Saturday, February 07, 2015

Interview with John Marshall, CEO of ClickTracks

Interview with John Marshall, CEO of ClickTracks

I had the pleasure of talking to John Marshall, CEO of ClickTracks, about his company’s present and future.
The first issue we talked about was one that is difficult to avoid, even though it has probably been discussed to death already. You probably already guessed it, but I was interested in hearing John’s views about the effect of the new version of Google Analytics. He is convinced that many Google Analytics users would never consider paying for web analytics anyhow. Therefore it doesn’t negatively impact ClickTracks’ sales. John saw an increase in sales right after the free version was announced. He explains that people use a free tool as proof of concept and then graduate on from that.
John views WebTrends as the main competitor of ClickTracks.
I also asked John about the plans for ClickTracks Appetizer. He was keen to point out that the key thing about the solution is the free web analytics classes provided by the company. ClickTracks Appetizer is the vehicle that enables them to teach for free and is supposed to suit someone who is getting started in web analytics. ClickTracks is, however, starting to get into some slightly more advanced topics now—teaching more advanced segmentation, for instance.
Every month ClickTracks also announces a Web Analytics Day when advanced features are made available in ClickTracks Appetizer. That combined with free classes is pretty effective, and I was wondering if they had considered taking Web Analytics Day on the road. John told me they would like to, but they would have to team up with a couple of other companies for it to be doable. An idea is to perhaps combine it with tracks about search engine optimization and PPC management.
Many web analytics vendors are branching out and aiming to offer a complete package covering all aspects of online optimization, not just web analytics. I asked John whether ClickTracks has any similar plans, and he said that they are working on some interesting new things that will probably be announced in a couple of months.

When John was on the vendor panel at Emetrics London, he said that ClickTracks has the ambition of making their solution the iPod of web analytics. He also mentioned that their unofficial slogan is “web analytics that sucks less.” I thought both things were very colorful and asked him to elaborate a little. John went on to say that ClickTracks has always tried to attack problems in a different way. One such example is ClickTracks’ approach to funnel analysis, which strictly speaking perhaps should be named something different.
John explained that iPods were much bigger than competing solutions when they came out, plus they went against the convention that portable music players should use flash memory and instead used a hard disk. But it turned out that other players, which used what was considered more modern technology, didn’t have enough storage capacity for people to use them. In the same manner, ClickTracks is not afraid of taking a different approach if it will result in a better experience for the analyst.
The most meaningless report that John has seen is “top paths through the site.” ClickTracks has consistently refused to provide this report as it doesn’t add any value. People have, however, asked for it many times but they are, in John’s experience, starting to learn that it’s not that useful.
ClickTracks’ biggest challenge in 2007 is integration with other tools, and North America is a bit farther ahead in that process than Europe. About twenty of ClickTracks’ clients have integrated, or are currently integrating, with other enterprise systems.
Generally John thinks that companies in the USA are somewhat ahead of Europe, probably because of a stronger tradition of direct marketing and looser privacy regulation.
Approximately one-quarter of ClickTracks’ customers are located in Europe. ClickTracks has its European headquarters in the UK and will be expanding from there. The next country in line is for an office is probably Germany.

Part of the interview is available as a podcast:

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