Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Web Analytics - How much is it really "Helping"!


For a while, at-least until I became cognitive of online marketing tools and their existence, I was awestruck at how shopping websites, my emails, pop up random ads about stuff that I had browsed the previous day or even earlier. Maybe I was way behind on technology awareness and the innovations that were going around in the web world. I was indeed late to the understanding that online marketing had evolved as a giant and was increasing to be the predominant marketing tool being used. I realized that there was some kind of tracking, but wasn’t sure how or what that was. It was not until the last two weeks from my research on “Web Analytics” and the class, did I understand the in depth focus of eCommerce web sites in using such analysis techniques and putting them to use. This, I thought, was very beneficial to me, as a consumer to not lose sight of the product that I am interested to buy. It also provided a platform for me to look for better prices as it provided comparisons between websites that offered a product.

Without much knowledge on web analytics methodology, I believed this was a great way to sell a product even when the consumer’s initial reason to visit the website was not to purchase it. Websites were converting random shoppers to potential buyers and doing it more often. All this was being done with the help of data collected from other buyers and analyzed to help the website formulate good positioning strategies for its products. All this while, the buyer is not aware that information pertaining to his/her purchase, interests, patterns are being recorded and simultaneously being used to generate suggestions for additional purchases from the website.

Initially, the thought of some tracking seemed fascinating, but the fact that you are being monitored constantly, 24/7, without you knowing about it seemed disturbing. Looking at some of the stats provided on a website1, it seemed imperative that analysts want to explore web option effectively.
1.       82% of US adult population spends just over an hour a day on internet.
2.       Most of this time is spent on social networking, searching and reading.
3.       Off these, 71% purchase products on the internet.
4.       76% of online consumers base their purchasing decision on reviews provided on the product.

Considering the enormous consumer traffic present online and the hoards of data that is available for analysts, it seems to be a natural choice. But, how much of it is being used properly and how much of it is legal is a question that has been asked since its inception. Several laws such as the SIGEU White Paper on Privacy Compliance3, Stearns consumer privacy protection plan2, etc. have been established to keep a check on the collection and distribution of this data. It becomes more concerning when companies collect data but do not use it properly as indicated by one of the websites5. In such a scenario, how much is web analytics really helping and who is it helping? Is gaining more knowledge on what data is needed and how to interpret and analyze it going to answer this question!

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