Trends in Marketing Analytics 2009

It’s been a busy couple of weeks on the conference circuit.

There was the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit in Washington, DC, last week and Webtrends’ Engage conference in London this month.

At its conference, Webtrends showed off some of its latest stuff. It appears it’s working hard on its messaging and getting a distinctive market position. Core brand themes were: power, elegance, and openness. “Elegance” referred to the usability of the solution for anyone using the tool. It built an in-house user experience team to ensure that the company has the right focus on making the data as accessible and digestible as possible. Information visualization is definitely on the agenda at the moment. “Openness” referred to the ability to get data in and out of the application via APIs (define). As someone who thinks that Web data should be liberated and not locked into reporting tools, I can approve of this approach.

EMetrics was the usual three days of input, stimulation, and networking. Jim Sterne, the summit’s producer, kicked off proceedings by challenging us to focus on turning Web intelligence into business value. During some of the summit’s presentations, there were great examples of how that’s being done. One such presentation came from Joe Megibow, vice president of global analytics and optimization at Expedia. Megibow took us through some initiatives and changes in analytics at Expedia over the past six months, following a global re-organization of the business. Some of the work he and his team are doing to tackle marketing attribution problems was interesting, but more interesting were his thoughts about how to get analytics and optimization initiatives higher up the food chain.

Megibow’s advice included the need to construct meaningful narratives, i.e., add insight and interpretation, rather than just hand over the numbers. That resonated with me as I’m always asking my analysts to tell a story rather than just present a bunch of charts. Other useful bits of advice from Megibow were to do less but accomplish more and to start small and communicate. It’s clear to me that he’s focused on delivering business value. In response to a question, he said that at the moment he wouldn’t grow his team because the business wouldn’t be able to necessarily get more things done from the insights it generated. Therefore, the return on investment from the additional hires would be zero. At the end of the day, the return on investment from analytics depends on an organization’s ability to execute on the findings.

Another takeaway from the conference: measurement of some newer digital channels is still hard to do. When it comes to the measurement of mobile, audio, video, and social media, people are figuring it out as they go along. So it was good to see some approaches that companies were taking to the measurement of these various channels. What struck me is there are an increasing number of possible tools that can be used, particularly in the social media monitoring and measurement space. A bit like the dot-com days 10 years ago, it’s tempting for companies to jump on the latest bandwagon without being clear about what their objectives are and what they want to get out of it. So planning is key, and the measurement approach follows from that.

Sterne wrapped up the conference with a quick digest of the things that he had learned from the eMetrics conference in San Jose, CA, in May. He discussed highlights of the “Analysis Symposium” that lead to his report on “101 Things That You Should Know” about analysis. When doing analysis, he said, you should make it:

  • About people
  • Actionable
  • Not about you
  • Prioritized
  • Intriguing
  • Pre-determined
  • Compelling (rather than precise)
  • Palatable
  • Relevant (to the individual)
  • A treasure hunt

And finally, you should make it happen.” I don’t think you can say it better than that.

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