The combination of "big data," access to cloud computing, fancy algorithms, and unprecedented visualization capabilities has created an emerging new class of analytics tools for the marketer.
I call this relatively new field "Convergence Analytics."
Think of convergence analytics as the marketing equivalent of "one ring to rule them all." It's still in its infancy as a discipline. But there are several players in the market already and they're working hard to pull together data sources from web usage, call centers, CRM, campaign data, demographics, competitive data, and anything that gets captured off a click, keyword, mobile tap, or any number of other customer touch points. They're also using advanced data gathering and data regularization strategies to create a dashboard-like experience for the marketer.
For some, this will sound like "business intelligence" (BI) recycled and molded into a more shapely, marketer-friendly package. And to an extent they would be correct. Several entrants in the market are calling themselves "BI for marketers" and their DNA is in the quant arena where power users build cubes and drilldowns in now-rather-hoary tools like Cognos and Hyperion. These tools are familiar to the serious data consumer, are not point-and-click, not report-oriented, and probably give marketers the screaming fantods just thinking about them.
But BI for marketers promises to be different.
Companies like Anametrix, GoodData, and Domo are taking what feels like a large helping of web analytics (cloud-based, report-oriented, visually appealing interface) with more traditional BI data sources and wrapping them into software services that help you run your business by the numbers. GoodData says that "infrastructure is a commodity" and what it means is that cloud computing has made it possible for even smaller businesses to access enterprise-level parsing power - to rent big data software rather than buying a big rig of iron and a team of Ph.D.'s to run command line requests. Anametrix wants you to connect all your vendor data, analyze across channels, and uncover "entirely new revenue opportunities." It refers to itself as a digital analytics company but I think that's actually too modest. Like GoodData and Domo ( "the user experience BI has been missing for 25 years"), Anametrix is part of what seems like an industry in search of an identity.
But that's just a marketing and positioning factor. The end-user may care less about the slogans once they learn what kind of power is now available in these new offerings.
They are converging around the idea that you can analyze multiple streams of data in a dashboard, and that you don't have to have golden pockets or a propeller-hat to see patterns and make inferences from disparate sources. Much as web analytics, a decade ago, would have taken the world's geekiest log file and spun it up into an array of dashboards and comparisons that today marketers depend on for insight about their digital assets; these companies and others like them are building toward a new paradigm for all data. Leveraging the relative openness of data these days, the ability to utilize stored procedures, and the ability to extract, normalize, and load data into common formats, they are creating new ways to see hidden insights heretofore available only to the few. We are witnessing next-generation analytics platforms rising to prominence. Older, more mature web analytics tools are adding features all the time: application programming interfaces (APIs) are helping them cobble more and more information sets into their already robust but somewhat aging infrastructures.
But as often happens, it's those who have taken a fresh look at the landscape; who have built new schema from the ground up; who have no laurels nor old source code to rest upon (or be hindered by); it's the new kids on the block who will start driving the message home for marketers that it isn't just about digital measuring digital anymore. It's the whole show. It's one-ring-to-rule-them-all. They may not quite have it nailed yet, but they're in early versions, and they're raising money and building fast.
We can't say for sure who the winners will be. And we won't try to say it's all drag-and-drop either. Just like with any enterprise solution (software as a service (SaaS) or not), you still have to plan right and configure well and get the technical nuts and bolts tightened before seeing anything worthwhile. But don't be surprised to see tools like these taking the place of one or more traditional analytics tools in the not-too-distant future.
It's the dawn of convergence analytics.
Sunrise in the sea image via Shutterstock.
This column was originally published on August 13, 2012.
Andrew Edwards is CEO at Technology Leaders, a web analytics consulting company he founded in 2002, and Managing Partner at Efectyv Marketing. He is also a founding member of the Web Analytics Association.
At Technology Leaders, Andrew created the firm's web analytics practice and has been involved in rolling out this service to hundreds of different customers worldwide. Technology Leaders provides web analytics and web site user-tracking expertise to leading organizations throughout North America and the world. The firm specializes in providing both business and technical skills to serve the complex digital marketing needs of its customers.
Andrew speaks and writes regularly about the latest trends in digital marketing and web analytics. He's the creator of the "e5o" virtuous digital marketing cycle as well as the "4x5 conversion cube" that compartmentalizes the approach to conversion for different site types in different stages of the customer lifecycle.
Andrew is an award-winning, nationally exhibited painter and his work is in numerous private collections.
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