While I am somewhat loathe to admit it, by nearly every measure I am now officially an “old man” in the digital measurement space. I got my start in the late 1990′s and have been working as an author, evangelist, and consultant ever since. I have seen great people and great companies come and go, and am honored to have made some small contribution through my writing, consulting, and support of the digital analytics community for the last fifteen years.
Given my tenure, as you might imagine, I have been exposed to a huge number of technologies, all designed to measure some aspect of our digital lives. Log file analysis, tags and sensors, optimization, mobile, social, and more recently tag management platforms … I literally have “seen it all” in the analytics arena. And while every earnest, well-meaning CEO approaches me with a new “game changing” and “completely revolutionary” technology, the honest truth is that, for the most part, analytics technologies are all a variation on the same “collect, parse, report” paradigm that has defined our industry since the late 90’s.
That said, there have been a few times I have been surprised: when I first saw Omniture’s “Optimum Path” path reporting; Visual Science’s “Visual Site”; Ensighten’s Tag Management platform; and a few others that all made me stop and say “Wow, that is truly cool … I wish I had thought of that!” Recently, I was similarly surprised, but this time by Webtrends Streams.
At first glance, Webtrends Streams may seem like “real-time” reporting. We have had “real-time” data collection for nearly a decade in some shape or form, and had so long debated the value of “real-time” that the idea had become a punchline in a late night, lobby bar joke. But Webtrends Streams isn’t real-time reporting … not by a long-shot.
Webtrends Streams is something different.
The last ten years of development on the Internet was characterized by the “World Wide Web” and, at least in our sector, the analysis of “web-based visitor behaviors.” Analyzing the web was fine and good, but the relevance of the web has declined substantially in recent years, giving way to an increasingly “digital” world characterized by diverse consumer and business touch-points … essentially an “Internet of Things.” As a result, our clients are as likely to be tasked with measuring and analyzing non-site interactions as not, and the only sure thing anymore is that tomorrow there will be something new to measure.
Unfortunately, the measurement technology we have in place has not kept up. Many of us experienced this during the “mobile revolution” when we realized that applying the “visits, visitors, and views” paradigm to mobile phone and tablet-based applications didn’t really work, and then again when we tried to use the same paradigm to measure “likes”, “tweets” and “pins.” The response to this paradigm shift was, as you would expect, the emergence of all new applications and platforms, each designed to measure the current state of some new, specific technology, almost always without any notion of integration or even knowledge of all of the other digital “things.”
Essentially what happened is that we screwed up. At the same time the world around us was rapidly trending towards a “digital ubiquity“, the analytics industry responded by fragmenting our approach towards measurement. In an effort to appreciate “best of breed” data collection and reporting we ended up either having to apply a point solution to every digital channel or, worse, continually fit square pegs into round holes, necessitating a never-ending need for eVars, sProps, and custom dimensions — all basically hacks and workarounds, none really solving business problems efficiently, appropriately, or with any amount of panache, style, or elegance.
It turns out the solution is “no solution at all” — or at least not the type of packaged solution most of us are used to using for digital measurement. In perhaps the greatest ever “doh” moment in the analytics space, the needs of the modern and evolving business have come full-circle to the beginnings of the web analytics industry: I believe that Enterprise measurement and analysis from this point forward will be able to rely almost exclusively on powerful and sophisticated “hit” counters.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Instead of a complex system for gathering, pre-processing, and aggregating events into named buckets like “page view”, “visit”, and “visitor”, the future of digital measurement will require little more than a system capable of tracking anything quickly, easily, and cheaply. Rather than worrying about how we will collect a piece of data, given the inherent limitations of your analytics platform, the modern business simply needs to be able to register that the data was created, store it, and quickly move on … because there are an infinite number of data coming right behind that piece.
What’s more, we need to be able to take immediate action on these data as they emerge. If the explosion in the testing and optimization space teaches us anything, it is that every interaction is an opportunity to do better — to make a stronger connection, to make a better impression, to have a positive impact — and so we need a way to take advantage of that. Much like the pulse of blood flowing through our bodies provides feedback telling us to speed up or slow down, the pulse of the “Internet of Things” can provide feedback to help businesses drive interaction, engagement, and conversion … if you let it, and if you’re able to hear the pulse.
This is why I am excited about Webtrends Streams, and why Web Analytics Demystified has signed on as Webtrends’ only Streams reseller. For the first time ever, thanks to the Streams APIs, we are able to help our clients feel and respond to the pulse of their digital interactions as they happen, quickly, easily, and cheaply. Want to measure a page view? No problem. A click event? No problem. A Facebook mention or Tweet? No problem. A video view or mobile click or the fact that a chef in Dubuque, Iowa just opened the door on her connected refrigerator?
Some of the uses we have already developed that are powered by Webtrends Streams include:
- Integration with DemandBase so that our B2B clients can see exactly which companies are on their site and routing that information to sales representatives as interactions occur;
- Integration with popular social media and identity APIs to help clarify the demographic makeup of audiences, mapped to the content they are most interested in and to their current geographic location;
- Integrating with client internal product APIs to develop high production quality “as it happens” views into products, conversion, and revenue generation;
- Integrating with client internal inventory APIs to provide real-time site inventory monitoring, complete with customizable, multi-channel alerting and notification;
- Developing high visibility “as it happens” executive dashboards to help business leaders visualize multi-channel marketing efforts by product, campaign, market, and audience segment.
Webtrends Streams gives Web Analytics Demystified and our clients the ability to measure, report, and act upon any connected interaction that occurs anywhere, anytime, on any platform or device. Yes, Webtrends Streams requires customization — lots of it in most cases — but let’s not fool ourselves: the tag management market has emerged as a multi-million dollar industry because of the level of customization and complexity inherent in measurement today. Yes, Webtrends Streams requires other technologies to support deeper, more granular analysis, but we have long recognized the need for a bifurcated approach towards digital analytics, and Webtrends Streams provides for greater flexibility at a lower cost than most deployed solutions today. And yes, Webtrends Streams requires a new way of thinking about “web” and digital analytics — one that most of us don’t have a ton of experience with — but if you share any of my perspective and sense of history in the analytics industry, you’ll surely recognize that all along, the only constant has been change.
I welcome your comments and would love an opportunity to explore how Web Analytics Demystified’s Webtrends Streams deployment may be able to help your business analytics efforts evolve. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via our web site, www.webanalyticsdemystified.com.
I will also be participating in Webtrends’ upcoming digital marketing conference, Engage 2013, January 28 – 30 in San Francisco at the Westin St. Francis. Join me for a panel discussion with top brands and analysts on how Webtrends Streams transforms business. See you there.