Databeacon software provides easy-access interactive info

An Ottawa firm selling high-end analytics technology that lets data providers present their data in a quick, easy-to-use fashion, has struck upon an 'interesting' way to push product.

An Ottawa firm selling high-end analytics technology that lets data providers present their data in a quick, easy-to-use fashion, has struck upon an ‘interesting’ way to push product.

A Web site to demonstrate Databeacon’s B2B product’s capabilities in a fun and relevant way was created for prospective clients that surprisingly drew a massive consumer following – and, in effect, turned interactive data into a consumer ‘phenomenon,’ says Nathan Rudyk, VP marketing at Databeacon. Better still, the relatively small investment has started to net substantial sales from the company’s core B2B audience.

Databeacon’s software allows users to simply click on a designated link to call up graphical representation of specific data (either their own data or a data source to which they subscribe) in bar, pie and line charts and graphs – at which point the data can be further manipulated and analyzed. The software requires no installation or training – a small (600K) Java applet viewer ‘jumps into the users browser’ and essentially brings the data along with it, he says.

That’s why it’s so easy to make the Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) application available to just about anyone. In the fall, the company launched its Storydata.com data analysis portal that allows anyone with Internet access and a browser to slice and dice the data behind the news stories of the day, for free – from the history of terrorism strikes around the world and weather patterns, to age-related spending and the ‘mommy shift’ in demographics. (The data has been sourced from legitimate places, he says, mainly government agencies – including StatsCan and the U.S. State Department – and from amateur sites, which collect data such as winter Olympic records or the history of Academy Award-winners.)

‘We didn’t think that interactive data was quite as interesting as it turned out to be – people really are interested in getting a fast interactive snapshot of data,’ says Rudyk. ‘So we provide the data which in turn promotes our product. We give the viewer away for free – much like Adobe Acrobat, for example – to create familiarity and behaviour that we’re now seeing translate into sales. The Web site has become a separate marketing unit.’

Storydata.com has logged over 49,000 unique user sessions (representing 1.6 million hits between October 2001 and May 2002) – gaining it a place on the Web lists of Yahoo and other sites as a Web information resource. The site has also encouraged a 60% click-through to databeacon.com – doubling the traffic to the corporate site.

So far it has tracked about $300,000 US in sales or approximately five sales from the Storydata.com site. An exec with Bluebird Bus Lines, for example, happened upon the Storydata.com site, and bought the Databeacon technology to analyze trends in their manufacturing data, says Rudyk.

Nielsen NetRatings, which tracks and measures activity, including demographics, from 200,000 Web servers, uses the technology to disseminate its more than five terabytes of information to subscribers, he says.

Normally enabling people to get access to this data is a huge and expensive task – it, like most organizations out there, would have traditionally delivered up static text (usually PDF) reports, and if subscribers had further questions or wanted to drill down further, they would have to request the data through Nielsen.

‘This shows that data analysis doesn’t have to be an expensive, complicated, and largely inaccessible science – whether it’s for business, consumers or government applications, he says, adding that what has worked for Databeacon could work for other organizations – marketing people, for example, he says, could bring a data analysis portal concept to their clients to disseminate text or image-based information, or even MP3s and trailers.

The Web campaign around Databeacon’s technology, which is used primarily for e-business applications such as statement analysis, supply chain, research information dissemination and sales forecasting/planning, was initially borne out of the need to create interesting demos of the technology for prospective clients, he says.

‘We had some prosaic demos that reflected what some of our customers were doing with our products – like an e-billing scenario,’ says Rudyk. ‘But when you only show a few scenarios, by default the data is not of interest to 95% of people. People were bored. We had to offer data that they could relate to. And in doing so, we created a new market opportunity.’

Designed to generate buzz, the Storydata.com site was supported simply with PR and some guerilla newsgroup outreach/promotion: When it posted data about 2002 car fuel mileage, for example, Databeacon would visit relevant newsgroups like Ford’s and alert members to the data on the site.

Databeacon has already announced plans to launch Storydata.com Europe later this month, and Storydata.com South America, in the Fall, he says.

‘What we thought would be a short-term PR tactic of a month to six weeks in duration, has turned into a living breathing part of our business. It [Storydata.com] went viral on the Internet,’ he says.