Livia Gibbons, Digital Analyst, Data Insight & Strategy, Red Door Interactive
The 2011 Semphonic X-Change Web Analytics Conference did not follow the traditional style of conferences I’ve attend. It was not a place with 150 people in a room reading a PowerPoint. Instead the annual X-Change Conference utilizes a small group (10-15ppl) “huddle” format which allows participants to engage in open discussions, debates and collaborative problem solving. Being the first time I attended, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. From the Key-Note address through the Analytics Challenge for Non-Profits and all the huddles in-between, every detail was thought out and taken care of by the Semphonic team so that all us analyst could focus on the good stuff- data.
During the keynote presentation, Elea McDonnell Feit of the Customer Analytics Initiative at Wharton (WCAI)* took us on a brief history of the collection of consumer behavior data. From the 1800’s when store owners kept goods behind the counter so buyers needed to ask assistance to view products. This allowed store owners to collect data on their customers’ specific behaviors; from what the most popular items were to what price point turned them off. Through this method, on a small scale, business owners could use that data to make profitable business decisions.
This approach to data collection was abandoned as a result of the growth of mass media and the migration from small “Mom & Pap” stores to large chains. This shift to managing customer expectation and demand for a large scale audience took the data collection power away from the business owner and created a gap in data collection.
Now in 2011, the internet marketing industry has developed numerous tools and strategies to capture the consumer data we need to analyze to provide the most valuable decisions for our clients. However, due to the large volume of consumers that advertising platforms are trying to reach and business owners are trying to use to benefit their businesses, there are still gaps in our data collection methodologies and practices that we are working to close.
This theme of gaps / challenges in data collection came up frequently across the huddles I attended. Participating in the small group, discussion based huddles it became clear that most of us were facing challenges in data collection (it’s not just me!). While we didn’t solve all the data world’s problems in 3 days, the X-Change conference allowed us to discuss and debate the issues.
Key Challenge Themes:
In today’s landscape, because no business can succeed solely online or offline, analysts are seeking to tie multiple data source together to better understand the true impact of specific marketing efforts and how they impact the whole picture. It is through access to offline marketing or demographic data or behavioral data from surveys and studies that analysts can start to bring it all together. Seems logical; yes. So why isn’t this done more?
There were several topics of discussion including:
The pieces don’t play well together. Agency A is running offline efforts and Agency B is running online efforts and neither wants to share data with the other, in an effort to keep the business. Different pieces also use different methodologies to collect their data; combining and comparing them is not apples to apples, or do not have a “common key” to tie them together. Or maybe the implementation of the data collection tools had errors and the data we’re seeing doesn’t look right. We all recognize the need to integrate qualitative and quantitative data for the best full picture of what’s working and what’s not with regards to our client’s marketing efforts. Each organization is working to navigate the challenges in ways that best suit their needs.
Attribution is a process for crediting a lead, purchase, or a conversion to a specific set of marketing efforts. Your monthly report may show you that your email campaign conversions increased 10%, your PPC campaign efforts increased 23% and your display campaign efforts increased 15% but overall sales were still down. This dispute over true attribution leaves us asking: How do you assess which marketing channel deserves the credit? The number and diversity of marketing channels is growing making attribution even harder. Understanding each marketing channel through correct tagging and tracking as well as finding the right attribution model for your company is key. Gary Phillips of Semphonic did a great presentation on attribution models you can view here: http://semphonic.com/resources/2011-tt-pdf/Attribution%20with%20Paul%20Legutko.pdf
How do you get the non-analyst minded individual to care about the data? The short answer is…You don’t. Metrics need context; you can’t just show total page views; need to show a story. The stakeholders want to see a success story, not data.
The Semphonic X-Change conference was a one of a kind conference. Working side by side with and learning from some fabulous minds at the 2011 X-Change Conference was, for this digital analyst, best describe as therapy. I am looking forward to attending again!
NOTE: WCAI is the preeminent academic research center focusing on the development and application of customer analytic methods. We all listened with envy as she described their process for analysis: get the data sets from companies, and then spend close to a year analyzing in. Many of us are lucky to have 1 week let alone one year! You can view a list of the Wharton School white papers here.