Multi-channel analytics technology is outpacing the customers' ability to comprehend and utilize. Columnist Andrew Edwards explains.
The short answer is "yes," at least for now.
The most important factor in a successful multi-channel analytics effort is the proper deployment of complex data collection and analysis in an even more complex digital marketing environment. Nearly every organization is currently grappling with the need to understand the success of multiple properties across multiple channels, while vendors are racing to supply them with the means for doing so.
It sounds like a great combination--a dovetail of supply and demand.
However, it isn't working today and the challenges to success seem steeper than ever.
Many Vendors, Few Solutions
There is no shortage of multi-channel analytics vendors. In fact, as mentioned in the Convergence Analytics 2.0 report, there are probably too many vendors working in this space. Further, too many are making the same claims without sufficient differentiation.
Meanwhile, some of the top vendors (like Adobe) are now creating complete content optimization suites that provide the ability to create, measure and optimize digital properties within the same cloud-based offering.
All this should mean that marketers have lots of choices; oversupply should be a boon.
Except it isn't working out that way.
You could say the challenge is related to confusion, but most organizations are not confused about what they need, nor are competing vendor claims getting in the way of deployment.
The main reason for the crisis in analytics today is that the technology is racing ahead of what customers really need and what they can profitably deploy. The gap between vendor capability and customer expertise is widening and may be approaching a stage of critical failure.
We know that many customers continue to struggle with more basic analytics challenges than those suggested by multi-channel, big-data efforts. An enormous and neglected challenge is that of talent deployment (or lack thereof). There's a premium on technicians, analysts and expertise in multi-channel analytics, in general. Outside of the small vendor communities where experts naturally congregate, there are very few practitioner-experts dealing with digital data and its consequences.
Perhaps the primary barrier to adoption and success is lack of expertise.
Marketers are Not Technologists
Analytics solutions have existed for nearly twenty years, yet today (in some but not all organizations), there remains an only rudimentary understanding of how these tools function and what they deliver.
This suggests a fundamental disconnect between vendors and practitioners.
Vendors are by nature technologists; marketers are not. In a unique marketplace, where technology interacts directly with a constituency that is not technological by nature, the disconnect becomes acute.
Vendors build more and more complexity and "actionability" into their tools because the technology allows them to do so. Too often, though, they neglect to make the tools suitable for deployment by the practitioners to whom they are selling. They are building muscle cars when customers would rather have a fuel-efficient pickup truck.
Marketers look for solutions, but they're not getting them. Instead, they are offered complex, even arcane toolkits they are asked to navigate and activate as if they were also technologists. Too often, the effort fails. There are too many moving parts, interface and data collection problems; there's not enough expertise in operation of digital marketing tools or the interpretation of data.
It's entirely possible that technological capability has begun to outstrip the common ability to comprehend and socialize its ramification.
It's easy enough to suggest every organization needs to embrace multi-channel analytics and perfect their conversation with their customers based on observable behaviors. But even veteran analytics teams too often "max out" with web analytics; it's a stretch for them to accommodate even a modest extension like mobile analytics. Add social, CRM, sales and supply-chain, and the most likely scenario is disorganization and dysfunction.
Ground Control to Major Tom
Vendors are floating in low-gravity cyberspace. They can see how technology can help marketers optimize their offerings and to them, it seems it ought to be rather effortless. But the gap between their ability to create technology that can do these things and their ability to create applications marketers can easily use is large and growing.
Meanwhile, marketers are feeling burdened and earthbound. They are struggling with data collection, knowing full well that without good data collection, there is no benefit to analytics. They are struggling with organization, understanding that analytics governance is a dream yet to be achieved. And they're looking at the sophisticated marketing suites available to them and scratching their heads.
The trend is towards larger and larger disconnects. Marketers are calling out to vendors to come back to earth, to help them solve the basic, rather boring problems of getting the small things right before they try to conquer new worlds. Plain, vanilla web analytics can be hard enough to implement for many marketers. How can vendors expect practitioners to graduate to new analytics challenges before they have seen enough value in tools they've been using for years?
Is there a latitude where vendors can meet practitioners and come up with real solutions? Vendors need to come back to earth. Marketers need to make more room for digital expertise in their budgets.
If vendors stay in the stratosphere and marketers remain bogged down, the result is radio silence. We should fully expect multi-channel analytics to fail until the gap between application capability and expertise is narrowed.
Andrew V. Edwards is a digital marketing executive with 20 years of experience serving large organizations, and has been an operating executive and digital marketing consultant since the 1980s.
In 2004 Edwards 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.
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