Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Platform Comparison: Adobe's Site Catalyst vs. comScore's Digital Analytix


Introduction
            The rise of the digital age brought with it unique challenges for businesses as they ventured into the virtual frontier of the internet.  One of the challenges which quickly made itself apparent was the need for understanding who your online audience was.  Traditional means of audience measurement were not capable of identifying digital audience, giving way to the rise of the web analytics industry. The web analytics marketplace has evolved rapidly as products and methodologies have come and gone, born of innovation, then either evolving through acquisition or dying of irrelevance.
            One of today’s key players in the industry is Adobe, which has made a name for itself in the industry through a 2009 acquisition of analytics leader Omniture.  Omniture emerged as a leader in the marketplace through its tagging data collection capabilities and its clean interface presented through its Site Catalyst tool (Omniture, 2012).
However, today’s web analytics marketplace, while more stable than in the beginning of its short history, is still susceptible to disruption.  One such company looking to make an impact in the web analytics marketplace is comScore.  comScore is a historical leading provider of digital audience measurement (web measurement), but had not ventured web analytics (site measurement) before a 2010 acquisition of European-based product Nedstat, re-branding it as Digital Analytix (comScore, 2012).  comScore seeks to upset market leader, Adobe Omniture, through a claim to more advanced and accurate methodology.
            Herein, I seek to establish a framework of analysis upon which the competitive strategy of Adobe Omniture and comScore can be assessed, particular to the Site Catalyst and Digital Analytix products, respectively, with recommendations regarding their perceived future from a consumer standpoint. 

Competitive Analysis: Adobe SiteCatalyst vs. comScore Digital Analytix- VRIO and Market Analysis
            As previously mentioned, SiteCatalyst sits atop the marketplace as the current leader in web analytics.  Its strategic alliances and acquisitions, combined with its clean and intuitive interface, have enabled it to grow a more substantial user base than other analytics platforms.  The ability to modularize your solution with the add-ons and features which you need has historically been viewed as one of its strengths and selling points.
However, SiteCatalyst’s position has not been without challenges.  The technology industry as a whole is quite volatile, with new technologies, innovations and offerings posing a constant threat of disruption.  Web analytics is no different and as a rapidly evolving industry it has moved through rapid market growth (1995-2000) and market consolidation and product standardization (2001-2003) and is well into the stage of becoming an established part of the market ecosystem (2004+) (Ballardvale, 2004).  Much of today’s SiteCatalyst and its supporting parts were built during the second stage of market development through acquisition and market consolidation.  As such, SiteCatalyst is built on methodologies and technologies which were made to integrate into existing systems.  Growth and maturity have begun to show chinks in the armor as these methodologies (ex: data cubing) and systems show other weakness (ex: concerns regarding scalability) and come into question as to whether they should continue as the analytics best practices.
            Digital Analytix on the other hand, while not possessing the US market share of SiteCatalyst, is more on the forefront of cutting edge technology and methodology which may give it a leg up on SiteCatalyst in the long run and help it avoid some of the struggles that face its Adobe counterpart.  Digital Analytix was built with the intent to be the most granular and flexible product on the market.  By avoiding some traditionally held methodologies which are now coming into question, Digital Analytix possesses the capability to do on the fly audience segmentation and analysis on unaggregated (not cubed) data sets in real time (Kemelor, 2011).  Combined with its ability to integrate native data sets and even its own audience and panel data, Digital Analytix appears to be the future of web analytics functional potential.
            Digital Analytix, however, is faced with its own unique challenges due to the existing market environment and its own limitations.  As a lesser-known name in the industry, comScore faces an uphill battle in gaining ground against the Omniture name, and especially now against the Adobe reputation.  Additionally, as Omniture grew to become the market standard, much of the core business which comScore hopes to obtain are current Omniture clients.  The price of re-tagging, retooling, and relearning an analytics solution is significant.  And while the price of Digital Analytix tends to be below that of SiteCatalyst in most situations, the challenge of taking that business away is only more complicated if the company already feels that they are getting value from SiteCatalyst which exceeds its cost.  Therefore, comScore has found success among clients new to web analytics and those unhappy with their SiteCatalyst experience, but faces an uphill battle in stealing away the most loyal of the SiteCatalyst base.
            Additional challenges to both firms include powerful competitors within the industry.  The most notable disruptor is Google Analytics, built upon the acquisition of Urchin, and which provides similar functionality to existing tagging and SaaS solutions, but at no cost for the basic analytics package.  Limited by core functionality, however, enterprise focused companies such as Adobe and comScore tend to be an easy sell to those serious about their analytics activities.  Nevertheless, Google Analytics and other free analysis providers have found great success and still pose a threat as evidenced by their market share of small and medium sized businesses, and even those larger enterprises that have not yet discovered the power of a more robust analytics tool like SiteCatalyst or Digital Analytix.  Other competitors within the industry include WebTrends, Eloqua (email campaign measurement), Chartbeat, Coremetrics by IBM, StatCounter, and others each of which offers unique services and specializations, boast unique or superior methodologies, add-ons, and pricing structure competition (Web Analytics, 2012).
            As head to head competitors in today’s market, Digital Analytix and SiteCatalyst are a David and Goliath matchup.  SiteCatalyst boasts the name recognition, the track record and the customer base.  Digital Analytix lays claim to superior methodology and
improved reporting functionality, but lacks the US client base, recognition and record.

Recommendations Summary and Conclusion
            Both Adobe and comScore face varying opportunities moving forward.  While their web analytics offerings are relatively quite similar, the surrounding companies are quite different. 
Adobe’s Omniture Digital Marketing Suite is a small part of its overall strategy.  Other technology offerings such as Flash, Adobe Reader, Acrobat, Creative Suite, etc. will continue to be at the core of Adobe’s business and strategy as a company.  However, relating directly to SiteCatalyst and the future of the product, I believe that Adobe is at a crossroads.  If they continue the course they are on, they will be able to continue to build their analytics offerings though added acquisition, development, and integration.  For some amount of time they will continue to secure their base and may remain as the accepted premier analytics offering based on their history.  However, in so doing, these tools will continue to be puzzle-pieced together on a dated foundation which is based on methodology that is beginning to be called into question (Kemelor, 2011).  The other option for Adobe is to continue to leverage their market position and reputation in developing a ground-up product that is based on modern methodology with greater longevity and which is built with all add-on and reliant products in mind from the foundation up.  Investing the research and development into a web analytics platform which is based on cutting-edge methodology today could well save the SiteCatalyst product from fading into obscurity as superior products built on advanced reporting techniques begin to invade the market.  In so doing they will not just continue resting on their laurels, but will be better positioned for competitive advantage moving forward.  The latest release of SiteCatalyst is a strong indicator that Adobe is moving in the right direction to continually secure its base from new industry entrants and technologies.
comScore, as a relatively new competitor in the site measurement arena has invested heavily in growing its brand, building its tool and leveraging the wealth of audience measurement capabilities which differentiate it within the marketplace from traditional web analytics (exclusively site measurement) providers.  As an advocate for comScore, I perceive that there is an uphill battle to overcome the reputation and name recognition which Site Catalyst carries, but I believe that the platform, related audience capabilities and methodology will allow Digital Analtyix to continue winning business from those previously loyal to other platforms.

Exhibit 1:
Source:  Third Door Media.  “Enterprise Web Analytics: A Buyer’s Guide.” Search Engine Land.  23 October 2012.  < http://searchengineland.com/buyers-guides/enterprise-web-analytics-tools-in-the-facebook-era-a-buyers-guide>.
Description:  A side by side comparison of platforms shows that both products stack up nicely in functionality and capabilities, but pricing variances between the two are evident in the number of “add-on” offerings by SiteCatalyst most of which come standard in the Digital Analytix offering.


References:

Ballardvale Research.  (2004, June).  “Market Trends - Web Analytics: History and Future.”  October 23, 2012.  < http://www.ballardvale.com/free/WAHistory.htm>.

comScore. (2012, October 1). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:04, October 24, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=ComScore&oldid=515418561.

Kemelor, Phil and Chris Meares.  (2011, May 16).  Web Analytics Management.  “Son of Nedstat: comScore’s Digital Analytix vs. SiteCatalyst, Google Analytics, Webtrends et al.”  October 23, 2012.  < http://wam.typepad.com/wam/2011/05/son-of-nedstat-comscores-digital-analytix-vs-sitecatalyst-google-analytics-webtrends-et-al.html>.

Omniture. (2012, August 11). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:04, October 24, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Omniture&oldid=506933735.

Web Analytics. (2012, October 22). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:02, October 24, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Web_analytics&oldid=519194387.


(All comments and viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and do not represent the official statements of either entity described herein.  The author claims full responsibility for all content of this post)