Your Data: The Best Resource You’re Not Using to Run Your Web Site

An article was recently published claiming “Marketers Find Less than Half of Analytics Useful for Decision-Making!”   In full disclosure, I added the exclamation mark to the headline because I felt like the tone of the article implied a minor hysteria over the implication that ‘less than half’ was a staggering figure.  In fact the article caught my eye because that seemed to be a higher percentage than I’ve witnessed. Not because companies don’t understand the potential power of analytics but because “analytics” often simply becomes “data collection” which in and of itself, is not useful to anyone really.

Let me back up.  I’m a big believer in Avinash Kaushik’s “So What?” analytics philosophy that says if you can’t answer what action or recommendation could result by tracking a certain metric after asking ‘So what?” three times, you shouldn’t bother tracking it. It’s a great philosophy and in theory any organization subscribing to this philosophy should be running a lean, mean analytics discipline.  In practice however, most companies don’t ask “So What?” or even “Why?”.   Instead they are swimming in a sea of data with the end result being analysis paralysis.

Sometimes this is self-inflicted (tag everything and review hourly!) but in most cases they’ve companies implement an analytics package and now that data is being collected, they just don’t know what to look at or care about. So they end up doing nothing.  As a colleague once put it “Your web analytics tool is the best tool you’ve already paid for but aren’t using.”

Here at Fluid we’ve recently overhauled our Analytics practice within our Strategy group to make sure even our approach to data is user-centric.  Why?  Simple.  We want to help our clients:

  • Achieve a deeper understanding of customer behavior and motivations
  • Answer the “why” behind the “what”
  • Make quantitatively as well as qualitatively informed design decisions
  • Work within a clear framework for measuring success and proving ROI
  • Get past analysis paralysis and turn mountains of data and isolated metrics into insights and actions

As digital design and user experience experts, we have the talent, knowledge and expertise to help our clients get beyond the “what” of their data and get to the “why” and “So What?”   Sounds great, right?

If what you’ve read so far is resonating, you know that it’s not always as easy as it sounds.
When we start working with clients on an analytics strategy we focus on a few key things.  If you are at a place in your organization where you’re ready to re-evaluate your analytics strategy, focusing on the following could help you get started.

1. Forget about current data, infrastructure, platform, etc.  What are the primary goals of your digital initiative whether it be web, mobile, social?

When answering this question don’t think about metrics.  Think about answering as a narrative. For example, “We want customers to learn more about our company.”  or “We want more people reading our blog.”  or “We want to increase revenue coming from our website.”

2. What are your current benchmarks?

It’s okay if you don’t know.  This may be a rhetorical question that turns into a ‘to-do’ once #1 is answered. In some cases we find out the benchmarks are completely arbitrary – in other words, not benchmarks at all but pipe dreams.  We don’t want to be set up for failure so establishing real benchmarks from which to set goals in imperative.  In other cases we find the benchmarks have nothing to do with the articulated goals and they need to align in order to really measure success.

3.  Who cares about this information?

We try and be realistic when we answer this question by framing it as not only “who cares” but “who can authorize the action?”   It is difficult and frustrating to put together a fantastic analytics strategy and have wonderful, actionable insights, only to realize the people who need to authorize budget for changes as outcomes of the data findings were never part of the fantastic analytics discussions.  Answering this question can help you make sure the right stakeholders are involved in the analytics strategy.  It also helps you, as the analytics “guy” or “gal” keep focused on the the bigger organizational goals and objectives.  It’s all too easy to get so excited or so deep into the data you become one of those “tag it all!” people so by leading up a focused practice, it will be easy for you to build a solid business case for change with the decision makers when you’re able to tie clear KPI trends to articulated business goals and objectives AND those decision makers helped formulate the KPIs.

Once you establish the groundwork by answering the questions above you can get more specific; feature ROI, custom reports and dashboards, real time data analysis, multi-channel funnel reports, conversion optimization, interval reporting and automation, etc.  All that good stuff that really helps you get a deeper understanding of your customers and their behaviors and issues with the experience and start formulating a story around your customer’s journey.

Just make sure you are always answering “So What?” when you enter into discussions around tagging X,Y or Z to track A,B or C.
If you are a Google Analytics user, check out Avinash’s blog.  There are always interesting discussions about web analytics and some good Q&A.  Justin Cutroni’s blog is another good resource for you.  He’s currently an “Analytics Advocate” at Google.  His stuff tends to be a lot more tactical and has great report templates you can add to your GA dashboards.