Perspectives Matter in Analytics
Every type of data and analytics has its place, and none are almighty. Marketers literally track every breath you take and every move you make when it comes to online activities. So-called “analytical solution providers” are making fortunes collecting data and analyzing them. Clickstream data are the major reasons why data got so big; and, thanks to them, we started using the term “Big Data.” It is very difficult to navigate through this complex world, so marketers spend a great amount of time and resources to figure out where they stand. Weekly reports that come out of such data are easily hundreds of pages (figuratively), and before marketers get to understand all those figures, a new set of reports lands on their laps (again, metaphorically). It is like having to look at the dashboard of a car without a break when driving it at full speed. Such a cycle continues, and the analysts get into a perpetual motion of pumping out reports.
I am not discounting the value of such reporting at all. When a rocket ship is being launched, literally hundreds of people look at their screens all simultaneously just to see how the process is going. However, if the rocket ship is in trouble, there isn’t much one can do by looking at the numbers other than, “Uh-oh, based on these figures, we have a serious engine problem right now.” And such reporting certainly does not tell anyone whether one should have launched the vehicle at that particular moment in time with that pre-set destination. Such analytics are completely different from analyzing every turn when moving at a full speed.
Marketers get lost because they look at the given sets of numbers looking for answers, while the metrics and reports are designed for some other purpose. At times, we need to change the perspective completely. For instance, looking at every click will not provide accurate sales projections on a personal or product level. Once in a while it may be correct, but such predictions can easily be thrown off with a slight jolt in the system. It gets worse when there is no direct correlation between clicks and conversions; as such things are heavily dependent upon business models and the site design (i.e., actions of marketers, not buyers).
Stephen H. Yu is a world-class database marketer. He has a proven track record in comprehensive strategic planning and tactical execution, effectively bridging the gap between the marketing and technology world with a balanced view obtained from more than 30 years of experience in best practices of database marketing. Currently, Yu is president and chief consultant at Willow Data Strategy. Previously, he was the head of analytics and insights at eClerx, and VP, Data Strategy & Analytics at Infogroup. Prior to that, Yu was the founding CTO of I-Behavior Inc., which pioneered the use of SKU-level behavioral data. “As a long-time data player with plenty of battle experiences, I would like to share my thoughts and knowledge that I obtained from being a bridge person between the marketing world and the technology world. In the end, data and analytics are just tools for decision-makers; let’s think about what we should be (or shouldn’t be) doing with them first. And the tools must be wielded properly to meet the goals, so let me share some useful tricks in database design, data refinement process and analytics.” Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.