September 9, 2014 ↘︎

Are you using your web analytics as a trophy or a weapon?

We delivered a quarterly insight session for a client this week that presented a very clear picture of how traffic sources performed for them at two critical stages of the customer journey. The current quarter showed a decline, compared to the same time last year, in two of their most valuable sources which in turn impacted their overall sales result for the quarter. They were really concerned with how they were going to inject some positive performance news into the insights for the rest of the organisation.

Reflecting on the session over the last few days has made me think about the role that web analytics plays within a company. Are we thinking about it in the right way, or are we using it as a weapon or a trophy of war depending on our situation? Companies are spending valuable time and money to culturally ready themselves for social and re-align their organisational structure to manage content, so isn’t it time that we properly understood how to treat our web analytics?

Web analytics as a trophy.

Surprisingly, ‘trophyism’ is still a commonly used approach. Teams pick and choose data that shows off their campaign in the very best possible light, with little thought to the real story that lies beneath. This often happens when digital teams are asked to compile executive dashboards. After all, if it’s going to my boss’ boss, why would I want us to look bad?

Web analytics is seen by these teams as a way to ‘teach’ others about how much good work they’re doing. This approach often breeds distrust from others who may question the data choices or the validity of the platform.

Web analytics as a weapon.

Within some organisations teams prefer to use their web data as a weapon instead, “The campaign failed to deliver. You shouldn’t do it again.” This approach may be taken by a team who feel that they need to constantly justify the existence of having a website (I know, really?), or are struggling to find more engaging ways to get noticed in their effort to wrestle for greater ownership of the space.

This results in non-digital people becoming even less inclined to want to understand what is happening and why, instead choosing to adopt a set-and-forget mentality. This helps no one.

Enter the peace-keeper.

As you’ve probably guessed neither of these approaches are very successful. And they certainly don’t help in fostering shared responsibility and business level decision making. Web analytics should help empower organisations to do all of this, collectively.

But, it does take time and energy to make sure you’re not falling into one of these common traps. The above examples both use web analytics as a political tool. They set out to prove or disprove others’ theories, ‘spinning’ the data to tell the right story. In my opinion, neither are conducive to the long-term use of your analytics platform.

Web analytics as a GPS.

From my perspective as a planner, web analytics is not about telling people the good, or the bad news. It’s about being able to have all the information laid out in front of you; having it there to guide your digital journey, to highlight issues ahead, or to suggest taking a different route. Once you have that information you can make informed decisions, confident that you’re seeing the full picture together with your new-found enthusiasm to try out the changes.

As marketers we need to be challenged and tested to achieve the best result. To do that we need to have the whole story to inform our decision making and guide our thinking. Whether we are part of a digital team, a marketing department or a wider organisation we should all be jointly invested in what the data is telling us and working together to influence, enhance or change the behaviour of our customers, digital or otherwise.

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