Gilligan’s eMetrics Recap — Washington, D.C. 2010

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I attended the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit earlier this week in D.C., and this post is my attempt to hash out my highlights from the experience. Of all the conferences I’ve attended (I’m not a major conference attendee, but I’m starting to realize that, by sheer dint of advancing age, I’m starting to rack up “experience” in all sorts of areas by happenstance alone), this was one that I walked away from without having picked up on any sort of unintended conference theme. Normally, any industry conference is abuzz about something, and that simply didn’t seem to be the case with this one.

(In case you missed it, the paragraph above was a warning that this post will not have a unifying thread! Let’s plunge ahead nonetheless!)

Voice of the Customer

It’s good to see VOC vendors aggressively engaging the “traditional web analytics” audience. Without making any direct effort, I repeatedly tripped over Foresee Results, iPerceptions, OpinionLabs, and CRM Metrix in keynotes, sessions, the exhibit hall, and over meals.

My takeaway? It’s a confusing space. Check back in 12-18 months and maybe I’ll be able to pull off a post that provides a useful comparison of their approaches. If I had my ‘druthers, we’d pull off some sort of bracketed Lincoln-Douglas style debate at a future eMetrics where these vendors were forced to engage each other directly, and the audience would get to vote on who gets to advance – not necessarily judging which tool is “better” (I’m pretty sure each tool is best-in-class for some subset of situations…although I know at least one of the vendors above who would vigorously tell me this is not the case), but declaring a winner of each matchup so that we would get a series of one-on-one debates between different vendors that would be informative for the audience.

Cool Technology

I generally struggle to make my way around an exhibit hall, so I didn’t come anywhere close to covering all of the vendors This wasn’t helped by the fact that I talked to a couple of exhibitors early on that were spectacularly unappealing. That wasn’t exactly a great motivator for continuing the process. There were, however, several tools that intrigued me:

  • Ensighten – if you’re reading this blog, then chances are you read “real” blogs, too, and you likely caught that Eric Peterson recently wrote a paper on Tag Management Systems (sponsored by Ensighten). It’s worth a read. Ensighten was originally developed in-house at Stratigent and then spun off as a separate business with Josh Manion at the helm. Their corny (but highly effective) schtick at the conference was that they were starting a “tagolution” (a tagging revolution). That gave them high visibility…but I think they’ve got the goods to back it up. Put simply, you deploy the Ensighten javascript on your site instead of all of the other tags you need (web analytics, media tracking, VOC tools, etc.). When the page loads, that javascript makes a call to Ensighten, which returns all of the tags that need to be executed. Basically, you get to manage your tags without touching the content on your site directly. And, according to Josh, page performance actually improves in most cases (he had a good explanation as to why — counter-intuitive as it seems). Very cool stuff. Currently, they’re targeting major brands, and the price point reflects this – “six figures” was the response when I asked about cost for deploying the solution on a handful of domains. Ouch.
  • DialogCentral – this is actually an app/service from OpinionLabs, and I have no idea what kind of traction it will get. But, as I stood chatting with the OpinionLabs CIO, I pulled out my Droid and had had a complete DialogCentral experience in under a minute. The concept? Location-based services as a replacement for “tell us what you think” postcards at physical establishments. You fire up their app (iPhone) or their mobile site ( will redirect to the mobile site if you visit it with a mobile device). DialogCentral then pulls up your location and nearby establishments (think Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite-type functionality to this point), and then lets you type in feedback for the establishment. That feedback then gets sent to the establishment, regardless of whether the venue is a DialogCentral customer. Obviously, their hope is that companies will sign on as customers and actually promote the feedback mechanism in-store, at which point the feedback pipeline gets much smoother. It’s an intriguing idea — a twist-o’-the-old on all of the different “publicly comment on this establishment” aspects of existing services.
  • Clicktale – these guys have been around for a while, and I was vaguely familiar with them, but got an in-depth demo. They use client-side code (which, presumably, could be managed through Ensighten — I’m just sayin’…) to record intra-page mouse movements and clicks. They then use that data to enable “replays” of the activity as well as to generate page-level heatmaps of activities and mouse placement. Their claim (substantiated by research) is that mouse movements are a pretty tight proxy for eye movement, so you get a much lower cost / broadly collected set of (virtual) eye-tracking data. And, the tool has all sorts of triggering and filtering capabilities to enable honing in on subsets of activity. Pretty cool stuff.
  • ShufflePoint – this wasn’t an exhibiting vendor, but, rather, the main gist of one of the last sessions of the conference. The tool is a poor man’s virtual-data-mart enabler. Basically, it’s an interface to a variety of tool APIs (Google Analytics, Google Adwords, Constant Contact, etc. – Facebook and Twitter are apparently in the pipeline) that allows you to build queries and then embed those queries in Excel. I’ve played around with the Google Analytics API enough to get it hooked into Excel and pulling data…and know that I’m not a programmer. Josh Katinger of Accession Media was the presenter, and he struck me as being super-pragmatic, obsessive about efficiency, and pretty much bullshit-free (I found out after I got to the airport that a good friend of mine from Austin, Kristin Farwell, actually goes wayyy back with Josh, and she confirmed that this was an accurate read). We’ll be giving ShufflePoint a look!

Social Media Measurement

I was expecting to hear a lot more on social media measurement at the conference…but it really wasn’t covered in-depth. Jim Sterne kicked off with a keynote on the subject (he did recently publish a book on the topic, which is now sitting on my nightstand awaiting a read). And, there was a small panel early on the first day where John Lovett got to discuss the framework he developed with Jeremiah Owyang (which is fantastic) this past spring. But, other than that, there really wasn’t much on the subject.

MMM and Cross-Channel Analytics

Steve Tobias from Marketing Management Analytics conducted a session that focused on the challenges of marketing mix modeling (MMM) in a digital world. I felt pretty smart as he listed multiple reasons why MMM struggles to effectively incorporate digital and social media, because many of his points mirrored what I’ve put together on the exact same subject (to be clear, he didn’t get his content from me!). It was good to get validation on that front from a true expert on the subject.

Where things got interesting, though, was when Steve talked about how his company is dealing with these challenges by supplementing their MMM work (their core strength) with “cross-channel analytics.” By “cross-channel analytics,” he meant panel-based measurement. Again, I felt kinda’ smart (and, really, it’s all about me and my feelings, isn’t it?), as I keep thinking (and I’ve got this in some internal presentations, too), that panel-based measurement is going to be key in truly getting a handle on cross-channel/cross-device consumer interactions and their impact.

The People

One of the main reasons to go to a conference like eMetrics is the people — catching up with people you know, meeting people you’ve only “known” digitally, and meeting people you didn’t know at all.

For me, it was great to again get to chat with Hemen Patel from CRM Metrix, John Lovett from Web Analytics Demystified, Corry Prohens from IQ Workforce, and the whole Foresee Results gang (Eric F., Eric H., Chris, Maggie,…and more). And, it wound up being a really special treat to see Michelle Rutan, who I take credit for putting on the web analytics career path way back when we worked at National Instruments together…and she was presenting (as an amusing aside, I credit Michelle’s husband, Ryan — although they weren’t even dating at the time — as being pretty key to helping me understand the mechanics of page tagging; he’s credited by name in one of the most popular posts on this blog)!

I actually got to meet Stéphane Hamel in person, which was a huge treat (I saw a lot of other web analytics celebrities, but never wound up in any sort of conversation with them — maybe next time), as well as Jennifer Day, who I’ve swapped tweets with for a while.

Digital Analytics folk are good peeps. That’s all there is to it.

Twitter (and Twapper Keeper) Means More to Come!

I actually managed to have the presence of mind to set up a Twapper  Keeper archive for #emetrics shortly before the conference started, and I’m hoping to have a little fun with that in the next week or two. We’ll see if any insights (I’m not promising actionable insights, as I’ve decided that term is wildly overused) emerge. I picked up a few new people to follow just based on the thoroughness and on-pointed-ness of their tweets — check out @michelehinojosa (who also is blogging her eMetrics takeaways) if you’re looking to expand your follower list.

It was a good conference!

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  1. Thanks for the nice comment 🙂
    My two highlights are
    1) getting to meet people in real life when we’ve had so many “social media encounters”
    2) coming back to eMetrics and getting to see people I’ve met several months and spontaneously continuing conversations like it was yesterday!


  2. Pingback eMetrics Washington, D.C. 2010 — Fun with Twitter | Gilligan on Data by Tim Wilson

  3. I am going to have Ensighten run us through a demo and I’ll let you know how that goes. Interesting to hear the 6 figure number for cost…

    Do you know much about the other tagging solutions (TagMan, etc). This is definitely a painpoint for us.

  4. Garrod — I really don’t. The one other exhibitor that I saw that was trying to solve the same issue was Pion from Atomic Labs. Their approach was totally different — sniffing network traffic (the same basic technology as Tealeaf), and then having various interfaces for tag-based solutions, so it would take the network requests and re-format them into Google Analytics, Webtrends, Sitecatalyst, Coremetrics, etc. calls. What was odd was that they just totally slammed Javascript-based page tags as being awful and network sniffing as being superior on all fronts. I didn’t buy it, having been around long enough to work in web analytics solutions that relied on log files generated from network sniffers and dealing with various headaches on that front.

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