The Difference Between Web Analytics and Customer Analytics

When we see the word “analytics,” this is the image that pops into our heads:

Google Analytics Visitors Overview


Good ol’ Google Analytics. Data like this measures every detail of our website. It’s not just “analytics,” it’s “web analytics.”

Web analytics does a fantastic job at measuring your website. Pageviews, bounce rates, time on site, it’s all there.

But how much of this is actually useful? If you’re a major internet marketing geek like myself, you will find data that will help you grow your business. The thing is, it’s not easy to find the data that matters. When we focus on our web site, we have to piece together all sorts of random information in an attempt to figure out what our customers are doing. This is doable if you:

  • Spend way too much time on the internet
  • Have experience with behavioral psychology, web design, and marketing
  • Don’t scream in terror at the sight of endless rows of data
  • Can manhandle your analytics to give you the data you need
  • Have the time to wade through everything until you find a piece of data worth acting on

For most people, several of these criteria are deal-breakers. So what are our options? Should we just ignore web analytics?

There’s a better way to do all this.

Using Customer Analytics

With web analytics, all our data is organized around our website. We have lists of pageviews, landing pages, and traffic sources. But there’s no way to organize the data around our customers.

The most critical piece of all this data (our customers) is completely missing. Well, that’s no good. I don’t know about you but I’d much rather spend time analyzing data on actual people instead of my website. I’d be able to stop spending so much time on data sources of low value like pageviews and get much better insights by looking at what real people are doing.

By dropping the data on our web site and focusing on our customers exclusively, the data becomes much easier to manage. We’re not dealing with abstract data on a landing page, we have data on actual people. We know where each person came from, what they did on our site, how they became a customer, what they did as a customer, all of it.

Data on real people is easier to understand and use.

This is called customer analytics. Instead of focusing on your site, it collects data on your customers. In fact, every bit of data is tied to a real person.

What Customer Analytics Looks Like

This all sounds great in theory, but what does this sort of thing look like?

Check out this report:

KISSmetrics Person Report

This is data on an individual customer. Now, I’ve blurred out a line at the top which is where the email address is displayed. We know how much they’ve spent with us (in total), where they came from, and how frequently they visit our site.

There’s also data like this:

KISSmetrics Timeline


This timeline shows EVERY action a single person has had with our business. We know what feature’s they’ve used, what actions they’ve taken, and we know how many times they did each action on each day. And those fancy lines connect the steps of funnels that we’re tracking. We have a complete picture for how a customer behaves.

Data from reports like these tells the story of our customers. We know what matters most to them so we can work to build a business they love. And if we run into data we can’t make sense of, we have their email address. Within a few minutes, we can reach out them directly and get feedback on how we’re doing.

The only product I know that provides data like this is KISSmetrics.

Full Disclosure Time: I’m the Marketing Analyst at KISSmetrics which provides businesses like yours with customer analytics. This is where I’ve pulled these reports from. If you’re interested in learning more about customer analytics, reach out to me and I’ll help however I can.

Other Customer Analytics Options?

Ever other instance of customer analytics that I’ve seen was built in-house. In other words, the company paid an engineer (or an entire team) full-time to collect data from multiple sources and organize it around their customers. Considering you’ll pay at least $100,000 in salary to a single engineer, you’ll easily spend hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of several years to get a system like this fully functioning.

If you’re looking for a plug-and-play solution, I don’t know of any other options besides KISSmetrics. Definitely let me know if you’ve seen another example of customer analytics, I’d love to check it out.

I’ll show you how to build an unstoppable growth machine. Don’t miss any of my new essays.

I don’t share emails. Ever. And your trust means a great deal to me.

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Beatrix Willius June 13, 2012, 8:43 am

    Kissmetrics has an awful documentation and is definitely not “plug-and-play”. And usually for data protection reasons you don’t even want to know what a single customer did. Let alone have his/her email for a non-saas website.

    • Lars Lofgren June 13, 2012, 5:02 pm

      If I’m working with a developer on a standard website, I can get KISSmetrics setup during an afternoon. Even for a super thorough and complicated setup, you’re still looking at a week’s worth of work. This is a lot less time than the months (or possibly years) that it takes to build an in-house analytics platform that will give you the same information.

      For documentation, we’ve been working on it quite a bit over the last few months. If you have a question that isn’t covered, definitely let me know. Our goal is to make the documentation as helpful and comprehensive as possible.

      KISSmetrics only collects the email if you tell it to. And it doesn’t grab any other personal info like name, phone, address, etc. Protecting people’s data is a major priority of ours. That’s why the system defaults to assigning random and completely anonymous IDs to each visitor. That way, you can still see what individual people are doing but there’s no way to know who’s who.

  • Valeriu June 26, 2012, 2:13 pm

    Customer centered analytics definitely makes sense, but Beatrix has a point – you’re only allowed to gather data that is not personal. Correctly interpreting the data is as important as gathering it.

  • Ben August 12, 2012, 8:15 pm

    One product I’ve researched in the past is Hubspot, and their software system works in a similar way: customer analytics vs. website analytics.

    As you mentioned in an above reply, @Lars, this type of software collects info provided by visitors in forms, not in any underhanded way, and then ties their activity to that volunteered data. I must admit though that I have long been weary of this approach – even tying user-provided data to their specific activity on the web seems against the ethical slant of the marketplace.

    All that being said, I can certainly see the benefit of gearing your business towards individuals rather than numbers. What you should be careful of is not losing the forest for the trees; continue evolving your business overall with web metrics even while shifting to grab individuals.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Lars Lofgren August 12, 2012, 8:33 pm

      Yep, Hupspot also uses customer analytics. But they’re more of an enterprise solution. Most of their analytics features aren’t available unless you’re on their enterprise plan which starts at $700/month.


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