Companies already have many of the resources in place to accomplish this, adds Peterson, but the data and the analysts are often in separate organizations.
Resistance typically comes from the people who have owned the silos of data for the last 25 years, he says. “They have always owned the customer record and they do research on the customer once a year. They drag their feet, but they have to incorporate Web data.”
Market research has to adjust from annual reviews to daily data collections that can be incorporated into an evolving plan. Web staff often find this is outside their comfort zone; they have to learn to deal with databases and customer segmentation if they are to add value to the process.
“The business people don’t drag their feet; they would love to have these insights, but they want them in a way that makes sense, on PowerPoints rather than on a spreadsheet,” explains Peterson. While a business will often have to make some marketing plans, such as TV advertising or print catalogs on an annual basis, with Web analytics they can become smarter about how to spend for online advertising and other marketing tools that don’t require long-term commitments.
“Here is where Amazon has a great advantage because they never got into ultra-long-term planning,” he says. “Companies with no long-term legacy are tuning their sites as often as hourly.”
Companies should test their programs, use control groups, and track the results, he adds.
“When you get good at testing, you don’t do extensive analysis ahead of time,” says Peterson. “You try different things and let the statistics tell you where the champion is.” Direct marketing companies have grown up knowing about control groups while online retail operations have often been pretty casual.
“It is common to find companies that will go and change their Web site and not bother to roll out the changes slowly and check the impact on visitor behavior,” he says. “Sometimes that blows up in your face.”
Large companies usually have the quants they need, but they are probably in finance rather than in the Web analytics group. At a Blue Cross insurer, Peterson explained what they would need in terms of data, storage and analysts on the first day; on the second day the company brought in a whole team of analysts who were employed the company; no one had thought to assign any of them to Web analytics.
“The CIO is in the exact right spot to go across the organization and find people who will step up to the plate,” he says.
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