Posted by KeithMacDonald

August 7, 2012


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Why Do People Not Like Using SiteCatalyst?

This question was recently raised on Quora and I think it’s worth revisiting and clarifying for our clients and potential SiteCatalyst customers.


The analytics tool space has been hugely competitive over the last few years:

  • Webtrends, one of the original market leaders, is generally regarded as losing market share.
  • A series of acquisitions solidified the concept of the Suite with Omniture purchased by Adobe (the Adobe Digital Marketing Suite), IBM acquiring Coremetrics and Unica (Enterprise Marketing Management) and comScore acquiring Netstat (Digital Analytix is now part of their integrated product offer).
  • Google has both turned up the heat in the field with serious improvements to Google Analytics and entered the enterprise market with Google Premium.

The result of this competitive pressure has been two-fold:

  1. Keeping up with the Joneses
    In order to remain current, all of the major vendors have essentially copied features and functionality from each other.  As Google introduced real-time segmentation, Adobe shortly thereafter released real-time segmentation as part of SiteCatatalyst version 15.  One of the long-standing features of SiteCatalyst (multi-touch attribution and ‘campaign stacking’) showed up a year ago in Google Analytics (Multi Channel Funnels).
  2. Competitive Homogeneity
    By and large, all of the major analytics tool vendors now provide similar high-level functionality.  What differentiates one vendor from another are:

    • Extended feature sets – Google Premium provides 25 custom variables, SiteCatalyst provides 150, as example
    • Analytics tool orientation – Adobe is focused on marketing optimization and web experience management, IBM is focused on e-commerce and cross-channel optimization, Google is focused on bolstering advertising sales
    • Overall User Experience – particular functionality one tool does better than the others (e.g. multimedia measurement in SiteCatalyst); ease of implementation (what it takes to get rolling); and ease and clarity of getting data out (reporting or exporting)

The Question

It’s this last point about User Experience which brings us back to the question.  I’d reframe it slightly:

Why do people not like using SiteCatalyst compared to other tools (in particular Google Analytics)?

Responses to The Question

Evan LaPointe and Adam Greco posted eloquent responses to the question, pointing out that SiteCatalyst is a sophisticated tool with a learning curve (it requires some level of training to understand).  Evan notes specifically that:

  • SiteCatalyst is great for reporting, not so great for investigative analysis (I’ll agree, to a certain extent)
  • The Omniture business model was, as a colleague once put it, like a cell phone plan – anything is possible, but they’ll ding you for every feature (Adobe has ironed out a number of pain points with version 15)
  • Implementation of SiteCatalyst is fraught with perils (Garbage In, Garbage Out)
  • Omniture could have done a better job facilitating charting and analysis

While the above is all true, I take a slightly different view.

Building a Good SiteCatalyst User Experience

To build a really good user experience with SiteCatalyst, three components have to be rock solid and working in concert:  implementation (technical), implementation (business objectives) and end-user understanding.

Implementation (Technical)

As Evan noted, getting the technical implementation right is already tricky enough.  There’s a whole industry (tag management and monitoring) which has sprung up around this component alone.

Implementation (Business)

In my experience, good technical implementations are often done by developers with little or no connection to the business objectives:

  • What exactly are you trying to measure, and why?
  • How will the data collected contribute to improvements in revenue, increased cost savings or a better user experience?

Failure in implementation (business objectives) resulting from that disconnect is also the responsibility of business stakeholders.  In my experience, business stakeholders who are new to analytics (let alone any specific tool) don’t understand the potential analytics brings to the table and so don’t know what to ask for from the technical implementation.

For this reason, Unilytics consultants follow our RETAIN methodology which starts with end-user training, follows with KPI definition, and is then mapped to technical implementation specifics.

And it’s not enough to get off to a good start – the implementation (both technical and business objectives) must be maintained.  I’ve seen many a good implementation turn ugly because business objectives changed, new features were added (and not tagged properly, if at all) and staff churned, all while the analytics stayed the same.

End-user Training

End-user training is what really binds everything together.  Since SiteCatalyst is infinitely customisable, there is no out-of-the-box interpretation of the data (unlike Google Analytics, which is one-size-fits-no-one).  Reports, particularly the custom insight variables, differ from implementation to implementation.

Even a first-class technical implementation, finely tuned to business objectives, is of limited value unless users understand how the data connects back to those business objectives (where and how to find answers in SiteCatalyst to their questions).

Failing to be able to answer business questions is the result of little or no investment in training, poor customisation of the user interface and a disconnect between end users and resources who are responsible for the technical implementation.


The beauty of SiteCatalyst is that it’s infinitely customisable.  The Achilles Heel of SiteCatalyst is that it’s infinitely customisable.

Master the three parts, however, (technical implementation, business implementation and end-user training) and SiteCatalyst is hands down far and away beyond what the competition offers.

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