagine you’re working in a department store in a large shopping centre. Each time a customer walks in, they must move to the counter and answer some questions before they can begin browsing:

  • What store did you come from?
  • How long will you spend here browsing?
  • Have you been into our store before?
  • What items will you look at and/or ultimately purchase?
  • How long do you usually like to spend in stores like ours?
  • Have you come in today because you received our mail outs?

I can hear you thinking, ‘How great would that be? Then we would know exactly what the customer was after and whether our mail outs were working!’ Never going to happen? Wrong!

Whilst we may never actually ask our customers these types of questions face-to-face in store, we can do this every day online. Unbelievably, recent reports show that a large majority of businesses still see web analytics as less important in relation to other functions within a business and yet it’s nearly as common as sliced bread these days to have some kind of solution in place to track website visitors. Major companies are using the technology, small businesses are jumping onboard and everyone’s talking about it. ‘What’s your bounce rate?’ or ‘What’s your average time spent on site?’ are nearly as common as ‘Was the shop busy today?’ or ‘How’s business been lately?’

Why is it that some businesses still don’t manage web analytics like it’s a crucial business tool, even though it can answer all those wonderfully insightful questions (and more) that I listed above? The answer is, I believe, that we’re doing step one right (appreciating the need for tools and processes for data collection, thus implementing a solution to capture and track our site visitors) but step two (allocating resources to take action on this data) can be a little daunting and therefore doesn’t get the attention it deserves or needs.

Imagine having the opportunity to ask your customers the above questions and then blocking your ears when they give you their answers. This is effectively what you’re doing by not allocating time and resources to understand, interpret and report on behavioural trends and outcomes derived from data collected online.

It’s not all bad news though. We are seeing the management of web analytics and the interpretation of that data jump a few rungs on the priority ladder. Evidence in recent reports show that web analytics management is shifting from the IT department into the hands of marketers, which is a great sign. It just seems that the next challenge is making sure you’re collecting the right data and then dedicating adequate resources and attention to it so you can take action in exactly the right way and at the perfect time.

“This is my personal blog. The views expressed here are my own and do not represent those of my employer, Coremetrics.”