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August 31, 2007

Web Analytics in Europe

euro-cultures-for-dummies By now you may have read that I'll be appearing at OX2's Web Analytics Day in Brussels this month (on the 14th, to be precise). I'll be delivering the first public preview of Gatineau beta 1 and showing some stuff that so far has only been shared with "special friends of Microsoft" (i.e. people who've signed an NDA with us).

But my imminent trip to the "Capital of Europe" (Rene, you might want to ask some non-Belgians about that claim), plus Avinash's recent "Web Analytics industry 101" post, has got me thinking about the European web analytics industry, where I toiled for 6 years before coming to the US. And I felt that some of the vendors should get a mention. I know it's all about Omniture, WebTrends, Visual Sciences, Google and CoreMetrics (oh, and us) these days, but Europe has contributed some interesting players of its own. So here's a (non-exhaustive) list of who's who (or who was who) in web analytics in Europe, in no particular order.

IndexTools

Probably the best-known European vendor this side of the pond, hailing from (somewhat improbably) Hungary, IndexTools is run by the incomparable (and seemingly inexhaustible) Dennis Mortensen, who maintains a very good blog. Founded around the same time as WebAbacus (my alma mater - see below), IndexTools pains me slightly because when I look at it I see the company that I kind of wish WebAbacus had become. They've also recently made a successful leap into the US market (at least, I assume it's successful).

My only gripe with IndexTools is that when Dennis is asked "why IndexTools?" he often replies "because we're cheaper than the other guys!" This does a great disservice to the technology that Dennis and his team have built. Although a "lower-end" tool, IndexTools is a very nice piece of work, with one of its most stand-out pieces of functionality being an incredibly easy-to-use report builder that uses Ajax to achieve a kind of pivot-table-like UI inside the browser. So Dennis, stop selling your stuff short!

NedStat

Based in the Netherlands (but with offices in London, Paris, Madrid, Antwerp and Frankfurt), NedStat is the biggest European web analytics vendor. They've been around for ever - since 1996 - and could possibly lay claim to being the first hosted web analytics solution. In the early days their stuff was really rudimentary, though they picked up some good traction amongst media owners because they were able to support ABCe audits before most other vendors could.

Their current product set includes NedStat Pro (aimed at SMBs) and SiteStat (an "Enterprise" solution). NedStat Pro is now a kind of HBX-like solution (though a little lighter on functionality), with a strong focus on paid search management and reporting, and represents the bulk of NedStat's customers (they did have an even lower-end solution, but they sold it off a couple of years ago). SiteStat is a "custom reporting" solution, with the custom reports built by NedStat consultants. In the past, NedStat charged by the report; I don't know if this is still their business model at this end.

NedStat has suffered in the last 18 months with the appearance of Google Analytics, which has undermined their low-end value proposition, and the entry into the European market of Omniture and improved solutions and support from Visual Sciences and Webtrends. To be honest I'm not sure where they go from here.

Foviance (formerly known as WebAbacus)

Ok, I have to get a mention in for my former employer. WebAbacus (which merged with The Usability Company in 2005 to create Foviance) was founded in 2000 by spinning out the software development arm of Blue Sky Communications. Always an "Enterprise" (read: rather complicated) solution, WebAbacus was (and is) notable for its great flexibility and very strong ETL capabilities - as well as traditional web analytics, the software's been used to analyze online media delivery, call logs from interactive payphone kiosks, DiTV logs, search logs, and proprietary e-commerce engine logs.

Available now as a hosted service or installable software, WebAbacus is now folded into Foviance's "Experience Management Service", a consulting-led service that aims to help organizations improve the usability of their websites through a combination of traditional usability expertise (including lab tests) and quantitative behavior analysis.

Looking back, I regret that WebAbacus didn't follow the same trajectory as Omniture (also founded at around the same time), but the product has found itself a successful niche at the usability-focused end of the web analytics market, saving it from the harsh glare of the center of the market, where the more formidable US vendors play.

Site Intelligence

This is another company I have a soft spot for, even though they beat WebAbacus to the punch for a number of significant deals at a crucial time in the company's history. Site Intelligence was founded by John Woods (now to be found at Synature), and is also very much in the Enterprise space. They have some pretty major clients in the UK, including Tesco and Carphone Warehouse.

The Site Intelligence product, VBIS, is a pretty full-on web analytics data warehouse app, with good scalability characteristics (Tesco.com is a pretty busy website). The SI approach is very services-heavy, with custom development work often occurring for major clients. This obviously means that those clients can get pretty much exactly what they ask for, which has helped SI to win major deals.

I'm a little concerned about the future of SI, however, now that Omniture (with its Discover data warehouse product) is very much active in the UK. I'm not sure which nook SI could tuck themselves away in to avoid being swept away as major businesses migrate from custom solutions to "packaged" web analtyics. But if you have a big site and/or complex needs, you should definitely talk to SI as part of your selection process.

Clickstream

No trip down web analytics memory lane would be complete without mentioning Clickstream - surely one of the most colorful web analytics vendors to emerge from the UK, not least because of the entertaining names of its management team (Titus Suck sticks in my mind). Clickstream's claim to fame has always been a proprietary data collection mechanism that they used to claim (and occasionally still do) delivers "100% accurate web analytics data".

They originally entered the market as a direct competitor with the likes of WebAbacus and Site Intelligence, offering reporting services as well as data collection, and generated a lot of heat (though not much light) in the early part of the decade about data accuracy. But they got out of the actual reporting business in around 2004, concentrating instead on forging partnerships with web analytics vendors who could use their data for generating reports.

Clickstream's challenge has always been that, whilst alluring on paper, their technology is incredibly complicated in practice, whilst delivering marginal benefit in terms of accuracy (analysis of off-line browsing behavior, anyone?) We had our fingers burned a couple of times in trying to do joint projects with them in my WebAbacus days. In recognition of this, Clickstream have turned their offering into a hosted service with the promise of "instant, accurate web traffic data" without having to tag your site. All you have to do to get this data is redirect your DNS entries via Clickstream's proxy servers which will auto-tag your site. Redirect a major site's DNS through a small company's server farm? Hmm. Let me know how you get on with that.

Instadia

Danish web analytics vendor Instadia had a unique twist on web analytics - integrated survey results. Through one analytics/survey interface you could deploy a survey on your site and then integrate and cross-reference the survey results with the behavior patterns of your visitors.

Instadia was successful enough at doing this that at the beginning of this year they were acquired by Omniture, partly for their survey capability, and partly for their European client footprint. Former Instadia ClientStep clients are now being encouraged to migrate onto Omniture SiteCatalyst. I'm not sure what is happening with the survey capability, but I imagine we'll see something integrated into a future release of SiteCatalyst.

WebtraffIQ

There are a number of minnows that livened up the UK market in the early years (M-tracking, Thinkmetrics) but WebtraffIQ deserves a special mention for the chutzpa of its CEO, Marcos Richardson. I never actually met anyone who was using WebtraffIQ, but Marcos did a great job of stirring up controversy on the pages of NMA (premier trade rag for the UK online industry), so that the company punched above its weight.

Ultimately, though, Google Analytics did for WebtraffIQ's business model; Marcos has wisely rolled up the software part of his business and now concentrates on providing consultancy services around GA and other tools.

 

So that's it. Not a bad list now that I come to look at it. As I said, if I've missed your company (my visibility of the smaller players in continental Europe was not perfect), let me know, and I'll put in an honorable mention section at the end.

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