SAS Teaches Its Old Analytics Dog Some New Tricks

WebHound learns to fetch, correlate customer click-through conversation rate

As far as SAS Institute Inc. is concerned, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

SAS’ Web analytic offering (once known internally as WebHound) isn't new. But at the company's SAS Forum International 2004 conference held last week in Copenhagen, SAS announced a new version of Web Analytics pegged to its SAS9 BI suite.

“WebHound did some things right at a basic level, especially in creation of a detailed warehouse. It was and is the fastest ETL processing we’ve seen anywhere from any competitor, but there was still room for improvement,” notes Richard Roach, senior director of worldwide marketing with SAS. “So we’ve updated it to [SAS9] with a more optimized warehouse store for the kind of reporting we’ve got today, which is more interactive.”

As a result, says Roach, SAS’ revamped Web Analytics boasts improved performance. “We have actually improved the performance of the nightly run by at least 50 percent so far, because of the theta optimization we’ve done, plus the fact that reports are basically on-demand now, and we have an interactive tool that can scale large volumes.”

SAS has also ratcheted up the integration between Web Analytics and its Customer Intelligence marketing automation tool. “We’ve added a lot of analytics to the warehouse itself, and we’ve made this warehouse very usable between the marketing automation product and the warehouse itself,” Roach explains.

Take e-mail marketing campaigns, observes Roach. “You do an e-mail campaign, which, you know, sends people to the site, and what Analytics would do is track the full customer experience through the site, so you can see the things they were interested in. You’d see conversation rates. To be this tightly integrated, we needed to have it all in [SAS9].”

The new version of Web Analytics also features an analytics scorecard that Roach describes as “probably the most important report we’ve got.” It lets customers set business targets and use Web Analytics to “drive the customer’s experience through the full warehouse. It lets you look for the things that are really driving your business results.”

In this respect, Roach says, Web Analytics can also alert customers to problems with their e-commerce sites: “Let’s say [Web page] errors became a problem that day, pages wouldn’t load or [customers] couldn’t get to them. Well, [errors would] go to the top of the list, and Web Analytics would show the highest relationship to a drop in revenue. So you could say to the IT guys, 'Please fix this.'”

SAS plans to make the Web Analytics upgrade available to its customer base, and Roach expects that many customers that are new to SAS9 will be tempted to climb on board as well.

Going forward, Roach says, SAS plans additional enhancements for its Web Analytics offering. “We’ve now built a very nice framework … so what we’re on to now is to build as many reports as possible [into it] that are usable by a large population of users,” he concludes. “We want to give them as many ways to understand the Web data as we can, so the future is building more and more integration between Marketing Automation and Web Analytics.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.