Will Web Analytics Work For Mobile? Home Depot IT Chief: Most Retailers Are Behind, Think “We’ll Get To That Later”

Written by Evan Schuman
March 21st, 2011

As retailers move to embrace mobile commerce, there are debates about what types of analytics should be used for mobile and even whether mobile analytics—or any single-channel effort—is necessarily a good thing. Most retail IT leaders, including Home Depot’s Senior VP/IT and one of her counterparts at HSN, say that many chains are so early in their mobile thinking today that such debates are premature.

“I think mobile is so young that we’re not sure yet. Our analysis is developing in that area,” said Home Depot’s Cara Kinzey. “And I think that retailers are behind, [with many saying] ‘We’re more concerned about sales and we’ll get to that later.’ Honestly.”

Sean Bunner, HSN’s Operating VP, echoed Kinzey’s sentiment. “It’s such an early channel to get so granular. There’s some overall trend stuff we’re more interested in, like ‘what category of merchandise are they purchasing?’ From what we’ve seen, mobile is significantly different than Web or, for us, TV,” he said. “But even within mobile, between mobile Web and apps. You see pretty significant shifts in categories, so we then have to get into CRM activity to see ‘Why is that?’ Do you want to merchandise that store differently?”

Bunner’s and Kinzey’s comments were part of a StorefrontBacktalk IT leader panel that examined the various issues facing retailers looking to aggressively integrate mobile. Much of that panel was used for a series of podcasts, including one specifically looking at Mobile Analytics.

Mobile offers a wide range of functionality that retailers never had access to, such as geolocation, an easy means of strong authentication and a natural way for real-time two-way communications. Bunner said he’s surprised that retailers haven’t moved more quickly to use these differentiators and specifically talked about marketers.

“Another interesting point is your marketing resources. All of the print you may still do or E-mail, the touchpoints you have with your customers. Mobile allows you to have a call to action,” he said. “I’m surprised I don’t see more of that. ‘Text in for something.’ It’s a marketer’s dream to know. Now you know they are holding this piece of literature you sent them and they responded, and then tying that back into your CRM.”

Analytics, despite its name, is rarely truly analytical. It is more akin to Data Collectors, with the “analysis” they do actually more like intelligent sequencing and flagging patterns and activity that defies historical patterns. The real analysis still has to be performed by the retailer, whether it’s someone in IT, marketing or a line-of-business executive. It’s the analysis that tells senior management what these numbers mean and what they should do about them. And with mobile, that can get tricky.

For example, many sites want their customers to spend as much time on their site as possible, looking at and considering their merchandise. In general, that’s a desktop function. On a mobile device, it’s more of a “tell me what I want to know” or “sell me what I need now” scenario.


2 Comments | Read Will Web Analytics Work For Mobile? Home Depot IT Chief: Most Retailers Are Behind, Think “We’ll Get To That Later”

  1. Doug Samstad Says:

    This article is really confusing to me. Are there really executives out there that don’t think web / mobile analytics are important? To say “the channel doesn’t matter” is ridiculous. That’s like saying, we shouldn’t listen to call center calls because it doesn’t matter. Or we shouldn’t do web analytics to understand where we have opportunities to improve our web site design. I wonder if some of these executives just don’t get it or they are confused with some other type of analytics.

  2. Mark Carleo Says:

    I don’t think anyone is saying analytics are not important or to ignore them. What I took away and agree with is that within each channel the consumer may behave differently but it is still the same consumer. If you only analyze the behavior of the consumer in each channel as a distinct individual you will come to the wrong conclusion about their behavior and why it changes from one channel to another. Aggregating behavior across channels and analyzing the differences as Mike Sajor suggests is the way to go but very challenging. The business strategy for a retail mobile commerce program will also skew the consumers behavior. Is the goal to sell directly on the mobile device and re-enforce impulse purchases or is it to drive traffic to the brick and mortar channel? Are you offering curated merchandise and events or pushing the complete product catalog? It may be too early to draw conclusions on mobile commerce behavior but data collection is a must and should be part of any mobile initiative.


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