The concept behind Web analytics is straightforward: Track site visitors' behavior with the goal of separating them from their cash or personal data. To this end, information on a user's every click, shopping cart addition or abandonment, text entry and purchase is gathered, compared and correlated every which way to Sunday. Some analytics vendors even claim that every market/service/content/lead click can be predicted, and that you can use this information to make your sites more appealing and efficient.
Of course, all this collecting equals a torrent of data. And, as a rule, we don't put much faith in vendor predictions, but in this case we've made an exception. Many of the 10 analytics services we tested in "Inside Information" did a great job of collecting and dissecting data, and providing complex browser overlay reports, well-organized spreadsheets and sophisticated campaign correlation. But the job of converting all that data into useful information and acting on it falls to us mortals. That means Web analytics tools, in this case provided by ASPs, must serve your everyday, run-of-the-mill business unit end users. Some users will be engaged and analytically savvy; others will have neither the time nor the inclination to dig
through the mountains of reports. Still others will be dumb as rocks and call you for help every 10 minutes. The better analytics vendors are aware of and cater to these differences, striving to provide good help, training and navigation, and understandable reports.
All this assistance does not make these services a complete outsource, however. IT support and expertise are necessary. Access control, data collection, marketing-campaign tracking and funneling the purchase process into reports all require your intervention. In addition, given the varying range of user expertise with analytics, you'll likely have to help your end users with the interface and explain the data enough to make it actionable.