Hello marketers. Today, we’re officially launching a Q&A summer series featuring industry experts, pundits, thought leaders, authorities and other synonyms. These Q&As are intended to inform and perhaps, at times, even entertain readers about big topics that just might impact many of us, the aforementioned marketers. We’re excited to kick things off with a renowned web analytics guru who resides in the lovely Pacific Northwest; his name…Eric Peterson. Eric is senior partner and founder of Web Analytics Demystified.
Unica: Why is there such as chasm between analysis and taking action? (Even at large companies that have staffed web analysts)?
Eric Peterson (EP): My belief, and this is clearly biased by the work that my partners and I do, is that too few companies have a clearly defined strategy for web and digital analytics. In the absence of clear strategy, what you’re left with is a series of ad hoc measurement projects that, on the whole, fail to add up to clear direction about the action to take. Remember: Simply having staff is not the answer to web analytics — web analytics done right is, has been, and always will be powered by a combination of people, process, and technology, not one or the other. I constantly see spectacularly bright people using awesome technology flame out because process and strategy are lacking …
Without strategy driving process the result is the chasm you describe. Analysis is done, but management doesn’t fully trust the results, or analysis is done without making recommendations that management can actually act upon, or the analysis isn’t even done and all that happens is “more reports.” Also, and this is becoming my newest pet peeve, DASHBOARDS ARE NOT STRATEGY. Don’t think that another dashboard is the answer, it’s not. Analytics managers and practitioners focusing on dashboards in the absence of clearly defined strategy are wasting their, and their management teams, time.
Unica: What can technology do to minimize the chasm between analysis and action?
Eric: Honestly, nothing. The chasm is a human-created gap, not one that I believe technology can fully close. Now there are rare exceptions where technology does help bridge the gap — your Interactive Marketing OnDemand product is a pretty good example — but even when great programming has lowered the barrier between insight and action, strategy and governance is still required. I still find plenty of examples where the analysis suggests actions that are essentially no-brainers but management still cannot pull the trigger, even when the action is easy to take and even easier to test.
Unica: How should analytics be better integrated into the marketing process?
Eric: Oooh, tough question. Is it not already integrated into the marketing process? I see (and work with) lots of companies who are actually pretty adept at tactical marketing using web analytics. Counting impressions, clicks, visits, and conversions from marketing, even social marketing, is ‘kids stuff’ in web analytics. Companies are even getting lots better at testing and optimization against their online marketing efforts, which is great because of the tangible ROI. But still, I don’t see the strategy I expect to see … CMOs kicking off emerging marketing efforts with clear goals in mind and the guts to kill those efforts (or at least scale them back) if the goals aren’t being achieved.
Unica: Why do you think site-side behavioral targeting has been seeing slower adoption vs. things such as site testing?
Eric: Probably because behavioral targeting is such a black box in most cases and because testing is pretty easy to understand. I’m a huge fan of testing and optimization, always have been, and I love how easy it is to deploy within clients because it just makes sense. No crazy algorithms, no guess work, no reporting challenges … just good old fashioned controlled experimentation which most people seem to be able to wrap their heads around.