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So, web analytics has been a hot topic since, well, ever. The benefits yielded from knowing customer behavior patterns have been--and continue to be--quite clear.

The value formula is simple. If website owners and giant advertisers can track tidbits of information as detailed as which DOM nodes a mouse hovers over and as broad as which sites you like to visit, targeted marketing (and sales) effectiveness improves for those who know how to intelligently act on the data.

A related road less traveled is one paved by the staggering amount of people that abandon websites before doing much of anything. But here to prove that paying attention to the negative stats can be just as rewarding is a company called SeeWhy. Their new analytics tool, Abandonment Tracker, recently caught our eye.

Everyone Deserves a Second Chance

SeeWhy’s free online service, Abandonment Tracker, does exactly what it sounds like it does. That is, via so-called “next generation event processing architecture” the service continuously tracks individual visitors’ behavior in real time--looking specifically at the visitors that don’t convert.

After capturing the unique IDs of website abandoners, the tracker e-mails those IDs, along with details including e-mail addresses, shopping cart items and amount, and stage in the conversion process at which the visitor jumped ship, to the website owner. The reports are sent along with individual follow-up campaigns targeted toward the abandoners which the website owner can then send out, as they see fit.

Said to convert as much as 30 percent of these abandoners back to customers, the company insists that Abandonment Tracker is an essential accessory to popular tools like Google Analytics and Omniture.

Next Generation Web Analytics or Glorified Spam?

Because visitors are identified by their e-mail addresses, it's safe to assume that companies utilizing the tool have to somehow obtain addresses at the very beginning of the process and/or that SeeWhy is assuming that the in-context user is logged-in to your system.

Clearly there are certain application requirements to meet and a level of instrumentation is required for the thing to work as advertised.

When asked for his thoughts on the offering, Phil Kemlor, VP of Strategic Consulting at Semphonic and author of the CMS Watch Web Analytics Report observed that, in fact, any analytics tool can capture User ID or e-mail information.

After a quick glance at the user guide he added, “The only value add that I can surmise is that instead of you having to run the reports, SeeWhy runs the reports and sends you the list at the end of the business day. The point is that if you are running the Web analytics tools yourself, you could likely set up a report to provide the same data.”

Additionally, as a consumer, when you’re uninterested in a product, why in the world would you want a company to try and remarket it to you? Charles Nicholls, SeeWhy’s founder, says, “The trick in following up without annoying is to pay close attention to the tone of the follow up. A service email which is helping gets a different reaction to an overt sales pitch.”

Why SeeWhy?

Despite having was seems like a thin margin of functionality between it and existing analytics tools SeeWhy has some big name customers on board. It’s notable that the likes of Amazon.com, MasterCard and eBay are utilizing the service. So, there's something there.

The value points that we see are three-fold.

The first, is for the average amoung us and those who are using the free Google Analytics service for web analytics. This is a great tool, but restricts goal conversions and funnel tracking to 4 goals. If you are hitting this limit, then the SeeWhy free version opens up the door for you to track more conversion goals.

Secondly, for those with a bit more budget, with SeeWhy's Pro version you get real time re-engagement functionality. This means you can automatically try to re-engage abandoners much closer to the actual abandonment event. SeeWhy claims they see up to a 50% conversion rate improvement with this approach.

Thirdly, for customers with more developed CRM processes, the PRO version also gives you CRM integration so that more sophisticated and personal re-engagement campaigns can be managed via existing business processes (see full Free vs. PRO version comparison).

In the spirit of the tool, we'll go ahead and say that perhaps there’s something here worth a second glance.

If you're working on conversion improvements (and most of us are) you can take that second glance by signing up for the free version of Abandonment Tracker, or, if you’re feeling brave, you can pay to register for SeeWhy’s pro version and get some premium benefits.

Additionally, there's a nice kicker for Drupal CMS users -- SeeWhy has provided an instrumentation manual (PDF) which gives Drupal admins the ability to configure SeeWhy integration at the Drupal content node level (via the Drupal CCK module). This approach provides quite a bit of flexibility without much coding.