Selecting a web analytics tool for your business is a critical process: Depending on which you choose, you might be stuck with the platform for a while. It’s definitely a long-term project with possibly high costs.
That’s why it’s good to pause and reflect before making any commitment. There are many tools available on the market, but which one should you choose? Which one will be better suited to your business needs?
There’s never an easy answer to this question. For certain businesses, going for the free industry standard, Google Analytics, is no longer an option, even though everyone may seem to be using it.
But if you need to account for data ownership, comply with data protection regulations or can’t accept data sampling, then you have two options.
The first is to look for additional resources in your budget to upgrade to a Google Analytics 360 licence, which includes data ownership – but as web analyst Himanshu Sharma points out:
“No matter how big your client is, the $150,000 per year cost on an analytics solution is not something which can be conveniently ignored.”
Even if your organisation can afford a GA 360 licence, author Brian Clifton recommends doing some calculations before rushing into a software purchase, and considering cost versus value.
If shelling out $150k a year is not an option for your business, look for a more affordable platform that would still equip you with full control over your data.
Follow these 4 steps to help you reach a final decision.
Step 1: Map Your Organisational Needs
Before jumping straight into the software hunt, list your organisational needs and requirements. Try to steer away from any vendor marketing suggestions and messages, and instead focus on internal research.
In this post, author Bryan Eisenberg outlines some questions that will help you evaluate and map your organisational needs. Use this resource to assess your internal requirements, focusing on the end-user. Some of the key issues to consider at this stage are:
- What do I need to measure and what are my business objectives?
- Which departments of my company will need the reports?
- Will I need to have access to older reports for comparative purposes at a later stage?
- How much can I spend on the analytics solution on a monthly or annual basis?
- Is using cloud-hosted solutions restricted in my organisation?
- Do I have resources to self-host and maintain the tool on my own?
- Does my organisation need access to raw data and exporting capabilities?
- Will my company have dedicated staff to use the tool to gather insights on a full-time basis?
The last question is related to how much you should spend on the tool. Referring to Brian Clifton’s article on cost and value, if the investment in analysis for your company will only be performed part-time, e.g. 1-2 days per week, then your reports analysis will only scratch the surface of your data because you won’t have the resources to dig deep. Proper staffing cannot be overlooked, so also make sure to include this cost in your calculations.
Once you’re satisfied with your organisational research findings, you can proceed to the next step.
Step 2: Use Comparison Websites to Identify Your Software Options
Once you know what your organisation actually requires, you can start searching for the right analytics platform. Learn about different options from software comparison websites, such as G2Crowd, GetApp, Capterra, TrustRadius and others. This way you can learn about more platforms that could match your set of requirements, but also find out what other B2Bs think about these solutions.
Reports such as this one confirm that 75 per cent of B2B buyers look for online reviews before making purchasing decisions about business software. Users who read online reviews during the software-selection process were ultimately more satisfied with their purchases. So spending some time on these websites will certainly pay off.
At the end of this process you should have a shortlist of contenders. Ideally, look for two and no more than three.
Step 3: Test-drive Your Selected Platforms
Now it’s time to test-drive your selected software options, or at least get familiar with their demo.
As Bernard Segarra recommends in this post:
“Be wary of any potential solution provider who is hesitant in letting you try their solution.”
So if marketing collateral sounds great, but you can’t try the tool for free, this might be the moment to exclude the platform from your shortlist.
Sign up for free trials by vendors you’re interested in. Use this time to poke around the tool and get familiar with it’s features and settings as much as possible as this is when you can assess and see if the tool meets your organisational needs.
Some of key aspects to pay close attention to at this stage:
- Customization of the dashboard and general ease-of- use
- Features, reports, types of tracking
- Connectivity and integration with the rest of your setup
- Analytics approach and data accuracy: user-level reporting vs aggregated data, data sampling, availability of reports your organisation needs and data retention
- Ease of integration with the rest of your setup
- Availability of raw data & export data capabilities if your analyst team needs it
- Details of plans, data limits and pricing
- Ease of customization and adjusting the tool to your particular business objectives
Step 4: Use This “Fine Print” Checklist to Select the Winner
Once your free trial is over, it’s likely that you may be contacted by a vendor representative trying to convince you to sign up for a paid subscription. If you think their tool provides no value for you, then this call might be a waste of time.
But if there’s a slight chance that the tool may be good for your organisation, then scheduling a demo is the way to go. At the end of the day, it’s not only a guided tour of the tool, possibly discovering features you weren’t aware of, but also an opportunity to ask questions about the “fine print” of the tool.
By “fine print,” we mean aspects that for some reason will not be highlighted in marketing collateral used by vendors to promote their product and services. You don’t necessarily need to grill your software rep, but rather try to use their knowledge of the product, support and terms of service (TOS) to get the missing information that will make you sure of which platform your organisation should choose.
Check with the vendor to see if they offer a proof of concept implementation and how much it would cost. This usually comes with a price, but perhaps it may be worth investing in as it gives you a better picture of how the tool can be adapted to your organisational needs, as well as how the vendor’s team works, how responsive it is, and so on.
The most important things to pay attention to at this stage:
1. Professional Services and Support
- What range of services and support options will accompany the tool?
- Is there a training option available for companies?
- Is there a Service Level Agreement (SLA) included and guaranteed reaction times?
2. Data Ownership
- Can I retrieve all the data collected and stored by the tool?
- Does your vendor’s TOS include a clause on 100% data ownership or do they reserve the right to share information collected from your organisation with their subsidiaries?
- Can I easily migrate my data to other tools should the need arise?
- Are there any cases of vendor lock-in or trouble other users experienced with moving data to another provider?
3. Privacy Compliance
- Are you sure your tool respects the privacy regulations in your jurisdiction?
- Does your tool enable you to comply with current and future legislation?
- Does the vendor provide a Data Processing Agreement? (required for customers in the EU)
4. Supplier and Software Reliability
- What is the vendor’s past record and current situation?
- What happens to the tool if the provider ceases to exist?
- Will I be able to support and maintain the tool on my own even if the provider is no longer available?
5. Ongoing and Future Costs
- What is a rough estimate of TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), that is all the expenditures associated with the tool?
- How will traffic volume impact the pricing and what are the exact data limits?
- What happens if I exceed my monthly data allowance? Will accurate data collection be continued, will the tool switch to sampling, or will I lose access to my data?
- What premium integrations or customizations can I add to the solution? Are these add-ons charged on top or will they incur extra costs? If so, how much will they set me back?
Nobody’s going to deny that selecting a web analytics tool for your organisation can be a long and tedious process.
Once you’ve tested your shortlisted solutions and considered the fine print aspects, you should have a good idea which platform best matches the organisational needs you identified in the first step.
The combined results of all the stages of this process should highlight the best choice. If you happen to have two very close contenders, you’ll have to make a final decision based on one specific factor.
It may also happen that along the way you won’t find a perfect tool, only “good enough” options. If that’s the case, check how you can customize and adjust the platform from your selected vendor – this should be included in your proof of concept.
Keep the above tips in mind to help you speed up and organise your B2B software hunt.