No Matter How Long The Winter, Spring Is Sure To Follow

This is an apt proverb for my current mood. Chicago's winter has been interminably long, but I'm optimistic that spring is just around the corner. After nearly four straight months of cold and record breaking amounts snow, certainly the weather must warm up and the sun must shine eventually, right?

Nevertheless, as winter winds down, March was a great (and busy) month. I attended three straight weeks of vendor user conferences: Webtrends, Adobe Omniture, and Coremetrics. These were well run, valuable, and diverse events; it was great to catch up with friends in the industry and clients around the country. Perhaps the most interesting part of the 2011 round of vendor events was the barrage of product releases, an exciting combination of new products, and ongoing development to core products. I will be updating the Forrester Wave on web analytics later this year, and we're looking forward to doing a deep dive on the updated platforms.

Spring and early summer promise to be equally interesting (and busy). Here's my event schedule for the next six months:

  • Data 2.0 Conference - April 4 - San Francisco - This event is about the rise of data accessibility and new innovations to harness the growing abundance of social, geo, government, and advertising data.
  • Forrester Marketing Forum 2011 - April 5-6 - San Francisco - This is extremely exciting, my first Marketing Forum as a Forrester analyst! You may remember that I missed the 2010 event because I was stranded in the UK due to the volcano in Iceland. This is a great event about innovating marketing for the next digital decade; check out the phenomenal roster of keynote speakers!
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The Online Marketing Suite Redux

I am pleased to announce that my newest report, Revisiting the Online Marketing Suite, was published this week.

My colleague and Customer Intelligence Practice Leader at Forrester, Suresh Vittal, was the first to define the online marketing suite in 2007. At the time, the online marketing was highly aspirational; Suresh's work was a call to action for marketers and vendors. If we look back at the original report, the online marketing suite descriptive graphic (figure 2 in the report) is particularly prescient because it included a section for "future network partners" to build upon existing capabilities.  We have the benefit of hindsight, but this consideration would be critical as nascent channels such as social and mobile exploded in the ensuing years.

We are excited to reinstate this line of resarch. Unfortunately, in the time since the original report the online marketing suite has been slow to hit the tipping point. Many factors are responsible -- such as the economy, technical challenges, and marketers' struggles to cope with the constantly moving targets of channels and customer demands. Nevertheless, during this period we've seen unprecedented innovation in marketing, technology, and consumer sophistication. It felt like the timing is right to take a new look at the online marketing suite to factor in the marketing ecosystem as of 2011. If anything, these changes -- and challenges -- drive the need for the online marketing suite more than ever. It has never been more important to coordinate content, execution, and analytics to support customer interactions. 

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Recent Fundraising Activity Validates The Potential Of Online Testing

In the past month we’ve seen not one but two online testing vendors secure new rounds of financing:

  • Optimizely raised $1.2m in November from a group of angel investors; more info here.
  • Monetate raised $5.1 million this month from First Round Capital, Floodgate Fund, and other institutional investors; more info here.
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The State Of Online Testing 2010

After keeping busy all summer and early fall with client meetings, events, and absorbing repeated acquisition announcements, it's great to be home again and conducting research!

Most notably, my latest round of research on the topic of online testing, titled "The State of Online Testing 2010," published this week.  This document is the output of a survey conducted with online testing users alongside the "The Forrester Wave™: Online Testing, Q3 2010" research process.

As you may be aware I'm a huge proponent of online testing.  I think it is an underutilized and highly effective site optimization tool, with a wide array of applications.  I frequently find myself uttering the rallying cry "Test, Test, and Test some more!" and I often refer to online testing as the wind tunnel of site optimization, a contained and structured environment for evaluating the content, promotions, and customer experience components of the online marketing mix.

Windtunnel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Image source: www.carbodydesign.com)

What did we learn about the state of online testing? The report showcases the data in it's full glory, but here are some highlights:

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comScore And Nedstat: An Exciting End To A Hot Summer

Here we are again.  As we approach Labor Day, less than three weeks after IBM announced its agreement to acquire Unica (see my blog post with Suresh Vittal here), comScore announced yesterday that it has acquired the venerable European Web analytics vendor Nedstat.

Total cash and stock consideration for the purchase is valued at approximately $36.7 million USD.  Additionally, nearly the entire Nedstat staff, numbering about 120, will stay on at comScore.

Official information is available through comScore, the comScore corporate blog, and the regulatory filing for those of you who are financially minded.  I also had the opportunity to speak with comScore CEO and co-founder Magid Abraham, who generously took time out of a very hectic day for a call.

The acquisition is predicated on the following benefits:

  • Geographic expansion. Nedstat provides an established European presence from which to serve current and prospective comScore clients in the region.
  • Product enhancement. comScore will enhance its Unified Digital Measurement (UDM) platform with Nedstat technology.
  • Deeper client relationships. The opportunity to upsell comScore’s existing client base with new and expanded product offerings.
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Suresh Vittal And Joe Stanhope Consider The News Of IBM Acquiring Unica

I’m pleased to join forces this afternoon with my colleague and Customer Intelligence Practice Leader Suresh Vittal for a joint blog post on the very interesting IBM announcement this morning that it will buy Unica for US$480 million (greater than 100% premium on its previous day close). Suresh has covered Unica for many years in the enterprise marketing space, and I cover them from the Web analytics and online marketing suite perspectives. So besides a striking outcome for Unica’s shareholders, this deal impacts many marketers and customer intelligence professionals. After all, Unica is the preeminent provider of campaign management software and a leading provider of marketing operations, Web analytics, and interaction management solutions.

So let’s walk through some of the implications of this deal:

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The Forrester Wave: Online Testing, Q3 2010

Online testing has consistently been top of mind with Forrester clients since my earliest days with the company at the beginning of the year.  Clients are a major driver in composing my research agenda, and online testing shot to the top of the list. Clearly, the market had many unanswered questions about online testing and it was time to do a deep dive.

To anchor a new stream of research covering online testing, we’ve just published The Forrester Wave: Online Testing, Q3 2010. If you’re new to Forrester’s research, the Wave methodology is Forrester’s time tested, exhaustive, and transparent approach to vendor evaluations. This research is based on data gathered through extensive vendor briefings, product demonstrations, customer reference calls, and online user surveys.  We evaluated eight leading vendors against 82 criteria and interviewed nearly 90 user companies.

This is Forrester’s inaugural evaluation of online testing vendors. This Wave focused on established vendors who offer products that support both A/B and Multivariate testing techniques.  We evaluated the following companies: Adobe, Amadesa, Autonomy, Google, Maxymiser, SiteSpect, Vertster, and Webtrends.

Forrester clients can read the full report to see how the vendors ranked, including underlying scorecard details and the ability to customize the Wave model with personalized weightings. 

We found a diverse market of vendors that are differentiated by several key markers that serve as crucial considerations for online testing programs:

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Effective Marketing Dashboards And My Upcoming Schedule

I'm pleased to have published new research this week. "Demonstrate Marketing Accountability with Effective Dashboards" is a companion report to "The Marketing Accountability Index." Customer Intelligence (CI) professionals are under intensifying pressure to demonstrate accountability and results to support the case for continued marketing investments, and Forrester's marketing accountability framework provides a structural guideline for meeting these challenges. Marketing dashboards help address one key tenet of marketing accountability — the transparent communication of results.

The report discusses how CI pros can leverage dashboards to bring marketing accountability to life through:

  • Visibility. Dashboards drive insights into the organization, providing context and tying together disparate information.
  • User-specific content. Dashboards are not a one-size-fits-all proposition and should be tailored to the needs of users.
  • Appropriate measures of success. Metrics and schedules form the KPI currency of dashboards.

Also, I will also be on a panel discussion covering marketing dashboards in October at eMetrics in Washington, DC; see below for more details. I couldn't have planned it better myself!

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Thoughts on IBM and Coremetrics

It's a funny thing, I was sitting in my office on Monday trying to decide what to blog about next, and as if on cue we had very exciting news yesterday in the Web Analytics business.  IBM announced its agreement to acquire Coremetrics.  So ended the deliberations on blog topics.

You can read the official press release from IBM here and the Coremetrics blog post here.  The deal is subject to standard regulatory approvals in the US and Europe prior to closing.  IBM has substantial experience in M&A, acquiring 90 companies since 1999 (source: Wikipedia), therefore I would expect that this deal will proceed with a high degree of precision to a successful conclusion. It is also interesting to note that this is not IBM's first go at Web Analytics, which ended in 2006 when they divested Surfaid to Coremetrics...so in as sense we're going full circle with this transaction.

I benefit from fortuitous scheduling, as I had already planned to have dinner last night with John Squire, Chief Strategy Officer at Coremetrics.  Timing, as they say, is everything. (By the way, if you are ever in the mood for an excellent pastrami sandwich and/or Belgian beer - on tap no less - I highly recommend Refuge in San Carlos, California)

Coremetrics will operate as a unit of IBM's application and integration middleware division, which is a common approach by IBM as shown by previous acquisitions such as ILOG. New business sales will shift over to IBM's core sales groups, but account management will remain within the Coremetrics team in an effort to make the transition seamless for current clients.

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Online Testing Platforms Forrester Wave™ - Now It's Your Turn To Participate!

Greetings from balmy Orlando, Florida, where I'm at the Unica Marketing Innovation Summit 2010. It's been a good week, the attendees are very globally diverse, and in a unique twist on event entertainment there has been a live band on the main stage, a la The Tonight Show!  If you aren't here in person but are interested in getting a feel for the event, check out the Twitter hashtag, #unicamis.

Earlier this year, my blog noted that I have initiated a Forrester Wave evaluation of Online Testing Platform vendors.  We've got a great group of vendor participants and the process is well under way.  We're on target for publication in Q3.  As with any Forrester Wave, we are putting the vendors through their paces with briefings, scorecards and lab demonstrations.  And of course we're speaking with client references to get additional feedback.

Now it is your turn to join the process.  Is your firm actively leveraging a/b or multivariate testing techniques to improve site performance and the customer experience?  We want to hear from you!

I invite you to complete our Online Testing Platform Customer Reference survey, located here.  It is a quick survey and should only take about 15 minutes of your time to complete. 

Please rest assured that all information provided is completely confidential.  The only information that reaches the report is aggregated and anonymous.  Alternatively, if you would prefer to have a private discussion drop me a line, and we can arrange a mutually agreeable time to communicate via other means.

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