E-Commerce Product of the Year 2001

By Esther Shein

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More than ever before, a declining economy and a sharp reduction in IT budgets has forced companies to seek the most bang for their buck in the applications they purchase.

With that in mind, Web analytic tool WebTrends Live 3.0 from NetIQ Corp., San Jose, Calif., was voted the most popular e-commerce product of 2001 in Datamation's annual Product of the Year survey.

WebTrends Live 3.0 garnered 87 votes, or 40%, out of a total 219 votes cast in the e-commerce category. Placing second was Groove 1.0, from Groove Networks Inc., of Beverly, Mass., which received 41 votes, or 19%, followed by Open AdStreamCENTRAL, from 24/7 Real Media Inc., of New York, which received 31 votes, or 14%.

WebTrends Live 3.0 is a hosted product that allows companies, overwhelmed with the amount of data available from their Web sites, to efficiently manage the volume and understand what visitors like and dislike, and how to get them to return, according to Erin Kinikin, a vice president at Giga Information Group in Santa Clara, Calif.

"What WebTrends Live does is allow companies to get that visibility into their Web visitors without having to analyze Web logs and manage the high volume and data," says Kinikin. "You have to put some HTML tags in your site but then the ASP (application service provider) does all the work to gather up all the hit information and present back to you the reports you want."

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The full list of winners

While ASPs have "flopped in some markets," Kinikin believes Web analytic tools work well as a hosted model because "it's not on top of the IT priority list - people are still struggling to get their Web sites in place, let alone analyze all the data coming out of them." The advantage WebTrends Live has, she says, is that IT sees the value of letting someone else "manage this mess."

Site 59, a last-minute online travel site, has been using WebTrends Live since last May to measure traffic on its site, as well as for its partners, which include Travelocity.

"It is very easy to use, and it is very simple to gather ranges of data, which is very important for us since we're a last-minute [travel] site and are typically looking at short windows of time," says Colleen Challenger, vice president of marketing and communications at Site 59. The ability to easily measure the impact of something they send out enables them to learn how effective an email marketing campaign is," she says. "It's in real time so we can obviously watch what happens and see the spikes on the bars and decipher what's going on."

Site 59 Chief Technology Officer Josh Hartmann says they were only interested in a fully outsourced model and selected WebTrends Live 3.0 because "being able to break out network traffic by site partner rather than overall traffic is critical and other services do not allow for this."

Greg Mack, a contractor with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), within the Department of Defense, is using second-place finisher Groove 1.0 to collaborate with teams of people on research programs and develop applications.

Mack says he was hooked almost immediately after another DARPA member alerted him to the product and he was able to quickly download it from the Web, and "inside of 10 minutes the two of us were collaborating."

After testing the product in beta, they licensed it last April for $49, says Mack, who is vice president of IT and Internetworking at Syntek Technologies Inc., a professional services firm in Arlington, Va., which is also now using the software.

Groove 1.0 includes the ability to establish roles in each of the collaborative spaces they create, so team members can determine who the leader is and who are guests during a session.

Mack says the software is intuitive and its underlying security is "very well designed" because everything is encrypted, which was especially key for DARPA.

"It's best for small teams of people working together," he says, adding that he has it running in the background whenever he is working. "We routinely will co-edit documents - and it's also very good for having a design discussion with design teams that are scattered throughout the country. We'll do things like post a design diagram and people will then review them and use the threaded discussion capability. This is all done in real time."

Voters had a choice of the following nominees:
DoubleClick Inc.

Groopz v2.0
Digi-Net Technologies Inc.

Groove 1.0
Groove Networks Inc.

Open AdStreamCENTRAL
Real Media Inc.

WebTrends Live 3.0
NetIQ Corp.

WiseUncle Advisor
WiseUncle Inc.

The major feature is evident when a user logs off the network. "Because it's peer to peer you can continue to work on it as though you were connected to network and the next time you do connect, everything is automatically synchronized." Mack says this is important for him since he travels a lot.

The only negative is that it requires a lot of space on the computer, he adds. And, "because you're synchronizing things all the time because people are making changes, it does require a fairly high bandwidth Internet connection."

But overall, Mack says, the software is critical for helping DARPA teams collaborate.

"It really has changed the way that we work. I consider it to be a landmark tool," he says.

In terms of the coming year, Giga's Kinikin predicts companies will be moving from Web analysis to more in-depth customer analysis because of a new focus on measuring results. Additionally, she says, companies looking to decrease service costs will be interested in e-commerce tools that allow them to deepen their customer self-service capabilities. There will also be a focus on "multi-channel coordination [to create] tighter integration of the Web with call center and other sales and marketing channels to improve usage and results."

Esther Shein is a freelance writer and editor in Framingham, Mass. She can be reached at eshein@rcn.com.