Time for Analytics to Come in From the Cold

In the coming year, there will be a big opportunity to increase the impact that digital analytics and insights teams can have on their corporations. As planning horizons and measurement cycles get shorter, more emphasis will be placed on understanding and optimizing the direct response model. This where digital and direct marketing analysts traditionally ply their trade.

However, it’s not merely a question of doing more of the same and doing it more often. Now’s the time for digital analysts to expand their influence on the organization. As Tom Davenport, author of “Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning” puts it: “The planets are aligned for analytics.” He suggests that the fundamentals are now in place that will allow for analytical approaches to thrive in business. We have the data and we have the technology to manage and manipulate that data.

In light of the economic downturn, we also have the motive. Organizations will be looking for solutions and digital analysts are well placed to provide them. To do that though, digital analysts must increasingly position themselves as data integrators and multi-channel specialists.

We have Web analytics data, campaign data, survey data, customer data, and so on. Quite often each of these data sources will have a different business owner either within the organization or in an agency. The value of each data source is diminished when housed and analyzed in isolation; the full value comes from layering in data sources to look at different aspects of a particular problem. To do this, analysts must become masters of the data universe and be able to understand and leverage these data sources. They need to understand the nuances of each data source and explain these nuances to business users who may not comprehend the differences between the different types of information at their disposal.

So on one level, digital analysts have the opportunity to deliver increased value by taking a more holistic view when addressing issues in the digital channel. On another level, digital analysts can take the lead in the development of multi-channel analytical approaches. At the heart of multi-channel analytics is customer analytics. However, quite often in organizations, the practice of customer analytics tends to ignore the digital channel and the interaction between the online and offline channel is often not well understood.

For many industries, the Internet has become the primary tool for researching brands, products, and services even if the final transaction takes place offline. One only has to look at travel and financial services as two examples where it is probably safe to say that the vast bulk of product research takes place online. Because the Internet operates “upstream” in many customer acquisition processes, it’s in the digital community’s interest to understand and demonstrate the influence the channel has in the “downstream” conversion process irrespective of whether it happens online or offline. Therefore, development of multi-channel measurement techniques is the domain of digital analysts so return on investment in the channel can be better understood. Once better multi-channel measurement processes are in place, it becomes possible to develop better multi-channel marketing processes.

So if the planets are aligned for analytics, then it’s time for digital analytics to come in from the cold and exert its influence beyond the realms of a single data source in a single channel. Data integration and multi-channel analytics is becoming the name of the game in 2009.

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