Six Rules for Nailing Digital Analytics
Six Rules for Nailing Digital Analytics
[Originally published at Inc.com]
It doesn’t matter if you are a small startup, or a large organization, these six tips will help you succeed with digital analytics, whether it be for your website, mobile app, marketing or social media data.
1. Nail the basics, before you try to get fancy
At Analytics Demystified, many organizations come to us with lofty near-term goals. For example, wanting to implement comprehensive, cross-device tracking of their customers, that they can link to their personalized marketing data and point of sale system…. But they can’t even get basic digital analytics tracking correctly implemented on their website.
For example, a large travel company we worked with had aspirations of doing deep segmentation and customized content… but couldn’t get simple Order and Revenue tracking correct. Or, a global B2B company who wanted an integrated data warehouse, from anonymous website visit through to lead through to customer… but couldn’t even get accurate counts of the number of lead forms submitted on their site.
The corporate advantage from analytics absolutely comes from being able to get an integrated view of your customer. However, you have to nail the basics before you try to get fancy. The fundamentals are fundamental for a reason. If you don’t have a solid foundation, with accurate data collected across all your systems, your integrated data will be flawed, leading to poor decision making. Accept that your organization will take time to crawl, walk, then run.
2. Perfect is the enemy of progress
While you build your solid foundation and move towards more advanced analytics, don’t get discouraged because you can only do some of the things you want. There are still plenty of gains to be made from careful analysis of your web analytics data, or your email or social or mobile app data, before they are fully integrated with your other systems and CRM.
Just because you’re not at your dreamed end-state doesn’t mean you can’t gain valuable insight along the way.
3. There is no “right” and “wrong” way. There’s only “appropriate for your business.”
Recently I attended a webinar, where the speaker was asked “What is the best report in Google Analytics?” He proceeded to name a specific report and why he felt it was so valuable.
My first thought? “Wrong! The best report is the one that answers the business question.” There is no “right” answer, no “one” report. Solid analytics comes from using data to answer a business question. So what reports you should be using, what data you should be collecting and what analysis you should be doing depends on your business requirements. There is no “one size fits all” approach, and “best practices” may not be best for your business at all.
4. People. Not Technology.
Spending on people matters far more than buying shiny new tools. (But every vendor selling you on “shiny” will argue otherwise!) You can do far more with a smart team, and free or inexpensive tools, than with all the bells and whistles, but no team to use them properly.
Unfortunately, we commonly work with large enterprise organizations with little or even no analytics resources. (For example, a large, Fortune 100 company with twenty individual brands and no internal resources devoted to analytics!) Your chance of gaining anything valuable from analytics … without analysts? Slim to none.
Why is this so common? Unfortunately, in most organizations, it is easier to get budget for technology than additional headcount. It’s easier to get budget for agencies and consultants, than headcount! As consultants, we at Analytics Demystified certainly benefit from this. But ultimately, we see the greatest success from our clients when they invest in their internal resources, and we therefore arm clients with justification to build out their internal team.)
When does it become about the technology…? When your awesome team are breaking the limits of what can be done with inexpensive solutions.
5. The grass is not greener
Is your analytics not helping you? Is your data a mess, the subject of deep distrust, and your implementation a disaster?
“I know! The problem is Adobe Analytics / Google Analytics / [Insert Vendor Name here]! If we change to [Some Other Vendor] things will be perfect.”
At Analytics Demystified, we have seen countless clients with a poor analytics implementations of Adobe Analytics, who jump ship to Google Analytics (or vice versa) under the assumption that the problem is the vendor. (Normally, we see those clients again a few years later when they repeat the process and switch again…)
It’s easy to think that the grass is greener, and that a vendor switch will cure all your ills. However, what actually solves problems in a vendor switch is not the new vendor per se, but rather, the time you spend redesigning, tidying and correcting your implementation while you are in the process of implementing the new vendor.
A vendor switch is not a good fix, because in a year or two, your shiny panacea will be in as much disarray as its predecessor. After all, you still have the same technical resources, the same back-end systems, and the same processes (or lack thereof!) that led to the mess in the first place. You just will have wasted a lot of time and money… and will probably switch tools again and repeat the cycle.
Rather than starting from scratch with a new solution, go back to the foundation with what you have. Revisit and reimplement your current tools, and see if you can make them work before trading them out. And this time, address the systemic issues that brought you to this place, rather than being swayed by fancy demos.
6. “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” But, don’t bother measuring if you’re not willing to manage it!
“I want to track every single link and button our site! This is critical. How else will we know what people did?”
Before requesting in-depth tracking of the minutiae of your website or your app, stop and ask yourself: “What action will I take based on this data?” And even more importantly: “How will that action affect the bottom line?”
A “let’s just track everything” approach can be indicative of a lazier approach to analytics, where stakeholders aren’t willing to separate what’s important from what’s nice to know. And while it can seem easier to track everything (“just in case we need it”) there is a high opportunity cost to doing so: your analysts are likely to spend more providing tracking instructions, QAing and monitoring data, and less of the valuable work: analysis!
That’s not to say more in-depth data can’t be valuable. A client of mine has multiple links to their trial signup flow. One in the global navigation, one in the body of the site, and one at the bottom of the page. They wanted to be able to differentiate trials coming from each button. Was this tracking worth implementing? Absolutely! Why? Because they actually use this data to optimize the placement of each button, the color and call to action, the number of buttons on the page (and more) via A/B and Multivariate testing.
If you want to track clicks to every button on your site, you had better be ready to move, or remove, calls to action based on their performance. You’d better be ready to look at the data frequently and put it to good use. After all, if you aren’t ready or willing to make a change based on what the data tells you, why bother having it at all? Data should enable decision making, not be merely informational.
What do you think?
What has been critical for your organization to draw value from your digital analytics? Leave your thoughts in the comments!