Three weeks ago I attended the WebTrends Engage conference; not long thereafter I wrote this chatty post about the great party, my penthouse suite, and then a little about one of the new WebTrends products, Score. Here it is, 3 weeks later, and the commercial web analytics vendor world has undergone a major upset - WebTrends has given 4 top execs the boot in the wake of Omniture's acquisition of Visual Sciences. It will take a while for the dust to settle.
Current drama aside, I'd like to share my thoughts on WebTrends Visitor Intelligence (VI). At Engage I sat through a couple of hours of live demos as well as a small-group private session. Overheard while I was there:
"Most marketers wouldn't know what OLAP was if it jumped up and bit'em in the butt."
Is that so, marketers?
VI is an OLAP tool. More precisely it's a browser-based drag-n-drop reporting interface for visitor-level web activity data stored in a relational database, aka WebTrends Marketing Warehouse.
If you choose to integrate external customer-level data into Marketing Warehouse you can pull attributes like gender and income and age - and whatever else you know about your customers - into VI. Can you imagine being able to easily drag gender or income or age into any web activity report, either as a dimension or as a filter? Can you imagine being able to easily drill all the way down to the visitor level on any report? Isn't this flexibility something we all want?
The VI and Score live demos at Engage were packed to capacity, even at the end of a busy conference day in a city full of recreational distractions. Based on that observation I'd say, yes, there's considerable interest in a) WebTrends' new products, and b) visitor-level web activity data in general.
Queryable visitor-level web activity data is nothing new. As an industry we've been doing this for years, but it's been the exception rather than the rule. If there's any hope of bringing visitor-level detail into mainstream use, I think WebTrends has made a valiant effort with VI. If, it turns out, it's simply too expensive and too cumbersome to ever gain traction, why on earth do we keep trying? When are we ever going to get it right? Answer me that, vendors (when you're not busy cannibalizing each other).
Although I don't want to go too deep into the nitty-gritty details of VI, I do want to mention a few likes/dislikes:
- Available as both on-site and hosted solutions. If you've got privacy concerns, great, get the on-site solution. If you lack IT resources, great, get the hosted solution.
- Relational database back end, making external data integration possible.
- Simple Excel export from VI - no SmartReports. Right on. SmartReports aren't worth the paper they're printed on.
- WebTrends Analytics will continue to exist in parallel with VI. There are some reports you can only get in VI and some reports you can only get in Analytics. Sounds confusing.
- I don't believe VI will meet complex segmentation needs, especially when it comes to path-based questions like, "Give me the visitors who did x and then later did y."
- SDC page-tagging is a requirement for VI - so VI is not an option if you use logs as your data source.
VI is a great start; I would love to see it get adopted and successfully used. My fellow bloggers Jacques Warren and Anil Batra also attended Engage and have posted their reviews of VI. Aaron Gray and OX2 have both mentioned involvement in VI proof-of-concept projects; I look forward to hearing more about their experiences.