Add a Little Chaos to Your Data

Data is the hot trend for 2012. With digital efforts representing more of the brand budget, there’s a rush to figure out how to better optimize a fixed budget to drive bigger results. Anyone who has been in the industry long enough knows that regardless of what the data says, looking at it in different ways can usually shed light on a good story. In the competitiveness of marketing and advertising, we sometimes focus on our own performance and how good “we” did with a measurement of performance more reflective of corporate objectives.

According to the Forrester Consulting study “Data Driven Design,” digital professionals stated the most important team performance metrics were the ability to complete projects on time or faster (65 percent) and the ability to complete projects on or under budget (64 percent). Trailing behind these metrics were things that truly impacted the customer, such as bringing to market new ideas. When solely focusing on speed and budget efficiencies as these numbers show, the best, most innovative solution might be hidden. These numbers only tell the story in black and white.

There is an abundance of data available from industry, business, customer, website, advertising, and social media. The attribution model is in overdrive attempting to crack the code of exactly where you should spend that extra dollar in an effort to increase productivity efficiencies and drive a stronger return on investment (ROI). While there are many types of data, looking at it in silos often leads to more tactical executions or optimizations to improve performance within that channel; however, in order to truly take a step back, you must first look at your objectives and complete an audit of all of your available data. This will allow you to look at the different channels and sources to begin to see a more holistic picture. During the audit, you can peel apart what key performance indicators (KPIs) are available within each source and what other variables could be valuable as well. While closely looking at the numbers, stories tend to emerge around areas of improvement and opportunity.

Additionally, we need to ask the bigger questions. How does this data relate to the overall business objective, customer experience, or key brand drivers? Or the most obtuse question: why should we care?

Taking the quantitative data and adding a little qualitative research can be extremely beneficial. While the data may tell you where there are issues with a specific part of a website, digging further through qualitative research or user testing can uncover “why” there is an issue. Qualitative analysis could include focus groups, user interviews, behavioral segmentation, usability testing, eye tracking studies, or ethnography. In order to tell the full story from beginning to end, we must understand the customer journey and take the data plus these additional insights to improve performance. This process doesn’t just hold true for website performance, but all customer touch points where we use data to evaluate performance.

We need to push it further. We need to find the opportunities to shine. Adding the “color” to any project always comes with challenges. Holes are opened, and it gets messy. Typically, adding this color can start with asking a few questions. Below are a few ways to add a little chaos that by no means saves money initially, but will make everyone a little smarter to save time and energy in the long run.

  • Get other team members or departments involved. When analyzing the data, often including diverse teams offers a fresh perspective and alternative insights that were never considered. Also, it can work better to ensure solutions are not only answering current problems, but future problems as well.
  • If something appears to be performing optimally, understand “why” it is; don’t just learn to prefabricate the situation.
  • Continue testing regardless of how well the data is leading you to optimize. The digital world changes rapidly and what is optimal one day still has the opportunity to perform better.
  • If the data can tell multiple stories, what is it really saying? Are there some unanswered questions that would be better served with a little multi-variable testing of some hypotheses rather than running with what appears to be the “winning” answer.
  • Don’t get caught up in the big picture so much that you can’t move anything forward. A well-laid plan includes a roadmap with a better vision, but also includes quick wins and how that can play into feeding insights and performance in the future. No one likes a bottleneck.

At the end of the day, digging beyond the cold, dry numbers and looking outside the data can be so much more rewarding for employees. If it’s really done the right way, the consumer wins too.

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