October 9, 2013 ↘︎

Just because you can measure it, doesn’t mean you should.

I wonder, how much of what you measure do you actually use? (Or have used for that matter).  I’d hazard a guess at around 20%.

A growing trend we’re seeing is the tendency to want to measure everything, without regard to its value or intended usage down the track.  This is particularly noticeable in younger digital teams. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s right to measure a lot of things, but you have to do it smartly, otherwise three things can easily happen:

  1. Your implementation time, costs and complexity will skyrocket
  2. Your data accuracy will significantly decline over time
  3. Others will blame the tool for inaccurate data, and you’ll lose the will to live when you’re constantly having to defend it 

But I might need it later.

The wonderful thing about the digital channel is that you can measure a huge amount of things. And you can also merge your online data into your offline data, or vice versa, for a multi-channel view of activity and conversion. But with all this capability, it’s often very easy to lose focus on what we’re measuring and why.

And I can hear you say, “but I don’t know what I need to know in 6 months or a year, and so the more I measure now, the more chance I have of being able to answer unknown questions”.  

Well, to some degree, you’re right, but think strategically for a moment.

Put down the shotgun…and think.

Rather than taking a shotgun approach to measurement, and subsequently trying to drink from a fire-hydrant of data, think about what it is you’re really trying to know or do.  It’s the big picture stuff you should be lapping up.

Think about the things that will help you understand your customers’ behaviour. Think about your overarching business strategy, business goals, and how your digital channels support those objectives.
What will you measure that will help you deliver against your digital and business strategy?  
How will you use your data to improve the customer experience?
How will you use your data to improve customer conversions?

And most importantly, think about prospects and customers. And by that I don’t mean visitors from Paid Search, or Natural, or Social. I mean actual people. They’re the folk that do things. They’re the ones you’re trying to convince to buy your products, or use your service.  Think about how you’re going to identify and measure them. Think about how you’re going to figure out why they’re different, and how you’ll leverage their differences to sell more.

Finding focus.

After all, people that come in from Paid Search, are the same people that come in from Organic. They’re probably the same ones that come direct too, or via email campaigns, or banners. The channel differentiator is likely to be time.  Some will be new, some will be existing customers…but at the end of the day, they’re all people, and they’re all different.

It’s this big picture view that will help you to define what you should measure, and help you to focus on the wood, not the trees.

Once you’ve figured out the big picture stuff, the smaller stuff will literally fall into place.

So even though you can measure pretty much everything, think firstly about why you want to and how this data will lead you to your bigger picture.  If it doesn’t, then for your own sanity, I suggest you question the value of capturing it.


The content and advice contained in this post may be out of date. Last updated on October 9, 2013.
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