Thursday, August 06, 2009

Individual Visitors Tracking v/s Aggregate Data

Should web analytics tool track visitors as unique individuals or at the aggregate level? John Squire, Chief Strategy Office of Coremetrics says that tracking at Individual level is the way to go and this is how his company is differentiating itself (from Google analytics). Brian Clifton, former heard of Google Analytics in EMEA, responded by saying that aggregation is the way to go.

In my opinion both of them are right. Which route to go really depends on what you want from the web analytics tool?

Aggregate Data

If you are new to web analytics or you just want to track and analyze the overall health of your website, aggregated data will work for you. If you want to know how your marketing efforts are performing in terms of driving traffic or online conversions than aggregate data will just work fine for you. If you want to know which pages of your site are bleeding and then conduct A/B testing or Multivariate testing to improve them then aggregate data will work for you.

Individual Visitor Tracking

However as companies mature in their use of web analytics data they will need individual level tracking.

A company which is ready to do personalization will need to understand each individual browsing/purchase behavior to put the right offers/products in front of her. That is not possible with aggregated data.

It sounds perfectly ok to know that 75% of visitors abandoned the shopping cart but won’t it be nice to know who those 75% are or a way to convert at least some of those 75%? This is where individual tracking will come in handy. If visitors, who abandoned the shopping cart, leave an email during the process then you can send them a targeted email based on how far along they were in the shopping process, what products they had looked at, what product they had in shopping cart, etc. You don’t need to analyze every single data point but you can have business rules that can trigger those emails. However, to do so you will need to track at individual level. Even if you don’t want to send an email if you know the cookie id of the visitors you can put a personalized offer in front of them when they return back to your site and this will require tracking at individual level.

Individual tracking also comes in handy when the sales people call the lead that they just got from the website. Knowing what the person, who filled the contact us form, did on the website could provide a lot of information to sales person who can then tailor their conversation based on this information.

There are several more scenarios where aggregate data just won’t work. You will need individual level tracking.

I agree that tracking individual has privacy implication that need be properly addressed before tracking each person. However privacy issues also exist when you anonymously track visitors at aggregate level and those need to be addressed too.

So should you choose a tool that aggregates the visitor data or the one that tracks them individually? It all depends on what you want to do with that data. If you need help in figuring out what tool will work best for you feel free to email me at batraonline at


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  1. This is one good blog I have come across. I am going to bookmark it right now.

  2. The data that you are gathering should always be tailord to the question you would like to answer. However in statistics, we see more and more that the overal mean really does not capture the behavior of the individual. Behavioral targeting can help to bridge that gap.


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