SES Chicago: Retailers who Dislike their Analytic Packages


It was interesting to hear, this morning at one of the last SES Chicago 2006 panels, how some retailers are unhappy with all web analytic packages and are dying to design their own in-house packages. Some have already started.

This was a panel with five retailers (Pier One, Baby Age, SpinLife, Tool Barn and Vintage Tub & Bath.) One agency/consultant, Range, was on the panel. So, not very statistically significant but interesting nonetheless. The moderator asked all the vendors to address what they liked/didn’t like about web analytics. Note: I didn’t tape record this, and did the best I could to capture what people actually said, but as usual, the mistakes are mine, mine, all mine. All the comments in square brackets are mine (and aren’t a list of regular expressions…)

Pier One. We use Webtrends 7. Our site generates multiple duplicate URLs, especially after someone uses our on-site search, and the analytics packages can’t handle it. We are trying to create our own software. [I found that Pier One has GA runnning on their site, but obviously can’t see what server side analytics they have.]

Baby Age: We have pretty much used every package out there except Coremetrics and have been pretty unhappy. For a while we were using Omniture and a couple of ROI trackers and they were off by 30 percent. We are using GA now and it seems to be the most accurate, but we are writing our own analytics now. We are working with local universities who have students getting masters degrees in mathematics and statistics and are getting histograms that we would never get from our analytics package. We are working with Penn State — their professors are looking for projects like this. [Baby Age currently has both SC and GA installed on their site.]

SpinLife: Our experience was similar to Baby Age. We launched in 1999. We had our own analytics up front. We couldn’t wait until we could afford a big package, and decided to go with CoreMetrics. We found that the large packages are skewed toward customers that sell simple SKUs. It was inconsistent with the kind of products that we sell. Coremetrics tried very hard and they could not make it work for us (lots of our transactions finish over the phone.) We went back to our home-grown package. We are moving toward a package called RedZone. We need something that handles phone orders well. [Sorry, I couldn’t find the package she was referring to, any comments are welcome.]

Baby Age: Our biggest challenge was tracking deferred revenue.

Tool Barn: We use Index tools. We find that we don’t have much time to read our reports [audience bursts out in laughter], and we like Index Tools because the info is force fed to us — it is emailed to us. Index Tools also emails exception reporting, huge spikes etc.

Range: from the agency side, we have looked at just about everything and seen all these problems. The thing that drives us crazy is when people have four packages. None of those things are ever going to line up.

Tool Barn: Along those lines, we are participating in a case study with a dozen packages that will all be on our site. [I assume he means, the study that SEOmoz encouraged. ]

Vintage Tub & Bath: We use Omniture. You can have the best tool in the world but if you donÒ€ℒt have someone looking at it, who cares? [I swear that I heard him say this, but when I went to his website to get the url correct, I found that they only use Google Analytics. Perhaps I misheard.]

Audience question: How do you get buy-in from management to create your own tool? Answer: Buy gifts for the IT staff. [Laughter]
Pier One
: I really mean this, in a way. IT loves to make things work correctly, and I watch them create stuff for me on their spare time in a few days that I expect would take months. [This reminds me a little of the guest post that Jodi McDermott wrote on IT vs Marketing.]

Robbin Steif

Our founder, Robbin Steif, started LunaMetrics in 2004. She is a graduate of Harvard College and the Harvard Business School, and has served on the Board of Directors for the Digital Analytics Association. Robbin is a winner of a BusinessWomen First award, as well as a Diamond Award for business leadership. In 2017, Robbin sold her company to HS2 Solutions and has since retired from LunaMetrics.

  • Anonymous

    Answer: Buy gifts for the IT staff.

    Pier One: I really mean this, in a way. IT loves to make things work correctly, and I watch them create stuff for me on their spare time in a few days that I expect would take months.


    “Steve we need to know XYZ. Can you get that for us?”

    Hmm. Can’t do it with what we have, but if you wait a day or two, I’ll add that functionality tonight or tomorrow night and give you the answer by the weeks end.


    Real conversation(s), repeated several times over the past 4 years. πŸ™‚

    I started one Open Source project and forked another purely out of the intellectual curiosity to be able to provide the answers I was being asked.

    The audience may laugh, and I would have too, πŸ™‚ but the Pier One rep is so totally spot on it’s almost scary. Our secrets are being publicised!!!! πŸ˜‰

    BTW. While you can’t know perfectly, set your browser to ask you about accepting all cookies – can give all sorts of clues about what backend analysis they use. With Pier One you can see the request for a Cookie named “WebTrendsID”, from memory.

    – Steve

  • Kevin Hillstrom

    To me, web analytics tools fail to meet the needs of a multichannel retailer. Businesses with with a catalog or retail division are more likely to be dissatisfied. The research and purchase experience is more complicated in these organizations.

    Historically, vendors have focused on the online portion of the multichannel purchase experience. In time, improvements will be made that benefit the multichannel retailer.

  • Marton Szoke

    >We are moving toward a package called RedZone. We need something that handles phone orders well. [Sorry, I couldn’t find the package she was referring to, any comments are welcome.]

    In fact RedZoneGlobal is an IndexTools Co-Brand partner. At IndexTools we have two solutions to track phone orders, one that RedZoneGlobal does, another that we do using the IndexTools API. It requires some integration effort on the client’s side but it works.
    Also, using the API solution you can reconcile orders (order cancellations, credit card fraud, return merchandise etc.)

    It sounds incredible but we do listen to our clients πŸ™‚

    Marton Szoke, CEO
    IndexTools, Inc.

  • Thank you all (Kevin for linking, Marton for finding what I couldn’t, and Steve for always keeping me on track). I think we are going to see more on this topic from one of my fellow bloggers but I won’t tip his hand more than that.

    Marton – so many thanks for identifying the package. Is RedZoneGlobal also affiliated with Mikkel, the great SEO speaker who always wears red suits? You are welcome to put a real link here to the software page.


  • Craig Danuloff

    Thanks for the report. It sure is easy to dislike the current crop of vendor offerings. I’ve posted a longer reaction and some thoughts here:

  • Craig Danuloff

    Sorry, probably should have made that a link. Blog Post Link. Is there a way to do a trackback to blogger?

  • Thanks for the info on index tools, and everyone’s comments. I’m gonna look into a few of these!

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