Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Adolescence in Digital Measurement

Browsing through some of the most recent books about Web Analytics I could not stop realizing that we are still in the early stages of understanding consumer’s behavior in the digital world. Most analytical approaches are continuing to focus primarily on traditional website metrics: Unique visitors, Bounce rates, etc. It feels like Web Analytics have stalled in understanding consumer behavior on individual websites and have failed to push themselves into a larger digital universe, that include any digital medium, from the web to mobile to ebooks, and in best case even beyond the digital sphere.

Some of these books are attempting to understand “Engagement” and suggest different ways of build the right engagement metric. But in most cases it is just a compilation of traditional website metrics. Most marketers are still trying to understand consumers in a channel centric and specific way, whereas consumers have long moved beyond the separation of all the different media, communication, and sales channels. They consume and interact with brands and services first, with channels last.

Quite often this fallacy can be explained by the fact that we look at things that can be measured instead of asking ourselves what should be measured. The vast and immediate access to data and metrics are not just overloading our systems to decipher anything meaningful, they are hindering us as well to really identify of what should be measured.

The biggest strategies of moving the digital metrics discussion to a next level should be:

  • Move beyond metrics that are only relevant for one channel to metrics that are relevant and actionable across multiple channels.
  • Realize that website metrics are only a very small portion of all relevant metrics. It’s more productive to go broad than going too soon very deep.
  • Set not only standards of how to measure certain things but more importantly understanding what is a “good” and what is a “bad” value in certain metric category. I have seen so many marketers who look a comprehensive metrics sheet and can only utter “interesting”, since there is no context to evaluate these figures.
  • Don’t overemphasize “Real-Time” metrics that give everyone an illusion of constantly optimize every single marketing output. Yes, it is important to build a learning organism and mechanism but it’s not the most important action to deploy it in “real-time” manner (which means actually a delay of a few seconds, minutes, or hours) as extracting the right recommendations from the analyzed metrics. We focus too often on the optimization of the very small variable (e.g. blue or red color in a banner) versus understanding the truly big variable (e.g. Invest in paid search or in DRTV).

It’s still early in the world of “Digital Metrics”. We are at best an excited and curious young adult, at worst an overeager, naïve, and overly aggressive teenager.


Blogger Measurement geek said...

Great post Michael. I love the idea of moving to metrics that are applicable across channels since consumer engagement is not channel specific. Also I agree with your thoughts on benchmarking.

Just one more comment to add to the discussion: the reason why it may seem like we are still in the "adolescent" stages when it comes to digital measurement is in part due to the fact that digital is a fast evolving channel and goes through significant evolution every 6 months or so.

In order to emerge as the digital leader we need to constantly evolve and adjust to the changing environment without loosing sight of the big picture.

Mridul Joshi

8:24 AM  
Blogger Sanjay said...

Like any area there are umpteen number of metrics in Digital Measurement. A lot of the books talk about the 'how-to-calculate' part of these metrics, some give examples of what they mean and how they can be applied. Very similar to a lot of marketing metrics. Figuring out how to manage the digital space is not can definitely not do it by merely referring to some books. It is a good starting point.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Move beyond books
2. Encourage a holistic approach to consider Digital as a part of the marketing mix, not as an appendage
3. Realize that media is dynamic and marketing morphs. When you look at things closely, all channels look like they are in adolescence. That is normal!
4. There are several initiatives from Microsoft, Comscore, Nielsen et al trying to see how integrated measurement can be practised
5. Focus on the objectives and the results that you want to measure and then try to map the performance indicators. That is how you can be more purposive about marketing measurement and become truly accountable

Welcome to Digital. Just don't be presumptive. Start doing something and you will move ahead. No point making some smart alec remarks and doing nothing about it. All the best!

4:53 AM  
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