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:
- the practitioner has in place both expertise and a process for deployment and action
- the vendor is in fact delivering an integrated, robust and accurate solution
- expectations are kept in check
- costs are managed
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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