Top 5 newbie impressions from eMetrics Summit San Francisco 2008

I just got back from the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit in San Francisco. This was my first foray IRL into the analytics community. Here are my top 5 newbie impressions:

1. Small and enjoyable.
The analytics community is still fairly small and welcoming. This is good because not only was it easy to run into people like myself who were just trying to figure out the landscape, but many of the movers and shakers were highly accessible. Of course, having something more interesting to say than "I really enjoyed your book" is another matter. I met at least 50 great people.

2. Tools, tools and more tools.
One of the best things that come from attending a conference like this is you get to hear the frequency with which certain tools are mentioned. It's simply too mind boggling to get to know them all. These are the tools which I heard mentioned most frequently: Google Analytics, Omniture, IndexTools (just acquired by Yahoo), iPerceptions new free survey tool, Hitwise for competitive research, WASP tool tag revealer by Immeria, Keyword Max for yes/no conversion analysis and Atlas for tracking email and pinning it to store sales (and now engagement mapping too), and finally Optimost for behavioral targeting and testing marketing offers.

3. Corporations are dumb.
This is not to say the people working for large corporations are dumb, but the collective political clog-in-the-data-drain from Hippos constantly brought forth agonizing challenges for analytics folks. And these are not interesting challenges, IMHO. A lot of sessions were dedicated to how to get your managment to understand what you're saying, why it's important and why it should be funded. When I say a lot, I mean about 1/3 of the presentations contained references to this. As a newbie to the space, this was a big dampener on my enthusiasm. But since I am familiar with C-levels, I decided to write a post to address C-level analytics pitching (coming). And for all you analytics job hunters, I would highly recommend staying away from analytics positions in large corporations unless detente is your idea of fun.

4. Consolidation and business intelligence.
Obviously this industry is consolidating. Just look at Omniture's recent acquisitions to see how many small, innovative companies are being swallowed by the larger ones whose focus is "business intelligence". What business intelligence really means is connecting all those disparate databases. So, if you call customer service 3x a month, they might actually realize you are an unprofitable customer and decide not to offer you any perks when you threaten to leave. On the other hand, the capability to see that you spend most of your disposable income at a competitior and determine they should market to you twice as hard as the average customer is on the way too. The US has no regulations on this yet (that I know of) but Europe does. I'll be posting more about some of the privacy violations - ahem, business intelligence applications - I learned about soon.

5. Benchmarks
One of the best things about my journalism background is the ability to scribble details rather quickly in presentations. And I love to capture benchmarks. How else does a newbie establish crediblity? I've got to be able to say, "Well, most companies sending broadcast emails have a click through rate of 9.5% but a conversion rate of only 1.1%. However, those who apply analytics see a 14% click through rate and a whopping 3.9% conversion." Thanks to Ryan Warren at Exact Target for those figures. I'll be compiling my list of benchmarks and sources shortly as well. Afterall, this is the Internet where information wants to be free (but needs to be qualified first).