Analytics Move From What to How

As I write this, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit in Washington, D.C., is drawing to a close and I’m trying to process all the inputs and turn them into some outputs of the core themes and takeaways. Tough job, there’s been a lot of stuff to process.

A key message at several sessions was that people had moved on from talking about the “what” to the “how.” The talks focused less on defining Web analytics, optimization, and multivariate testing, and more on how to embed Web analytics into an organization, create a testing culture, and move toward a performance-driven organization.

We know the tools in the toolbox. Now we need to figure out how to use them better and to get other people in the organization on board. There were still some presentations that covered the “what” type questions, but they seemed to mostly revolve around newer technologies and the emerging measurement practices, such as social media and mobile analytics.

A parallel theme that came through was the sense that some organizations or people within these organizations are hitting a glass ceiling. They deployed the tools, generated data, and created reports, but are struggling to take it to the next level. They saw the opportunity but couldn’t make the breakthrough.

Bill Gassman, a Gartner analyst, outlined requirements to move an organization’s analytics capability forward. First, he advises to have senior “C” level sponsorship.

I’ve just finished reading Tom Davenport‘s book, “Competing on Analytics” and time and time again he points out that companies that successfully deploy an enterprise-wide approach to analytics usually have someone at the top making it happen. The question then becomes: How you go about getting that support?

Gassman seems to agree with one approach I described in “Getting Analytics into the Organization.” He recommends starting small and building momentum. It’s interesting that some issues we encounter in Europe aren’t all that different than some of the issues being raised here in the U.S.

A conference highlight was listening to Google’s analytics evangelist Avinash Kaushik unveil the latest enhancements to Google Analytics. You sensed it was what the crowd had been waiting for. It’s not often you see a vendor being applauded for announcing feature releases.

Of the various developments, two caught my attention. First is the new advanced segmentation feature. I’m a big fan of the ability to filter and segment data, so any developments in this area are welcome. Providing a segmentation capability in a tool like Google Analytics will encourage property owners to look beyond the topline numbers and start thinking about their site in terms of different groups of visitors behaving in different ways. Hopefully people start to drill down into their data.

The other feature that caught my eye was the announcement of a Google Analytics API (define) to allow access to underlying analytics data. Details weren’t available at the moment, but data integration is a key feature for an enterprise-level tool. There are many hacks out there for getting data out of Google Analytics. Hopefully the API will make this easier. Google seems to recognize that Web analytics data can’t operate in a silo.

Finally, Jason Carmel, a senior optimization manager at ZAAZ, inspired me with his presentation, Effectively Using Kittens for Optimization and Usability. (Go figure!) He looked at how site optimization tools such as Optimost and Google Website Optimizer are complementary to user-centric design processes and usability-based optimization.

He outlined the process by which the two can work together in site optimization projects; site optimization tools basically tell you what’s working and the usability analysis shows you why it’s working and how to use usability experts to improve the quality of the site optimization tests. It reinforced to me that you will always need more than one tool in the toolbox to get the job done properly.

Related reading