In today’s competitive software market, there are a variety of solutions to match an organization’s needs. Clearly, web analytics and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools are no different, with many offering Software as a Service (SAAS) options and locally hosted options.
From Log Analyzer to Google Analytics and Unica for web analytics software, to ZoHo and Salesforce as CRM tools, there are many choices which can lead to a lot of confusion. Moreover, these tools can often range in price from free (with limited features) to high-priced tools for enterprise-level clients. There is a significant benefit to understanding the possibilities of integrating these two types of tools and what core features are required within each. This blog entry will discuss a few of the core requirements needed within a CRM tool in order to enable integration to an analytics tool; both at a basic and advanced level.
To accomplish a reasonable level of CRM integration with web analytics, there are a few core requirements. They are (in no particular order of importance):
- Ability to customize fields and data types;
- Web-to-lead form functionality;
- Scheduled data exports; and
- API connectivity
Ability to Customize Fields and Data Types
Among the data need to successfully create a link between the CRM and the web analytics data, there is one absolute requirement – a persistent cookie. This type of cookie does not disappear when a user closes his or her browser, and allows for tracking the user across many website visits.
The integration can become fancy and complicated rather quickly, but at the most basic level, a persistent cookie is required to identify the visitor within the analytics which must be captured and included in the CRM data. A unique custom field must be created in the ‘leads’ and / or ‘contacts’ section of the CRM and it must continually gather and maintain the cookie value issued to your unique visitors – their unique identifier. Other custom fields can be used to develop many other fascinating and valuable bits of information – more on those in coming months.
Web-to-Lead Form Functionality
Many websites have forms that gather data from visitors in order to better meet their needs. When the visitor submits these forms, it is possible to have this data flow directly in to the CRM solution while maintaining all other functionality within the site. These forms are often called ‘Web-to-lead forms’. This fundamental piece of the puzzle allows the capture of lead data (current clients and new potential clients) along with their unique visitor identifier (the persistent cookie). To kick-off the integration, common forms such as a ‘Contact Us’ form or a shopping cart completion are great places to start capturing data.
Scheduled Data Exports
The integration of the CRM data to the web analytics data requires the ability to export complete CRM data (names, contact information, and most importantly, unique identifiers) in order to link it with analytics data. This linkage can be complex, and use data integration tools or detailed spreadsheets to accomplish the task. Depending on the frequency of the report updates and the needs of the organization, these scheduled reports can be required anywhere from daily to monthly.
APIs are a great way to connect directly to the software engine and pull data based on particular queries and needs, often in real time. This is usually done through custom tools or proprietary coding on the back-end, for which the vendors will often provide examples, manuals and training. While this is not a requirement in order to achieve some low-level integration, this can be used in advanced implementations.
In general, if the CRM tool used by an organization includes the above mentioned features, integration to certain analytics solutions is possible.
It is important to remember that reporting of any kind is only as good as the input data itself. It is critical to maintain a clean and consistent set of CRM data in order to continually grow and improve the linkage to the web analytics data. Over the long term, this will provide organizations with much more value and accuracy; ultimately enabling better decision-making, more options for audience segmenting, and improving overall efficiency of the organization’s communications and marketing efforts, among other benefits.
PublicInsite Web Analytics Inc.
Google Analytics Certified Partner