Category Archives: General

Summing up web analytics and the web products you use

I was sitting trying to figure out how to sum up what I do as a web analytics architect and engineer. When friends and family who are not in the industry ask what I do, it can be difficult to explain. I was trying to craft a statement that’s simple enough to understand but simple enough to understand without getting into messy details. What came to mind was a media campaign by BASF in the late 90’s explaining they don’t make the everyday products we all use, but they have a hand in making them better.

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to apply this line of thinking to web analytics. While at one point in my career, I’ve been part of teams that built products you may have used, my current role is in figuring out what to measure, how to measure and either code it myself, or work with a team to put the tracking in place. The resulting data is then used to identify what works, what doesn’t and identify behaviors that resulted in a good result or in the bad result.

Here’s what I came up with:

I’ve designed pages, experiences and applications for the web, and I’ve built them.

Today, I make it possible to measure, report and provide insight.

Product design and technology make a product.
What I do helps build a better product.

Strategy and marketing build a campaign.
What I do makes it possible to measure success.

The Determination to Succeed

STS-114 - July 25, 2005 - First shuttle flight in over 2 years

I was looking for some photos of a vacation my family took a few years ago. It was 2005, and we were there for a 2 week vacation to enjoy Florida. As things would have it, we were also there for the first shuttle launch since the shuttle accident that resulted in the loss of all seven crew members of STS-107 in 2003.

My family had a chance to witness history in the making when STS-114 and Discovery with its crew successfully launched for the first time in a little over 2 years.

Thinking back on this reminds me of the sheer determinism that we as people have to succeed despite catastrophic failures.

Anything is possible if you’re willing to learn and honor what has been learned, but most importantly to never give up.

Microsoft doing retail?

I just read an article Robert Scoble wrote on Fast Company on Microsoft’s announcement on their entry into the retail arena ala the Apple Store. I think his article is spot on with regards to what they should do to be successful.

My thoughts are that Microsoft should focus on selling an experience that’s unique to what Microsoft is capable of providing through their products, their technologies and through their partners. It’s a customer’s experience and a positive association of that experience that differentiates one retailer from another. For example, to the pragmatist, Levi’s and Diesel both sell clothes. However, the premium someone may have for Diesel is made through an emotional connection customers have to the brand because of design and an identification of the lifestyle Diesel represents — this is only strengthened through their advertising and in-store experience. That’s not to say that Levi’s is a bad brand or has bad products, the expectations with regard to the Levi’s brand is simply different.

Also, Microsoft shouldn’t look at this retail venture as a means to sell products… it’s an opportunity to sell an experience that will positively impact their brand! If Apple is the Gap of computers, Microsoft has the ability to transform themselves to American Eagle Outfitters, Diesel, Prada… of technology… or they have the option of becoming the clothing section of your local Walmart.

As Apple mentioned when they decided to pull out of MacWorld, their retail locations are important for educating and exposing customers to solutions and technologies on a a local and accessible level. More importantly, Apple’s retail locations don’t pressure people to buy either, they educate customers to making decisions that are right for themselves. People don’t like to be pressured into a sale, they like to be led down a memorable, positive experience that helps them make the right decision.

Like the Apple Store, let customers play with touch screen PCs, mini’s, and Zunes and iPods, but more importantly, let customers play with Microsoft innovations — set-up a large projection wall allowing customers to play with Photosynth, install a couple of SURFACE lounges, etc… answer their questions, abstract concepts of technology are stickier if they’re tangible… help drive desire of the products, particularly in a commoditized market like Microsoft’s.

Another area that I think that leads to an improved experience is don’t pack the store with crap to complete with the likes of Best Buy or Fry’s. Fill it with best-in-class products, particularly products that have a positive perception by customers – it will help streamline the shopping experience and improve perceptions of whatever the Microsoft retail brand may become. Have educated purchasers who understand both what the market desires, but also the importance of quality brands in the marketplace. Don’t sell cheap crap because it’s cheap – sell stuff whose brands denote quality and can help bolster Microsoft’s own brand in retail.