The Wired Hotel: Web site analytics - What's it really all about?

By Jerry Tarasofsky CEO, iPerceptions Inc. | January 27, 2012

It is almost impossible to pick up a trade journal or newspaper today and not read something about web site analytics. Google is giving it away free and experts are saying you can't run a web site without it. So what are analytics really all about?

Let's begin by first looking at the need for analytics.

Winning in the online world is not a whole lot different than winning a golf match for example - you have to outperform the other players in your foursome. You have to play smarter, you need a consistent long game as well as a great short game and you need to be able to measure your performance every time you hit the links.

How you go about improving your golf game is what separates the pro's from the duffers. You have to know what clubs to use, you have to perfect your swing with all clubs and you have to know your limits. When you are confident you have these necessary skills in place you are ready to take on Pebble Beach.

Your web site is no different. For a web site to perform well and deliver an acceptable ROI, it has to be perfect or as near to perfect on many levels and in many areas before it can achieve business success. To do this you need to understand how the various components of your site are performing. And to do this you need access to metrics or analytics that will allow you to measure and benchmark your customer's experience and overall satisfaction with your web site. You need to understand what makes your web site visitor tick.

There are two ways to collect this information. You can watch what your visitors do (behavioral) or you can listen to them (attitudinal). To put this into practice in the traditional bricks and mortar sense, you can observe a guest's reaction to a new room design and know whether it had positive or negative impact, or you can ask them when they checkout what they thought. In this scenario watching will only take you so far. Until you actually listen to them and get their feedback in a form you can take action on, you won't know what if any impact that design change had on their intention to return to your hotel.

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The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.