It’s Not About Big Data – It’s About Smart Data

How do you know if your marketing initiatives are working?  Obvious question, right? You track. You measure. You report. But what if what you are tracking, measuring and reporting on is incomplete or worse yet–just plain wrong? It could be the case if you are not diligent in how you use the vast amount of data available to you.

The reality is that having access to more data does not assure you’ll have better insights to drive engagements and conversions in 2014. Most marketers spend a great deal of energy being concerned with metrics that don’t matter as opposed to what is actionable. If a metric is not actionable it’s just noise getting in the way of you being able to answer real business questions.

As marketers, we are also learning that measuring the performance of a single marketing channel in a silo is no longer an effective way to improve lead generation, sales and ROI.

Understanding the “whys” behind performance requires a holistic analysis – across all channels and devices, using a combination of objective and subjective criteria. It’s understandable that the omnichannel approach to digital marketing analysis can be a big challenge for organizations, even crushing for many. It doesn’t have to be, however.

Below are a few suggestions for how you might want to leverage the data overload to help you drive your digital marketing strategy in the coming year:

Suggestion 1: Take The Time To Select The Right KPI’s And Find The Story In Your Data.
Most metrics are actionable but only after you put them into context. Your site traffic metric is a go0od example. The fact that you had 100k visits last month means nothing unless you understand what drove those visits. This requires you to trend the metric over a period of time (ideally 13-months) and then correlating spikes and dips in the data to specific actions that could have influenced what you are seeing, such as product launches, algorithm changes, page optimizations and tracking issues. This is where data visualization tools such as Tableau can be helpful.

Suggestion 2: Prioritize Actionable Insights
Obviously, your budget and resources are not unlimited and you cannot address all of the learning from your analysis. The recommendation is to them is prioritize them based on the potential gain and how they support your business strategy.
To help establish priorities, engagement pages, such as your cart, checkout page, and video download pages  should have a value associated with them. Then, if you find in your analysis that you are losing visitors at the cart page, as an example, because that page has a value associated with it you can calculate the impact of the loss and prioritize the needed fix.

Suggestion 3: Understand The Competitive Landscape
While you obviously need to always have of a thorough understanding of your own data, it also makes sense to benchmark your KPI’s as best as possible against your competitors. You can do this with publically available data such as search engine rankings, industry research reports and 3rd-party research tools such as ComScore, Compete and Forrester Research.
Understanding where you rank in Google or Bing for those keywords that are most valuable to your business success is interesting–but it becomes actionable when you know how your competitors are ranking for the same keywords as well.

Suggestion 4: Respect The Concept Of Garbage In; Garbage Out
Tools such as Google Analytics, Omniture and Coremetrics are powerful but unfortunately often not functioning properly because less-than-optimal implementations. If your tracking and tagging is not set up based on best practices and aligned with a business strategy–you will most likely be making decisions about your digital marketing channel based on faulty data.

In addition to making sure your analytics setup is optimal keep in mind that there are other investments required to assure your reports and analysis truly reflect the performance of your digital channel.

Organizations often neglect to budget for the necessary:

  • IT resources upfront to ensure a proper implementation and maintenance
  • Tools to audit your pages to help you understand if they are tagged correctly and fix them
  • Tools to manage the maintenance of the tags. Tag management can ensure that every new page that is created is tagged correctly. The major platform providers offer tag management as an add-on but companies like Tealium and Brighttag offer tag management solutions as well.
  • Experienced data analysts who know what to do with the data.
  • Visualization tools, such as Tableau or QlikView, which allow analysts to manipulate and construct views of the data that will help you manage your business. The benefits of a visualization tool are many, including letting you connect directly to your data (bypassing the tools aggregations and segmentation rules, etc . ), as well as the ability to deliver customized reports based on exact stakeholder needs and cost savings

It’s an excitement time for merchants. Never have you been so empowered to use intelligent data-driven insights to optimize the performance manage your digital marketing programs. Good luck!

Janice Smithers is a digital marketing analytic consultant/researcher.

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