Choosing your analytics vendor

Everyone always asks me who we use and why we chose WebSideStory (WSS) over other vendors.

My answer is simple. We chose WSS over other vendors because they took the time and made the effort to let us see, use and understand their product. How innovative! (note: some other vendors did the same to varying degrees, but the vast majority didn’t).

Needs assessment

When we started evalutating tools, we first did a needs assessment. Look at what metrics you might need now to support your organizational strategies, business unit needs, scalability, etc. What do you want out of this? What does your boss want out of it? What other clients do they have? What clients are in your vertical or horizontal? Who in your local area is using their tool?

Connect with potential vendors

Try to find tools that can meet the needs you’ve defined. Contact vendors and ask them to demo their product. This will be your first indication of the type of company your going to be working with and how they respond to their customers. A particular peeve of mine with the enterprise market is that many have forgotten that all clients are important. Coremetrics, Omniture both couldn’t be bothered to followup on calls. Fireclick, WebTrends and WSS did (funny, but about 6 months after moving to HBX all the guys that didn’t call, started making calls asking if we’d be interested in evaluating their tools. Good luck with that sales tactic).

Test the software

Get the vendor to provide a no-conditions trial period, with a live account pulling in stats using your actual site and their page code. Get the manuals for installation and configuration so you can go deep and truly understand what will be required to configure. Do they support first or third party cookies? Shoot for at least 30 to 60 days to see how their tool reported, how page code worked and what effort ‘tagging’ pages you needed to go through to get the metrics we were seeking.

Get a price estimate

Remarkably many vendors won’t provide this without a deep committment. If they can’t, say thank-you for their time. If they can, don’t just take the first price they provide. Negotiate. Many have wiggle room to adjust their pricing, and provide payment plans that can meet your budget. When pushed or when facing the idea of losing a client many suddenly come to bat.

Be sure to check costs carefully. Most vendors price on a per page view basis. What and how you’re tracking can greatly influence this figure. Think tracking units and take into consideration the items you’re planning on measuring (flash, pop-ups, frames, etc.).

Think about your needs now and later. Will you need segmentation? Do you need a method to create reports outside of the tool (such as HBX’s Report Builder plug-in for Excel). What type of support does the vendor offer? Some provide fantastic support during a setup period (30 – 60 days), then push you over to a support desk for any questions after that — others provide one-to-one account management with people who will get to know your site and your business goals.

Find out what else is included

HBX had all kinds of things we hadn’t even considered — like report builder, the ability to tie into our data warehouse, consulting services, other tools like ATOMZ/WSS Search, their digital marketing university, etc. By taking a few services at once you might be able to get a price break as a package.

That said, here’s what the first 8 months on HBX have been like:

  • Out of the gate they assigned us to a Account Manager and Implementation Engineer. These become our go to people when we have questions. They also make sure we have everything setup correctly.
  • They provide in-depth training on their product to make sure we understood how to use the tools effectively. Free webinars over WebEx that you can attend as frequently as you like.
  • Digital Marketing University was a great information source and a chance to meet other folks and some of the pros at WSS.
  • They continue to be available and take the time to address our questions.

It hasn’t been all perfect though:

  • They assigned us a new account rep and implementation engineer who we had to get back up to speed on our site and business goals
  • They sometimes don’t take the time to dig deep enough when we’re probing for answers to questions
  • They haven’t formalized their model with their other business lines like Search, so we have to deal with different people over there. Sometimes people who don’t know a lot about HBX.

That’s my journey. Hope your selection goes well.