RJMetrics vs. Google Analytics

“How is RJMetrics different from Google Analytics?”  It’s a great question, and it’s one we hear frequently.  Both tools can be extremely valuable, but the truth is that RJMetrics and Google Analytics live and work in separate worlds.  We analyze completely different data for very different purposes.

It’s easy to see why some view us as similar at first glance.  Both Google Analytics and RJMetrics provide users with a rich and robust dashboard interface; both services provide users with a hosted portal that is accessible via the web 24/7; and both advocate the value of using data analysis to stay informed and influence decision-making.

However, the similarities largely stop there.  RJMetrics and Google Analytics are actually so different that we view Google Analytics as a complement rather than as a competitor.  (In fact, we use Google Analytics to monitor traffic on our own website.)   These differences stem from a stark contrast in the type of data we use and the analysis it allows us to provide.

Data Differences

Google Analytics collects data using JavaScript that observes users as they traverse the pages of your website.  Over time, it accumulates a data set about where your visitors come from, what pages they visit, and, depending on which features you implement, how they interact with your site.

However, any fast-growing business will quickly amass a large and meaningful reservoir of additional information that Google Analytics simply can’t access.  This is the backend database, which not only powers the content and interactivity of your company’s website, but also serves as a repository for business data.  Such data can include everything from user-specific information (registrations, purchases, logins, demographics, etc) to company operational data (product catalogs, content development, inventory, etc).  Most importantly, it includes information about how these data points interact with each other throughout the life-cycle of your business.

RJMetrics therefore uses the only data set you can ever truly rely on for business intelligence: your own.  By definition, your backend database is designed to capture the actions and activities that are vital to the operation of your business.  No outside provider, including Google Analytics, could ever accumulate this degree of detail and value from the outside looking in.

In short, the data in Google Analytics is compiled from what happens on the surface of your website; RJMetrics penetrates this surface and uses the raw business data that your site itself compiles behind the scenes.

Core Analysis Differences

The most valuable component of the Google Analytics service is their core offering: web traffic metrics (we will discuss advanced features in a moment).  This is basically any information about your visitors that can be collected using JavaScript, and it can lead to some interesting charts on things like:

  • Number of page views and unique visitors
  • Time spent on-site
  • Top referrers
  • Geographic data (approximated from visitor IPs)
  • Browser and operating system type

Depending on the data you store in your database, RJMetrics can also provide information like this, although it’s not our core competency.  We are far more focused on the actual transactions and interactions that happen as a part of your business model, whether they are sales, registrations, utilization, or otherwise participatory in nature.  This allows us to look at things like:

  • Overall business growth and acceleration by key business-defined metrics (number of users, revenue, utilization, logins, etc)
  • Activity characteristics (purchase size, activity duration, etc)
  • Loyalty characteristics (repeat activity and related probabilities)
  • Feature or product popularity (by age, category, vendor, etc)
  • Churn rates
  • User lifetime values
  • Product inventory status and sellout rates (sale velocity)
  • Numerous other metrics depending on your database and business model

Most importantly, however, all of these metrics can then be segmented into customer/user sub-groups, or “cohorts” based on things like when they joined, who referred them, self-reported inferred demographic characteristics, behavioral history, and other behaviors or tendencies specifically relevant to your business.

The amount of valuable data yielded by these permutations is staggering.  From them, RJMetrics allows you to identify the trends and segments that matter, and monitor them just as easily as you can watch your page views grow with Google Analytics.

Advanced Google Features

It’s important to point out that Google Analytics has come out with some extremely cool new features recently, many of which aim to address the “surface-level data” shortcoming.  For example, “Google Analytics Ecommerce Tracking” now allows e-commerce sites to send Google Analytics some basic information about every purchase that happens on their site.  Google then ties that data to the “visitor” they were observing when the purchase was made and allows you to slice sales data by the visitor characteristics it collects (browser type, geographic info, etc).

This is an exciting and interesting addition to the Google Analytics data set, but the irony is that it works by creating a redundant sales database that is completely disconnected from your other valuable business data.  There are a few reasons this isn’t ideal:

  • The data is collected on a going-forward basis, so any historical information about customer purchases or sales activity are omitted from the data set.
  • By separating basic sales data from your other business data, it becomes impossible to reliably examine metrics like repeat purchasing behavior or the correlation between customer characteristics and purchasing tendencies.
  • Google Analytics knows what product name or number was purchased, but nothing else about that product.  How long has it been available?  Was it on sale?  What category or brand of merchandise does it belong to?  How does that category or brand compare to others?  All of these characteristics are integral to advanced analysis and decision making.
  • Making remote calls via JavaScript is not the optimal way to collect this data.  It is subject to browser quirks and relies on on-the-fly communication with a remote server in order to work.  This creates a much higher risk of missing transactions or double-counting them.  Not to mention the inability to net out things like returns.  Again, to drill down beyond the surface, you really need to capture the data from the server (not the pages), along with the relevant business context.

Ultimately, we view it like this: Google Analytics monitors web traffic from the outside looking in.  RJMetrics provides business intelligence from deep beneath the surface.  Both are great tools that can help a smart businessperson make decisions. However, if you’re interested in real business intelligence informed by your own business’s raw data, you’ll need to dig deeper.  And you can only do it with a business intelligence tool like RJMetrics.

Visit our website to learn more about RJMetrics business intelligence solutions or request information.

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