How Piwik’s Open-Source Analytics Platform Keeps You in Control of Your Company’s Data
4.10.17 Software

How Piwik’s Open-Source Analytics Platform Keeps You in Control of Your Company’s Data

By: Adam West

The Crunch: Online user data helps retailers understand customer behavior and drive conversions, and one analytics platform believes businesses should be able to leverage this information without compromising their customers’ anonymity. Launched nearly 10 years ago, Piwik provides open-source analytics software that ensures customer privacy. More than 99% of its clients use the robust free version, but InnoCraft, the company behind Piwik, offers premium plug-ins and service that help businesses do more with the data. As more governments pass legislation protecting citizens in response to big data, Piwik is in prime position for growth as an alternative to centralized databases. 

Retail companies are investing heavily in collecting customer data and developing machine learning capabilities to make sense of it all, and it’s easy to see why. The more retailers know about their customers, the more they can personalize marketing and shopping experiences to increase conversion rates.

“Big data is definitely a thing; businesses are eager for this data,” said Matthieu Aubry, Founder and Project Lead for Piwik. “Hopefully, companies will leverage some of this data, but in a way that respects privacy. There are techniques in terms of algorithms and ways to handle this data that don’t threaten the privacy of the people.”

Portrait of Matthieu Aubry, founder and project lead of Piwik

Matthieu Aubry, Founder of Piwik, developed the platform to preserve online users’ privacy.

More than 1 million websites in over 150 countries use Piwik, making it the leading open-source analytics platform. The software was developed as an alternative to big data collection, and it’s part of a decentralization movement in the tech industry that includes software like Nextcloud, an open-source response to Dropbox.

“When you’re browsing the internet today, 70% of the time these centralized data platforms will know which article you’re looking at, for how long you are looking at it, where you’re clicking, what your interests are, who you are, where you’re located, when you go on holiday,” Matthieu said. “This is happening. It’s a big database of what everyone is doing.

“I started Piwik almost 10 years ago. What drove me at the time was I wanted to control my own data. I didn’t want to send all of this data abroad or to some other company.”

Piwik enables online retailers to collect and store user data on their own servers or through cloud hosting, achieving many of the same advantages of centralized databases, while protecting their customers at the same time.

“Companies need to have a way of achieving these amazing analytics insights with an open-source solution that they can control,” Matthieu said. “They can see how it works behind the scenes. Most importantly, they can control their data for privacy reasons.”

A Free Platform with Premium Plugins Available to Customize Reports and Add Tools

Piwik’s free base platform includes customizable dashboards that display real-time updates on the details of what’s happening on a website, including reports on geography and information on keywords, web browsers, and search engines used. Site owners can boost the value of their data with premium plug-ins and themes created by InnoCraft, the company behind Piwik.

Included among the Piwik marketplace are premium features which present specific value for e-commerce sites. Among the most-downloaded of the premium plug-ins is Users Flow, which traces customers’ step-by-step journeys on the path to purchase.

“Our Users Flow product is one of the most popular because it’s useful for almost everyone to see how users flow through their websites,” Matthieu said.

Form Analytics gives retailers insights into the forms on their sites, identifying pain points and unnecessary fields and how much time people are spending on filling out forms. After all, creating seamless shopping and checkout experiences leads to happy, repeat customers.

Screenshot of Form Analytics

Form Analytics data gives site owners a highly visualized look at the efficiency of forms on a site.

Data-focused companies tend to experiment with everything, comparing layouts and pages to see which iterations are performing the best. InnoCraft created A/B Testing to give Piwik users the ability to run these tests on their sites.

“Those sites that have a lot of traffic need to maximize it because there’s a lot to gain,” Matthieu said. “So they run A/B Testing experiments, and they can tweak things to increase their conversion rates and test different product pages and checkout flows.”

Funnels was developed to give retailers highly visualized insights that help improve conversion rates by showing where customers are dropping off and how changes to the site are impacting sales.

“It’s about optimizing right now, but you’re also able to see over time how things are improving,” Matthieu said.

Successful online stores are highly visual with rich photographs and videos that help sell products, and Media Analytics was designed with these users in mind, helping to make sense of how these elements are affecting conversions.

“When you include video on your product pages, you want to know which videos are the most popular and how long people are watching them,” Matthieu said.

Piwik Analytics Cloud Combines InnoCraft’s Advanced Features with Support & Consultation

Piwik has been extremely popular with its users because it distributes free, customizable software and gives companies absolute control of their own data.

“Piwik is free to use. If you know how to install an app on your server and manage that, you can use it for free,” Matthieu said. “More than 99% of our users use the free version.”

For those using Self-hosted Piwik, InnoCraft’s premium features can be purchased and downloaded from within the platform.

“It’s a seamless experience,” Matthieu said. “It’s very easy for people to add Form Analytics, Users Flow, Funnels, A/B Testing, and the others.”

Image of a laptop running analytics through Piwik

Piwik’s customizable dashboards give site administrators highly visualized, real-time site statistics.

For less technically inclined users who prefer to avoid the hassle of hosting sites on their own servers, the Piwik Analytics Cloud includes all of the Piwik standard features and InnoCraft premium plugins, along with reliable cloud hosting and hands-on support.

“We help them through the whole process of setting up the infrastructure and ensuring things are smooth, scalable, and fast,” Matthieu said. “Then we go on to analyzing their business needs. What do they want to get out of analytics? We help them implement their measurement plan and answer their questions about marketing and technical needs.”

While InnoCraft’s servers host cloud customers, users maintain sole access to their data, which should come as no surprise with Piwik’s commitment to anonymity.

“When you use Piwik, you’re in control at every level,” Matthieu said. “Only the business owner has access to their customers’ data.”

Going Against Big Data, Piwik Helps Businesses Respect Privacy

Matthieu told us the past decade has witnessed a backlash against big data. In fact, some governments in Europe are putting privacy safeguards into place to protect citizens’ data.

“In some countries, like Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and France, legislation is pushing companies to respect the privacy of their customers,” Matthieu said.

This movement toward decentralization puts companies like Piwik in an ideal position for growth as more online retailers seek out strategies for capitalizing on customer behavior on their sites while keeping data out of the hands of third-party organizations.

“By providing this decentralized, private analytics platform, we enable everyone to measure their work on a website or mobile app, but they can respect the privacy of their visitors,” Matthieu said. “We’ve really enjoyed building something like this for the community. People are really grateful for our work.”