Data analytics is the process of collecting and utilizing data to identify patterns to aid a specific function. It’s a field that encompasses a lot of what digital marketers do – tell stories about consumer behavior.

Analytics reveal which channels, campaigns, keywords, or target audience are top and flop performers, which are all critical to improve the bottom line for online businesses. Despite this, a solid analytics setup and understanding are very often overlooked- this applies to even the biggest names in the industry.

While these companies may spend a staggering amount of dollars on marketing, findings from E-Nor, a US based digital analytics consultant, suggests that analytics is an area where there is under-investment of money and time.

Only 3% of the biggest global brands are using digital analytics correctly.

Source: E-Nor

E-nor’s optimization framework below shows us a bottoms-up approach to grow any online business, where the peak of the pyramid represents success.

Source: E-Nor Optimization Framework

Obviously, business impact at the top means different things for everyone – it could be driving online sales, leads, traffic, ad revenue, or something else altogether – but in order to climb, a business must have a great product and strategy at the foundation.

The focus here is a sound strategy. There is very little point in investing in analytics and optimization without it and only after developing a clear road map and setting KPIs is it time for execution.

What could go wrong?

The three stages that build on the foundation are what veteran marketers find the kryptonite of many online businesses across Southeast Asia: implementation, reporting, and analysis.

Installing web analytics tools like Google Analytics (GA) properly is one thing, but setting up the account and understanding what the output means is a completely different skill set. GA is an insightful tool but can only be as accurate as its implementation.

Imagine if GA was installed in the wrong place or triggered at the wrong time on the website, it would be dangerous to rely the entire business on this data because according to the upstream of the pyramid, poor implementation cascades to poor reporting, analysis, optimization, and in turn affects the business as a whole.

Too often do businesses try to jump straight into ad or web optimization before ensuring the data captured is accurate or if the right metrics are being tracked.  

The focus here is actually a key framework that outlines the entire scope of data analytics that can be structured into these 5-steps:

  1. Audit
  2. Implement
  3. Training

  4. Analyze

  5. Visualize

Demand for all these five components has been growing audibly in recent years, but there is a shortage of talent equipped with the experience and expertise in such niche skill-sets, particularly in Southeast Asia.

Source: aCommerce Analytics

Audit & Implementation

“Data hygiene” doesn’t take care of itself, it requires constant maintenance. In order for GA to track how much traffic and conversions a website is generating, GA tags must be placed wherever these “events” can happen using Google Tag Manager.

For example, if you have a separate mobile site or a website in multiple languages, failure to place tags on all these versions and platforms is an instant red flag. It would mean that reports would be based solely on either desktop traffic and conversions, or collect data coming in from only a Thai version of the website.

A website and its visitors are also constantly changing, mandating a QA process to ensure that those changes do not affect how your analytics tags respond and fire. Since the tags are capturing data directly from the website code, any changes to this code may result in unpredictable and undesirable outcomes.

Once tags are properly implemented, GA account settings need to be tailored to accommodate the features of each website. These tweaks include referral exclusions, spam filters, channel grouping, and AdWords linking. They not only result in more accurate data, but also a cleaner view of data.

Whether it’s having someone audit your current setup or setting it up from scratch, recommended practice is to do this right from Day 0, because the bulk of the data in GA is dead as soon as it has been parsed, meaning there is very little room to retroactively adjust past data.

Once setup is up to standard, we have peace of mind to trust incoming data and derive actionable conclusions from the numbers.

Training

With quality data flowing into GA, the next sensible step is to provide training for those who rely on it daily. GA reports consist of four main components (AABC): audience, acquisition, behavior, and conversions.

Online resources are a great place to start, Google provides free online resources covering topics on GA, but like acquiring any new skill, working with certified instructors can save company employee’s valuable time and accelerate deeper understanding.

Analysis & Visualization

The final pieces of the analytics puzzle lies in data visualization and the analysis itself. With a whole host of reports, metrics, dimensions, and abbreviations to learn and recall, finding trends and actionable insights from huge datasets can be an overwhelming task.

One might have to dive into five different reports from multiple marketing tools in order to answer an everyday question like what were the ad impressions, spend, web traffic, and sales generated from one of our Facebook campaign yesterday?

The ultimate pain point is having to manually map ad impressions and cost data from Facebook, and sales data from our CRM to complement GA sessions.

With a dashboard, imagine a canvas with all the key metrics and charts that can be monitored at a single glance. The setup may be tedious, but a dashboard with automated workflows ensures that this will become a one-time effort.

Google recently released Data Studio- a data visualization tool that makes dashboards centralized, interactive, automated, and shareable.

As often as it gets overlooked, data analytics is a crucial aspect to any online business. Its scope spans beyond a simplistic approach of making analyses and drawing conclusions, but also involves a multifaceted process of auditing and implementing tags, setting up a leak-proof analytics account, and deriving actionable insights from reports via visualization.

From data collection, cleansing, consolidation, to presentation, a strict set of standards and best practices are required in a market where not many are qualified for this expertise.

However, if the business can overcome these hurdles and translate its top-line objectives into metrics, they will only be a few steps away from a strong digital marketing strategy.

By Watasit Chindakawee, Associate Internet Marketing Manager & Analytics Team Lead at aCommerce

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