“Insights-driven businesses will take $1.2 trillion dollars by 2020,” predicts Forrester Research, after looking at the growth of 40 companies that aggressively collect more and better website data and analytics. “Using conservative estimates, they will grow 27% annually and the startups will grow 40%.”
Even smaller companies that have a simple but efficiently executed data strategy see a huge business impact. They are five times more likely to make faster decisions, three times more likely to get the results they want, and two times more likely to be in their industry’s top 25% of financial performers, says global management consulting firm Bain & Company.
So do you want profitability, agility and efficiency – and a piece of a $1.2 trillion pie? Start with this article. We list some of the best web analytic tools, and more importantly, how to use them. Without a clear strategy, you can’t turn data into insights and action plans. You get graphs, not value.
Align web analytic tools with business goals
Web analytics tools collect, analyze and report all activity that happens on your digital properties: number of visitors and their location and demographics, how they found you (traffic source), what pages they viewed and how long they stayed there, what they clicked, and at what point they decided to leave.
This information can help you:
- Understand consumer behavior, preferences and purchase process
- Identify customer pain points (e.g. pages or processes that are causing customers to leave)
- Improve your market segmentation for more personalized campaigns
- Refine your product catalogue
- Measure the success of your omnichannel marketing campaigns (ex: which Google ads, social media posts, or emails led to clicks and conversions)
- Perform A/B testing and other marketing experiments
How to choose the web analytic tools for your needs
There’s a plethora of tools that offer different features, add-ons and subscription packages (some are even free!). What should you ask before signing up?
- What information do I really need? What kind of business questions do I want my data to answer? You can start with the marketing goals we listed but ask specific questions like “does this website feature get people to sign up?” or make use cases.
- What features are non-negotiable vs. just nice to have? This can include things like real-time analytics, shareable dashboards, campaign attribution tracking, etc. If you’re a mobile-first company, then you’ll want a mobile-first analytics tool, or one that can efficiently track users across different devices and ID’s. If you’re a huge business looking for very complex, enterprise-level analytics, sit down with your website development team for more technical features (like third party integrations) or system requirements and compatibilities.
- How is the data gathered and reported? You want to know what databases it will tap, and whether it can filter and summarize data in a visual and easy way. You don’t want to be stuck with the problem of having to interpret a lot of confusing graphs or be overly dependent on your IT team to find the data you need. Ideally, you get a user-friendly dashboard, can view in different tabs, and save and share reports in PDF – these often-overlooked details make your job a lot easier!
Find Web Analytic Tools for your needs
Once you know what you want, you can find the most cost-effective tool. Consider this list as a sampler of the kind of tools companies usually look for and an example of a vendor who’s gotten excellent reviews in their category.
Best known for: being the Swiss Army Knife of Web Analytics
It’s used by more than 50% of the top one million websites, mainly because of its multiple features – if you’re willing to figure them out and customize the metrics. You can measure how efficient your content is (page views, bounces, goal completions), analyze keywords, break down your traffic sources, measure your mobile performance, and track tagged campaigns. You can also set up data goals (like number of engaged users) or specific metrics (like conversion rate per user or revenue per user). And because it is Google, it integrates well with other Google platforms and has a state- of the-art API.
Unfortunately, it’s not the most intuitive tool to use. You need a dedicated data analyst to maximize its features and interpret its reports, but there are many online tutorials and communities who can help you figure out the basics.
The premium version (if you’re willing to spend $150,000 a year) has Analytics coaching and 24-hr support, customized dashboards and reports, more powerful tools for Big Data, and can integrate with Doubleclick and Salesforce.
Best known for: tracking customer journeys
Google’s data is broad and powerful, but it’s anonymous: you can’t trace the behavior to one person, and then follow his customer journey. That’s what Kissmetrics does, and what makes it particularly relevant for marketers despite the hefty $220 monthly subscription fee. Studies show that 80% of customers will do business with a brand if they get personalized content and offers. So from this point of view, it may be more important to your business to see a customer as an individual versus the behavior of a large but abstract demographic.
You can use Kissmetrics to build acquisition and retention funnels and study how your customers move from one stage to the other. You can also track the people you weren’t able to convert (which can initiate campaigns to get them back) and create custom campaign or “triggers” (like sending messages or call to actions) for different groups of people. The more premium plans allow A/B testing and revenue reports.
Best known for: analyzing mobile apps
If your app plays a critical role in your business, then you may want a specialized analytics tool. Localytics tracks how many times people open your app, how long they use it, what they actually do with it, and the areas or actions where they tend to cancel or close the app. You’ll even be notified when someone uninstalls, allowing you to reach out to win them back or get valuable feedback.
Localytics lets you create individual user profiles, and divide them into segments based on their behavior or preferences, which can lead to really targeted (and effective!) push notification campaigns.
Best known for: heatmapping
Crazy Egg uses a mouse-tracking technology to measure how your visitors are reading your content. You’ll know exactly what part of a page they’re reading and interacting with, and conversely, what they’re ignoring. The “Heatmap View” shows you where people click the most – which tells you immediately where to put ads -- while the “Scrollmap” shows you where they tend to stay the most.
Pricing starts at $9, and can be a good complement to other web analytics tools. It can’t give you all the data you need (like market segmentation or sales funnel reports) but it does an excellent job at checking not just what pages people read, but how they read it. For a marketer, that’s the next best thing to actually standing behind your consumer’s shoulder.
Matamo (formerly Piwik)
Best known for: simple interface for small businesses or entrepreneurs
It’s free, and unlike Google Analytics, you don’t have to give up your personal data to get it. It doesn’t have as many features, but it’s much easier to navigate. You can set goals and find reports in a few clicks, and you can customize your dashboard and view your reports anytime with the mobile app. If you run multiple business websites, you can separate the data so one merchant can’t access the other.
The problem is the API, which isn’t fully up-to-date and can cause headaches to your IT team. If you’re running fairly simple commerce websites and aren’t running complex programs, that won’t be a problem. But if you’re a big business with omnichannel campaigns, this isn’t for you.
The data is just the beginning
To grow your business, you can’t just get the right tools, you need to promote a data-driven mindset across all levels of your organizations.
First of all, break down the silos in your organization. Your product experts, sales and marketing team, web project managers, and data scientists are working together. LinkedIn uses “Insight Teams” composed of people from different disciplines to solve specific business missions. This adds to a powerful combination of data analysis and human imagination and innovation.
Second, make the information accessible to your employees, and train them on how to read and use it. More than half of Uber’s employees use their insights platform to fix problems on their level.
In the end, your business growth will be propelled not by the analytical tool but what people will do with the data. As Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard said, “The goal is to turn data into information, information into insight, and insight into action.”
About the Author
Danielle Canstello is party of the content marketing team at Pyramid Analytics. They provide BI Analytics. In her spare time, she writes around the web to spread her knowledge of the marketing, business intelligence and analytics industries.