I started following Nedstat when I wrote the first CMSWatch Web Analytics Report in 2007. Based in Amsterdam, the company never got much attention outside of Europe, even though it was the largest analytics vendor outside of North America. Over the years, the company built a loyal following of clients, driven by excellent, localized service, fair pricing and an interest in providing innovative features that were introduced either before or at the same time as its North American counterparts, such as video analytics, third party integration and an emphasis on providing “on the fly” segmentation.
I thought Nedstat’s purchase by comScore last summer would make for a potentially interesting option in a market that was starting to witness a lack of choice in enterprise analytics solutions. I also liked the idea that an audience measurement company was getting into analytics and could understand the complementary nature of behavioral analytics to its core business. From an acquisition perspective, it seemed to make sense.
So, with this as a background, Semphonic was invited to attend a 3 day partner training at comScore’s Reston, VA headquarters to dive deep into the tool. My colleagues, Chris Meares, Ryan Praskievicz and Royce Fung joined me, and I asked them to share their takeaways on the “son of Nedstat” that is now comScore Digital Analytix (DA). With that being said, I was really impressed by the comScore’s team interest in trainee feedback, and commitment to acting on a range of recommendations to further improve the offering. This is a long post, but I think you’ll find it a very thorough analysis of where DA stands today. We’ll hear from Chris and Royce today, and Ryan later this week. I think Chris sums up the general feeling in the class in his opening…
From Chris Meares, Senior Consultant, @chris_meares:
The first thing everyone asks me is “How does it compare to Omniture (Adobe) or Google Analytics?” What I am going to tell you is how it doesn’t compare to Omniture or Google Analytics and it can be summed up in three words, un-aggregated, segmentation and integration. Obviously, the tools mentioned previously do all, or some, of these items also, but none do it as well as DA. Here is a brief overview of each term and how DA differs from its competitors.
Digital Analytix (DA) stores all of the data it receives from your site in un-aggregated form which means you have the ability to slice and dice it anyway you like and you are not held to the constraints of how it is collected as is with other tools. It also means there is no data sampling which is seen daily in Google Analytics and occasionally in Omniture Discover. Omniture does have a data warehousing feature but the lag time on running reports using data warehousing is immense whereas DA allows you to run queries in real time with impressive speed. Of course, DA doesn’t have a client base in the US yet and it will be interesting to see how the lag time increases (or not) once they begin collecting enormous amounts of data. The other advantage of un-aggregated data comes into play when doing attribution to campaigns. DA allows you to set up different attribution models on the same sets of data at the same time such as first click, last click, linear increasing/decreasing, equal share to all, etc., in order to see the differences in attribution models in real time. This is something that cannot be done in other web analytics solutions.
Digital Analytix (DA) has the best segmentation capabilities I have seen in a web analytics solution. You can segment, in real time, on any of your data points and create reports and do deep dive analysis. Also, you can have as many custom variables as you see fit, you are not set to a specific number, either per page or per site. Because it is included “out of the box” with the DA package and because it can segment in real time, it has an advantage over both previously mentioned competitors. It is one of the most flexible segmentation tools in the market that I have seen.
The last area that sets Digital Analytix (DA) apart at the moment is the integration feature that is included with the solution. DA can integrate with your email service provider, your voice of customer tool, your multivariate testing tool and Google Adsense. It also has the ability to integrate directly with your backend database either via Data Lookup (a SQL database hosted by DA) or through data merge (data that is uploaded nightly), which allows you to easily combine offline and online data.
Segmentation is available on all of the integrated pieces because it all part of one interface. It will also integrate with comScore’s audience measurement business which will allow clients to see demographic data based directly in their analytics solution. This seems to be a huge hook for DA but was not actually shown during the training so I am not quite sure how it will exactly work.
Final Takeaway from Chris
There are a few concerns with Digital Analytix. The user interface is slightly clunky and is a work in progress. It currently feels like it is more focused on the power user or full time analyst. Occasional users may find it difficult to get the reporting they need without some heavy training. Like any enterprise level implementation, it will take extensive time with the client to figure out business needs in order to set out a road map that will allow correct data capture. If DA can upgrade their user interface to the level of Webtrends or even Site Catalyst then I believe it can be a major player in the marketplace.
From Royce Fung, Consultant, firstname.lastname@example.org:
While not necessarily groundbreaking as a whole, the tool is clearly catered towards those willing to invest time and resources into their web analytics tool and those who seek to drive their web strategy from a deeper understanding of user behavior on their website.
DA is striving for the high end of enterprise web analytics tools and is unabashed at saying it aims to wrest away Omniture’s dominance at the top end of the spectrum. After seeing the tool and getting some insight into its development path, I believe, in time, it has more than a chance at doing this.
The browser-based tool provides a range of metrics on par with the other top tier analytics tools. Report Builder allows for building and saving customized reports. There is also an easily accessible way to create custom, calculated metrics based on a mathematical formula. Definitions tend to be very precise in DA. This forces users to select between and, therefore, recognize nuances such as something that takes place within a visit-based scope or an event-based scope. Ultimately this is a good thing -- it certainly raises the bar when it comes to the web metrics reporting – though I can envision it being initially frustrating to many.
The Reporting Interface is, all-around perhaps, one of the biggest drawbacks of the tool. In order for reports to be displayed, they must be put into what most users might think of as a dashboard. The interface tends to require users to work within sub-menus, making the overall experience somewhat tedious. For example, to add a report to the Report display, users enters a rather small dedicated interface that requires a bit of navigation before performing even the simplest report. From the Report display, several clicks are required to produce a simple visits report, even when using the default parameters, compared to just one click in SiteCatalyst. Editing of reports suffers from the same type of syndrome.
DirectView is a useful tool comparable to Omniture’s ClickMap. Some of the common limitations apply, such as the reporting of flash-based elements as well as separating multiple identical links on a page.
Segmentation is very robust and can be applied to all or individually to reports. Segments can also be applied in DirectView, which is a really nice feature (and a common theme of how well everything is tied together and integrated), though, we did not see this demonstration. The ability to apply segments live at a top level to the Reports display, to individual reports, or to individual metrics is very impressive.
Again, there are some shortfalls with the interface, but overall it is a comparatively strong feature.
A lot of thought has clearly been placed on integrating data sources. And coming from comScore, owners of a treasure trove of data, it isn’t all that surprising. DA has placed heavy emphasis on allowing clients to integrate data from other sources whether they come from comScore’s other range of products, third party sources or the clients own internal data sources.
By leveraging its RING integration clients can for example, not just track the success of an email campaign, but segment that population in DA to create a specific target audience for a follow-up campaign. The integration with the email provider allows for specifying that target audience in the form of an email list.
On the subject of campaigns, comScore’s expertise in market intelligence and the media industry clearly shows through in the DA product. Much thought has been given to areas such as campaigns and the concept of engagement, and DA clients can make use of this, particularly with the eCommerce add-on module. How conversions can be applied to campaigns can be adjusted very precisely (again, scope comes into play, as well as other definition rules). Clients can also assign the weighting of content contributing to engagement on the site, by making use of an engagement score which can be assigned to individual pages. As of now, point values must be tagged (that is, they cannot be set up in an interface), but this is set to be addressed by the end of the year.
Video tracking can be finely tuned with the StreamSense add-on module, though standard DA seems to have much of the basic milestone-based measurements that I suspect many would find sufficient interaction with a video player can be tracked with StreamSense.
Final Takeaway from Royce
Overall, the tool is built with precision and deep measuring capability in mind. It also attempts to get the most out of its data integration capabilities and from that stand point succeeds in not simply being a web analyst tool but a broader business tool. Having an existing client base, many with the UDM tag already in place, will be a huge plus initially for comScore in getting a number of customers on board to DA.