Giving your data the whole picture
There are a lot of informative articles out there at the moment on how to get the most out of your data and the tools you’re using to collect it; elements that are certainly crucial to get right. You’d think that if you had done your planning, set-up your implementation correctly and were garnering useful insights from your data you’d got it nailed. Alas, not quite. There always seems to be one final piece missing for me and that’s the contextualisation of the data - how it sits within the big picture of all your business activities. After all, it’s not just the digital world that affects how a customer behaves online.
Although, as I say that, I’m going to start on giving context to your insights from within the analytics itself. It’s pretty standard fare to compare a chosen time period with the same in the previous weeks/months/years to identify what are seasonal trends and what’s outside the norm. What about at a campaign level? Do you know how your different customer types (such as new purchasers, one-off buyers and repeat customers) behave in general? Their frequency of visits, time on site, device(s) used, amount spent and type of products bought? If not it can seem to make sense to attribute changes in traffic, interactions and ecommerce performance to campaigns or promotions, when in fact they may only be part of the picture. One customer group may have been influenced by a promotion whilst another is just behaving as usual.
Of course marketing certainly plays its part in affecting customer behaviour, so do you refer to all your offline activities when looking at your web analytics? Do you have a calendar of your TV adverts, when they were shown, and what they were promoting? Did you have a stand at a trade show recently or a pop-up shop in a local town centre? Maybe there was an in-store promotion or you sponsored a big one off event like the Olympics. All of these events could easily, and indeed should, see an increase in activity on your website. If the people managing your analytics don’t know all of these other things are going on they can’t factor them in when explaining why visits from natural search are up or why there was a sudden spike in traffic just after Coronation Street for a specific product. It’s also important to have these records as campaigns are quickly forgotten about when you move on to the next one, so when it comes to historical comparisons no one will remember what TV advert was running 6 months ago and for exactly how long. Therefore your analyst won’t be able to include them for consideration and can’t give you the whole picture.
One final area to cover is site maintenance. IT work on your website can also affect its performance no matter how effective your marketing is. Anything like downtime, launch of a mobile site, change of hosting provider, sections of your site added to or removed, change in URL structure and set-up of redirects should all be noted down and kept somewhere that your marketing and analytics people can access easily. No one wants their marketing people thinking they’ve run a disastrous campaign when in fact there was unexpected downtime due to a security breach of the firewall. At the risk of repeating myself, when it comes to historical reporting this kind of information is invaluable when trying to work out the peaks and troughs in site performance.
Without a calendar or record of the above scenarios that anyone can easily refer to, you’re leaving your analysts pretty impotent in their ability to give you a complete picture of what impact everything your business is doing is having on your online performance. An added bonus is your partner agencies will love you too; it will help them enormously by clearly showing all contributing factors to their success or failure and therefore what they can and can’t affect going forward. You don’t need a whole load of infrastructure and implementation to make this happen, with a little re-education and some new habits in place you’re there.
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