Web analytics continues to evolve with the digital space, and a lot happened in the industry last year. We witnessed interesting acquisitions and software progressions designed to help analysts and marketers keep closer watch over user behavior, the social media and mobile channels continued to gain traction, and marketers' needs for insights into consumer behavior deepened.
To be successful this year, marketers need to be aware of these developments and understand how they can maximize their analytics implementations. New tools, features, and functions abound, but they're only useful to marketers who take the time to understand the capabilities and put them to proper use.
Here are the top five things marketers need to know about analytics in 2010.
Everything is measurable (and that includes Flash assets)
If digital marketers are held responsible for each dollar spent (and they most certainly are), then web analytics is like their accountant. Thanks to its measuring and tracking power, marketers can vouch for and boast about revenue generated online. Without this analysis capability, marketers would be held accountable for ill-informed decisions. They'd essentially be shooting in the dark when making optimization recommendations, which, to say the least, is not a desirable position.
The good news in 2010 is that marketers will have new depths of visibility into how users engage with their web properties.
Everyone likes a website with Flash components because they're, well, flashy. However, before this year, Adobe Flash assets were a bit of a mystery. They were difficult to track without complicated, customized implementations and costly server calls (depending on the vendor). Adobe's 2009 acquisition of Omniture, a leading analytics provider, will change this. Analytics professionals will now have a more holistic view of user behavior because Adobe can enhance its current products with tracking tools. Essentially, this means that Adobe's products will define what is performing well. Here's what Adobe says about how its acquisition will affect marketers:
"The combination of the two companies will increase the value Adobe delivers to customers. For designers, developers, and online marketers, an integrated workflow -- with optimization capabilities embedded in the creation tools -- will streamline the creation and delivery of relevant content and applications. This optimization will enable advertisers and advertising agencies, publishers, and e-tailers to realize greater ROI from their digital media investments and improve their end users' experiences."
The ability to embed Omniture tracking capabilities within Adobe files will be extremely valuable to marketers, as they will finally have insight into how users interact with their websites and web properties. Measurement functionality will show interactions with the content (e.g., where people are abandoning within a PDF and what content is visible above the drop-off area), which will enable marketers to better optimize their efforts.
Respect free tools
Google Analytics announced new product features in 2009 that are keeping free tools as an extremely viable option for marketers to employ. The updated products allow for additional customization that was previously available only with enterprise solutions. Monitoring and tracking that was once only available through a subscription is now possible with free tools. With these solutions, marketers can customize what's being tracked and how dashboards display analytics reports.
Another improvement is the ability to set additional goals monitored by the software. This means that marketers can set additional alerts to notify them when web performance dips or exceeds pre-set thresholds.
There are pros and cons with using free tools. The main downfall is a lack of privacy and control over tracked data. Depending on the company, free solutions will more than suffice, but for others, enterprise solutions are a better analytics solution. I recommend revisiting these tools with each new release to ensure you're implementing the most comprehensive analytics plan possible.
Multichannel analysis is a must
Marketers are not the only ones who benefit from tracking multiple touch points. It also benefits consumers. By capturing how consumers behave and respond to different campaigns, marketers can target their customers and offer relevant content and savings to entice them to complete the end goal.
This year more than ever, marketers will want to analyze data sources across multiple touchpoints to improve overall customer satisfaction. It will be imperative to understand cross-channel behavior and identify patterns that will help improve end results. Initially, this may seem a bit intimidating; however, there are simple approaches that don't require a major integration of data sources. For example, correlate online marketing campaigns with unique 800 numbers or segment by geographic markets based on offline marketing tactics in those markets.
The key is planning ahead for multichannel campaigns. It's much easier to incorporate tracking in the beginning instead of playing catch up. You could miss out on valuable data.
The next stage integration
Moving into 2010, marketers are going to be much savvier when it comes to analyzing their social media marketing. According to an eMarketer report released in December, marketers travel through three phases of social media tracking: trial, transition, and strategic. As marketers progress through this cycle, tracking habits increase, with 88 percent of marketers tracking website traffic and 75 percent tracking lead generation. The growing trend of social media analysis will help marketers implement strategic social campaigns to boost an entire marketing mix.
This year, marketers need to view social media as a marketing channel that contributes to online revenue. This mentality is already infiltrating most marketing departments, but before launching a campaign, web analytics needs to be considered. How are we going to track this? What if consumers complete a conversion offline?
Tracking promotions is the easiest implementation, as unique links and landing pages can be used to segment referral traffic. However, social media is a fantastic mode for brand awareness. Connecting the dots between a brand-building campaign and other conversion touch points requires upfront, strategic consideration. If marketers can do this, they will have opportunities to learn from socially driven traffic spikes that will provide deeper insight into which stories, posts, or tweets drive buzz across the web.
Mobile devices need to be factored in
I am not here to say that 2010 is going to be the year of mobile. For all intents and purposes, users are already using their mobile devices, and marketers are already using mobile as an advertising medium.
From an analytics perspective, mobile is here. eMarketer reports that 42 percent of mobile users accessed the internet through their devices in 2009, 25 percent used their phones to update a social network, and 30 percent conducted online research on their phone. Measuring and analyzing this behavior will be crucial in 2010 as marketers find new ways to utilize this medium. Mobile users are active and engaged; if marketers can connect here, they can expand these relationships across any number of platforms.
Analysis to live by
As marketers continue to add new media to their arsenals, web analytics will need to bring the data together. Isolated information isn't going to help marketers make informed decisions or encourage interactions with their audiences.
That being said, analysis is the most important part of what a web analytics professional does. All the data in the world won't mean anything if it cannot illuminate a trend or highlight a problem. To be successful this year, marketers need to consider analytics from the beginning of a campaign and make continual optimizations along the way. It will not matter how many platforms or campaigns are in play; progression will rest on solid analysis backed by accurate data.
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