How much does multi-channel analytics really help the marketer?
It's hard to believe it was only six months ago when ClickZ published the first Convergence Analytics Report that I co-authored. We just launched the second Convergence Analytics report at SES San Francisco and I feel like we were barely able to document some of the latest changes taking place in digital analytics today. Suffice it to say things are moving very, very fast in this field.
Our tag line for the first report was "everybody's measuring everything". We were referring to the way nearly every vendor and many practitioners were planning to broaden their web analytics plans to include social, mobile, demographic, seasonal, advertising, customer relationship management (CRM) data and more into a single discipline.
Some folks call it "multi-channel analytics". We called it Convergence Analytics because we were describing the convergence of many channels into a single tool—but also because we were describing how a multitude of vendors were converging on the notion of providing a single view into many measurement channels.
Today the rush to single-vendor solutions seems more headlong than ever.
But just because everybody's doing it, does that mean it's a good thing?
Allow me to answer that question with a definite "maybe".
It's a "good thing" if certain criteria are followed:
In our second report we called out a number of factors that seemed to be impeding adoption of what really is a good idea - the ability to see more data at once, more quickly and at lower overall cost.
The biggest problem in a volatile market like this is that it's very confusing for the buyer. There are simply too many analytics vendors talking about the same thing. Some are aligning what they say with what they deliver, and that's the way it ought to be.
Many more are shoehorning themselves into what sounds good at the moment, and at the moment that might be multi-channel analytics. Paraphrasing an old Love Story, "SaaS means never having to say you don't do that."
Tomorrow the same vendors will pull back and say they are vertical (specialized for a single-market or single-solution) and would not dream of trying to be all things to all people when their tool is limited or perhaps unfocused. Because that would be dumb. And because investors aren't putting their money into companies that say they measure everything for everyone all the time (which is probably true).
The ability to look at more information from more sources in one place is prima facie advantageous. For the general public, a device that provided this would have been called (until recently) "the newspaper". For digital businesses, it's more technological and less obvious, but it's the same sound principle: the more you can know about your world, the better decisions you can make.
A newspaper might have told you it was likely to rain later. Better put on your boots. And it might have told you the garbage collectors were striking so you might also want to pack a posey. What about an analytics tool that could tell you how web was affecting mobile, and further, help you automate the content served to specific customers in your CRM database?
A digital analytics tool that would tell you only what was going on with your web pages, and assuming you didn't have other ways to measure or act upon the rest of your digital properties, would be a prime candidate for retirement. Is it any wonder why, with the sudden emergence of a hundred and one digital channels, that every company that ever measured anything, and some that really never did, would flop towards the concept like seals to a bucket of mackerel?
Seals are smarter than that, and so are most vendors. The bucket of mackerel has only a certain amount of fish in it. And the notion that to measure everything is something everybody can do is more than a little bit fishy. Vendors without strong, integrated offerings and enough cash or customers to stay competitive will either go the way of all seals or find another pool to swim in.
Some market-leading companies, and some very capable upstarts will thrive and prosper in Convergence Analytics. They will find customers that have the right expertise and processes in place to make worthwhile the effort of deploying a complex measurement application. Their tools will be powerful, different and useful, rather than just cleverly described.
I believe the future will see marketers looking at multiple streams of data in contextually relevant ways that help drive their marketing programs more quickly, more efficiently and in a way that yields more tangible results.
At that time, the "maybe" I suggested above would become a more definite "yes". But until we can better understand how to select and deploy the right technologies and disciplines at the right time, we are just splashing around in the crowded, shallow end of the pool.
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Andrew is a digital marketing executive with 20 years' experience servicing the enterprise customer. Currently he is Managing Partner at Efectyv Digital, a digital marketing consulting company, and Managing Partner at Technology Leaders, a web analytics consulting firm he founded in 2002. He combines extensive technical knowledge with a broad strategic understanding of digital marketing and especially digital measurement, plus hands-on creative in the form of the written word, user-experience and traditional design.
His practice is dedicated to building customers' digital marketing success and helping them save money during the process.
He is a writer, a public speaker and a visual artist as well.
His book "Digital is Destroying Everything—and What Comes Next" will be published by Pearson in the Spring of 2014. He writes a regular column about Analytics for ClickZ, the 2013 Online Publisher of the Year. He wrote the groundbreaking "Dawn of Convergence Analytics" report which was featured at the SES show in New York, and the second report in the series will be featured at the same show in San Francisco.
In addition to speaking at SES, he has presented at eMetrics; and his session was voted one of the top ten presentations at the DMA show in Las Vegas. He is speaking again at the DMA in Chicago in the fall of 2013.
In 2004 Andrew co-founded the Digital Analytics Association and is currently a Director Emeritus. He has designed analytics training curricula for business teams and has led seminars on digital marketing subjects.
He was also an Adjunct Professor at The Pratt Institute where he taught Advanced Computer Graphics for 3 years. Andrew is also an award-winning, nationally exhibited painter.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT