How Big Brands Embrace Analytics

I’m just back from the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit in London. It was a busy two days, with presentations on different subjects from a variety of organizations. I kicked off the conference by looking at the journey the organizations are on, from Web reporting to marketing optimization, and I took the opportunity to describe some of the necessary requirements along the way.

First, there’s the need to get the basics right. This means getting the right numbers right and having key performance indicators (KPIs) aligned with business goals that are strategic, actionable, easy to understand, and based on valid data. Once this is done, businesses can optimize their digital marketing processes.

Plus, they must be organizationally prepared to optimize. Previously, I’ve addressed the need for organizations to have the ability to execute. There’s no point generating all the insight required for optimization if you can’t do anything about it.

Finally, there’s the need for “customer centricity,” which means getting beyond the one-size-fits-all approach to digital marketing. That also requires developing an understanding of your customer segments and the role that digital channels play within the relationship between them and your brand.

It’s comforting to see these themes reinforced by executives from big brands in the U.K. and Europe. Julian Brewer, head of online sales at Barclays Bank, talked about the journey his organization has been on, from activity counting to customer intimacy, and how Barclays now wants to deploy its Web analytics fare more operationally to move toward customer tailoring.

Dell’s Angus Cormie discussed the computer maker’s Voice of the Customer program, which includes the organization-wide deployment of a customer satisfaction tool and the work now beginning in monitoring and understanding the impact of social media and Web 2.0 activity on its brand. Cormie explained why Dell felt it needed “better listening skills,” which reminded me that it’s not just about having the “voice of the customer” but actually listen to it. Also of interest: how Dell has worked to measure the ROI (define) for the Voice of the Customer program. Understanding and quantifying the ROI of the measurement systems and analytics are notoriously difficult things to do. However, Dell estimates there was a very short payback period on its investments.

As at the eMetrics Summit in San Francisco a couple weeks ago, I caught up on the latest thinking around the social media space. Listening to panelists on the subject reminded me of the debate around Web analytics five years ago. A lot of discussion focused on the data-capture and reporting technology and measurement accuracy. There’s also the obvious need to develop some standards in this particular part of the industry so people know what these measurements are and how they are defined. (The Web Analytics Association is beginning to address this.)

I also got an insight into how media companies use analytics these days from the U.K.’s Channel 4and “The New York Times.” The Channel 4 executive talked about challenges involved in tying Web metrics with business metrics. The NYT professional showed us some of the work the paper has been doing in cross-channel analytics, tying Web data with circulation data and understanding the impact of online activity on circulations sales and vice versa.

One of the more interesting presentations came from E-consultancy‘s work on understanding how to measure the effects of online public relations. Because E-consultancy had been saying companies should measure the effects of online PR activities, it put its money where its mouth is by carrying out its own study. It set up an online PR campaign and measured to the best of its ability the campaign’s impact in monetary terms. While it saw a positive ROI from the online PR campaign, there was an additional benefit from improved SEO (define) performance.

All in all, having been to two eMetrics conferences in the past few weeks, I can’t say that there was a massive difference in the issues being discussed in the United States and the United Kingdom Core themes revolve around the need to move to a more analytical framework, develop a tight analytics ecosystem, listen more, and work out the challenge of measuring social media. The scale and emphasis may be different, but the main issues were the same.

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