Web analytics applications are tools. And like many tools, there can be significant hidden switching costs. Forget Web analytics for a minute and think about cell phones. When you get a new cell phone, there’s more cost than just the cost of the phone. You have to buy new accessories, learn how to work the phone, download all your ring tones again, perhaps reenter your entire phonebook manually, and get used to the fact that the buttons do different things (I hate it when “send” and “end” are reversed!). These are your switching costs.
Getting back to Web analytics, are there good reasons to switch Web analytics products? Yes. You’ve outgrown the existing product you’re using. As with any other business tool, business strategy changes can lead to new requirements, and the business outgrows the tool. For example, it may be time for tighter integration between CRM, Web analytics and Business Intelligence processes. When this happens, the Web analytics tool may have to be upgraded, or a new tool sought out.
However, if there isn’t a business strategy change that’s triggered new requirements, and you just feel that you aren’t getting the insight you need from your reports, call your vendor account representative before you switch. This is especially recommended if your Web analytics tool is a “purchased” server side (definition) Web analytics version rather than a hosted service. There may be newer software versions from the same vendor with exactly what you need, or perhaps the capability is there and training is what’s required. If you do have to upgrade, there will be upgrade costs, but these will often be less troublesome than switching costs.
One organization that I recently talked to was considering new analytics software because they wanted clickmaps (clickmaps are Web page overlays that show an image of the page, with percentages indicating how many visitors clicked on each link). Because this organization had not contracted for a maintenance agreement, they were not receiving updates when the Web analytics product evolved. They didn’t know that newer versions of the product did in fact provide clickmaps as a standard feature. By upgrading instead of switching, this organization will be able to get clickmaps and keep the knowledge they previously gained with the older tool.
If you’re using a Web analytics application hosted by a 3rd party, the switching costs are even higher. Consider the investments you’ve made:
2. You’ve invested in training your Web analysts to analyze data using your current application. Re-training is needed, and there may be a lag in reporting quality and analytical dexterity until they come up to speed.
3. You may have to re-tag all your ads and inbound links from other sites. Forget to do this and campaigns may be untrackable.
4. You have built up site traffic history, which you’ll lose when you move.
With Google Analytics being available free, some organizations have thought of moving away from their paid hosted applications to Google Analytics. It may be the right decision but make sure you count switching costs in your evaluation.
So if you are dissatisfied with your current Web analytics reports, before you abandon ship, call the representative from your Web analytics vendor and find out what can be done to improve the situation to give you more useful and meaningful reports that you can take action on. If it’s been a long time since you talked to a vendor rep, call the vendor’s toll-free sales line, explain to them you’re considering switching and I’m sure they’ll have someone contact you pronto.
Also posted on the AIMS blog. Thoughts anyone? Feel free to comment here or on the AIMS blog.