July 18, 2007

Multichannel Retailing Week: Web Analytics

A Vice President attends between one and two thousand meetings a year. Maybe a quarter of those are higher-level meetings, with multiple VPs discussing business issues.

Frequently, a VP will bring a technician or business intelligence analyst to a meeting, to help support an important point.

During the past twelve years in multichannel retail, I can count on one hand the number of meetings I've been in where a Web Analytics guru was one of the chosen technicians to demonstrate key customer insights.

This is not a harbinger of things to come, or a criticism of the folks who do web analytics. It is a failure of multichannel retailers to appreciate or understand what web analytics can do to help the business improve.

Could you imagine if an analyst walked into a meeting at Bloomingdales, and told a team of merchants this fact: 67% of store customers walked past a coat after looking at it, 33% stopped by to pick it up. Of the 33% who picked up the coat, 25% took the coat to the dressing room. Of the 25% who took the coat to the dressing room, 38% bought the item. In total, for every 100 customers who walked past the coat, three purchased the item.

Retail merchants would salivate if they knew that type of information, by item.

And yet, every multichannel retailer has individuals who do this type of measurement on a daily basis for the websites they support.

In our multichannel businesses, we still have disconnects between catalog employees and online employees. There are bigger disconnects between online employees and retail employees. The language barriers are enormous.

Web analytics practitioners suffer from two language barriers. First is the technical to practical language translation that must happen for business folks to act upon what a technician describes. Second is a direct-channel to retail-channel language translation that must happen for retail folks to act upon what has been learned in a direct-channel.

Web Analytics is a wonderful field that has enormous potential to improve multichannel retailing. This potential will be harnessed when multichannel retailers hire "translators" to convert language from technical to business-oriented, from direct-channel to retail-channel. When this happens within the right culture, eyes will open, and web analytics will become tightly integrated with all business systems and analytical teams.