Abstract Ph.D. Thesis

The Use of Web Metrics for Online Strategic Decision-Making
August 2005 – 529 pages

Web metrics offer significant potential for online businesses to incorporate high-quality, real-time information into their strategic marketing decision-making (SDM) process. This SDM process is affected by the firm’s strategic direction, which is critical for web businesses. A review of the widely researched strategy and SDM literature identified that managers use extensive information to support and improve strategic decisions and make informed decisions. Offline SDM processes might be appropriate for the online environment but the limited literature on web metrics has not researched information needs for online SDM. Even though web metrics can be a valuable tool for web businesses to inform strategic marketing decisions, and their collection might be less expensive and easier than offline measures, virtually no published research has combined web metrics and SDM concepts into one research project.

To address this gap in the literature, the thesis investigated the differences and commonalities of online and offline SDM process approaches, the use of web metrics categories for online SDM stages, and the issues encountered during that process through four research questions. A preliminary conceptual model based on the literature review was refined through preliminary research, which addressed the research questions and investigated the current state of web metrics.

After investigating various methodologies, a multi-stage qualitative methodology was selected. The use of qualitative methods represents a contribution to knowledge regarding methodological approaches to online research. Four stages within the online SDM process were shown to benefit from the use of web metrics: the setting of priorities, the setting of objectives, the pretest stage and the review stage. The results identified the similarity of online and offline SDM processes; demonstrated that Traffic, Transactions, Customer Feedback and Consumer Behavior categories provide basic metrics used by most companies; identified the Environment, Technology, Business Results and Campaigns categories as supplementary categories that are applied according to the marketing objectives; and investigated the results based on different types of companies (website classification, channel focus, size and cluster association). Three clusters were identified that relate to the strategic importance of the website and web metrics.

Modifying the initial conceptual model, six issues were distinguished that affect the use of web metrics: the adoption and use of web metrics by managers; the integration of multiple sources of metrics; the establishment of industry benchmarks; data quality; the differences to offline measures; as well as resource constraints that interfere with the appropriate web metrics analysis. Links to offline marketing strategy literature and established business concepts were explored and explanations provided where the results confirmed or modified these concepts.

Using qualitative methods, the research assisted in building theory of web metrics and online SDM processes. The results show that offline theories apply to the online environment and conventional concepts provide guidance for online processes. Dynamic aspects of strategy relate to the online environment, and qualitative research methods appear suitable for online research.

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