When you can’t trust the data, what next?

When you can’t trust the data, what next?

Facebook misreported metrics not once, but three times in 2016. YouTube’s algorithms, some of the most sophisticated and well-served on the planet, served up household brand ads next to extremist materials.

Security firm Imperva has found that a staggering 52% of website traffic is actually just bots. P&G’s CMO, Mark Pritchard, has declared online media buying "murky at best, and fraudulent at worst."

No wonder people are starting to question the reliability of aggregated digital data.

Yet when everyone strives to be as data-driven as possible, what alternatives are there?

Where else do you turn to accurately measure the effectiveness of your brand advertising? How do you gauge what the public wants? What do you base investment decisions on?

Here’s a crazy idea. Ask consumers.

I don’t mean using traditional market research or focus groups, which has its own issues with transparency, speed and availability when you need it most.

Now that everyone is used to working at the speed of digital, the slow, frustrating back and forth involved and minimum 8-week turnaround time just won’t cut it.

What you need is to combine the speed and real-time nature of digital analytics with the rigour and reliability of speaking directly to consumers, all done in an open and transparent way.

How?

Step 1: Engage, maintain and constantly refresh a broad and nationally representative group of consumers from a mix of channels, with a diverse range of motivations for providing accurate feedback. You’ll need to be careful here to avoid unintended bias, closed networks of similar people, and respondent fatigue.

Step 2: Interact with your audiences in a simple, user friendly way that encourages thoughtful responses, ideally through mobile, in convenient windows of downtime, so you can reach even busier, more affluent consumers in ways that they enjoy.

Step 3: Compile all the data into an easy to understand and interrogate format, ideally visual, so that you can spot trends and see insights that you won’t get from an Excel sheet. Or roll up your sleeves and say the words ‘pivot table’ with a vaguely manic grin, twitchy right eye and very full coffee pot!

Step 4: Rinse and repeat, ad infinitum.

Step 5 (Optional): Give up and go back to legacy digital metrics. Hey, they’re unreliable, but at least they’re much easier to get!

Alternatively, use a brand and market intelligence platform like Attest, which does all the hard work for you.

You can just start by asking the kinds of questions that used to be rhetorical when you were thinking them in front of your current analytics dashboard. You know, things like, “why has this dropped off?”, “wow, which group is driving this?” or “that’s good to know, but what should we do about it?”.

Yes, there’s life beyond the existing metrics and tired old data you’ve had to rely on for the last few years! Yes, you can now actually understand why things are happening, not just report on what happened.

Not quite ready to chuck digital data out into the proverbial dustbin yet? Of course not, there’s always going to be value and insights to be had in those pockets of data. Just make sure you’re also using tools like Attest to sense check, enrich and fill in the gaps of digital analytics.

No more guessing. No more bad data. This kind of market intelligence, direct from consumers, delivered at the speed of digital through familiar analytical dashboards is the future.

Mark Walker, Marketing Director, Attest.

Email: mark.walker@askattest.com

Twitter: @askattest