It's Not About the Web Analytics Tool; It Is About Engagement (Part 1)

  |  September 21, 2011   |  Comments   |  

Forget about web analytics tools. Consider this approach to measure online.

In the past 12 years since I have worked with an agency, I have seen unlimited number of website reports, including the comprehensive reports generated by world-class-enterprise-level software systems. These reports are typically over 50 pages with a lot of numbers, professional diagrams, and charts. To be honest, I hate those reports. Because it gives very little insights and no one is looking at them at all. It's more like checking off on an item on a checklist just because we need to get it over and done with.

Yet, we are still trying to figure out the answer to the same question that was asked a century ago - which half of the advertising money is wasted?

A lot of people think that technology and tools are probably not good enough. They always go around asking, "What tools are good?" I have to say asking this question without a good understanding of what you need is probably one of the most common mistakes. Basically, you are letting the tools decide what you can measure, without sufficient thought on what you should measure. If you have no idea what you need to measure, this is a people problem, not a technology or tools problem.

So, today, I will not talk about the web analytics tools. Instead, I want to start out by saying let's focus on the big picture - your target audience - and forget about web analytics tools for now.

The problem with many of the web analytics tools is that they are focusing on the numbers related to the traffic of your website: such as the number of visitors, page views, bounce rates, most popular pages, etc. These aggregate numbers are the numbers that the tools can measure but they tell you nothing about your target audience. What you should measure is the engagement of your target audience on your website.

I always say that engaging with the target audience on your website is like dating. It's actually the analogy that my industry friends and I always use. Online advertising is like flirting, being very attractive, going to places where you can meet your target audience and get them to click. When they come to your website, it means that they are interested, and you want to tell them how great your products and services are so that they will buy. This is dating. Once your target audience purchases your products, they become your customers and this is the beginning of a real relationship. The goal is to develop a long-lasting strong relationship so that you can continue to sell more. This is CRM.

Regardless, if it's dating or website engagement, the right approach should always be:

1. Ask the right question 2. It's all about engagement (quality, not quantity) 3. Focus on your actions

These are the main topics that I am going to cover today.

1. Ask the right question

There are always a lot of questions about what are the metrics for websites, search, or social media but I think those are the wrong questions to begin with.

When we are trying to achieve a goal or solve a problem, there are two approaches: bottom-up or top-down.

As a data person, I am a bottom-up thinker. I collect tons of data, group them, find results, identify patterns and then draw conclusions. As a business decision maker, I have to be a top-down thinker. This approach works best in the business world because time and budget are always limited. In most cases, it's much more cost effective to formulate your hypothesis and then test it rather than spend a lot of time and effort collecting, analysing and drawing conclusions from the data.

This is one of the reasons why it is difficult to make any business decisions based on the 50-page website report, because it has too much information and it's not structured for decision-making purposes.

Therefore, we should all start with asking the right question first – how is the website making an impact on my business?

2. It's all about the engagement (quality, not quantity)

When you meet a new person, the most important thing is to engage in a conversation. It's the same thing when a new visitor comes to your website. The quality of the interactions is definitely more important than web traffic (quantity).

All businesses are different. Depending on the business objectives, there are always different key success factors and goals when you are trying to engage your visitors. If you are an e-commerce website, you want your visitor to take action and buy your product. If you are B2B website, you want your visitor to request for a product demo. You may have a newsletter that you want to send out to visitors and so need email addresses.

Different visitor's actions mean different levels of engagement. Therefore, this is what we should do –track their behaviour on the website and assign engagement value (i.e. points) based on the level of engagement. The following is an example for the B2B case:

Why is it important?

If you go on a thousand blind dates with random people and have no idea whom you are talking to and what are you going to get... it's just a waste of time! Similarly, as the visitors move through your website, you want to build a profile of what they value, who they are, their interests, and what stage they are on in the consumer journey. It's important to know, so that you can develop a strategy that focuses on the actions accordingly.

(Part two of this post will cover point No. 3: 'Focus on your actions').

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Joni Ngai

Joni Ngai is an Evangelist for Sitecore International. She works with business leaders to help them to realize the potential of how data and technology can help to target, acquire and retain customers more intelligently in today's connected world.

Other than her Evangelist job with Sitecore, she is a lecturer teaching graduate course for the Master of Science in New Media program at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She also serves as Technical Editor for "Developing Analytic Talent: Becoming a Data Scientist" (to be published in 2014) for global publisher John Wiley & Sons. In 2012, Joni was appointed as Vice Chair for China at I-COM, an industry-backed global forum in digital measurement. She servers on the global advisory board and nominated as Co-Chair of the Data Track of I-COM Global Summit in 2014.

Joni has extensive experience across digital, CRM, online media, analytics and technology development. She started her digital consulting career with Razorfish in New York in 2000. Since then, she has worked with a number of digital agencies across the Asia-Pacific region for many global brands, such as Intel, Microsoft and P&G.

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