Some thoughts on the status quo of analytics and data in europe

Companies in the web analytics industry tend to position themselves as an agency – integrating analytics in a traditional core offering (often in the strategy/planning or in the evolution/optimization phase) –  as specializing in a tool/implementation or as a dedicated analytics consultancy. I think it is about time to move beyond this in several ways.

It is time to reiterate some things about where we as an industry should go and to extend some others

  • We have to integrate our still limited reporting-analysis-optimization approach into two additional main areas of our agencies or the online departments we work in: Strategy on the one hand and Customer Experience Management on the other. I personally find the latter more useful and rewarding to customer/business objectives.
  • Tools are one part of the equation, an important one, and an aligned methodology is the other part. Most companies in the industry decide on one or the other. It has been emphasized before: Working on an ecosystem of tools is essential, working with this ecosystem based on a aligned and defined methodology is the second important step. In my opinion it is useless to redevelop what is already there on the market but it needs to be intelligently combined, integrated and customized. The methods and people should not be underestimated, but the tools and their power shouldn’t be either.
  • The industry and customers still tend to see analytics mainly as a vehicle to improve navigation, conversion, campaign clicks. We need to clearly go beyond this by:
    • Using data also to inform cost- and efficiency-based decisions when producing content, digital assets and media. This goes far above campaign analysis or attribution;. We are also deciding about internal and external production costs based on successful usage, sharing and customer value. (Important piece for ecommerce and Marketing Services Platform)
    • Using data to drive other production and cost-relevant decisions in product areas. User choices and behavior should inform product design, product cycles, production and inventory levels.
  • For years,  we have analyzed data from specific behaviors to derive insights: Onsite navigation, choices, paths, conversion and offsite media usage/responses. Important insights will also come from ignoring (!) media and content, metadata around content and data, data sharing, user generated content production/consumption and more.
  • We have to go beyond traditional agency boundaries. In Germany we still have large chunks of optimization efforts driven by specialized agencies with inadequate tools that focus only on their small word of campaigns or assets. Becoming holistic here even goes beyond campaign attribution or integrating all campaign data, to include all onsite behavioral and transactional data. What online businesses really need is a measurement and analysis agency or department to completely own and continuously enrich data sets on customer segments, behavior transactions and opinions.
  • In this we need a new breed of analysis and insights, blended teams of data experts, information architects, usability and user experience specialists and researchers/planners. This will be a real differentiator and competitive advantage few agencies, consultants or customers take advantage of right now.
  • We have to get ahead of privacy and legislation. The right path in the middle addressing customer concerns and business needs, in the middle of fulfilling legal obligations and questioning them when they are overdone is as important as open communication about data usage and its benefits to the users instead of hiding actions and intent.

Important hint: Germany’s most important digital conference “Next” has chosen its topic for 2011 – It is (and I really dig it) “Data Love