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Category: Digital Analytics

How Analytics Can Help You Evolve

December 16, 2021

Data is a hot topic, and organizations want to get their hands on as much of it as possible. Companies are churning out reports as fast as their computers will process data, creating an endless pile of numbers in siloes that stakeholders eventually gloss over. Too many businesses are relying on data collection alone to give them the upper hand, while not investing enough time maturing and analyzing the data. They love to see the data but have a hard time understanding it.

To achieve success, a company must use data to help them observe what’s happening, adapt to it, iterate based on the adaptations, and continue to observe, repeating the cycle with lessons learned and victories gained. Only then can analytics really help a company EVOLVE. Analytics is a process — one that never ends and must be improved upon day in and day out to maximize the benefits. Start the process now and take the first step towards your evolution.

diagram of how to evolve analytic strategies

Start the Process by Observing

Changes are happening all the time. Some are large and easy to see while others are subtle and often unnoticed by the very people they affect. The ability to observe these changes can be limited by many factors, such as a single person not being able to be in every meeting or read every industry article. Often, we lean on a collective team effort to help a company stay abreast of these changes. For example, project managers that oversee timelines, scopes, and risks, or lobbyists to help companies understand the political landscape.

Similarly, analytics platforms are a team of additional resources in the toolbox that companies can leverage to help understand the changes going on between the company and the end user. The ability to observe what people are doing or not doing on a website, application, or other Internet of Things (IoT) device, can help a company start understanding the user’s needs. Tracking user behavior and engagement with digital and non-digital interactions has become increasingly easier to start, though more complex to achieve full impact.

Tracking and gathering data has become increasingly crucial to understanding the ebbs and flows of user interactions. To understand the needs and demands of the user, a comprehensive digital experience tracking strategy is a must. First-party data — such as the standard pageviews, button clicks, and cart checkout — is always going to be the backbone of tracking. However, it’s simply not enough anymore. End-to-end user journey is the ideal for everyone, and processes such as cross-domain tracking, cross-platform tracking, and cross-device tracking are all key setups that need to happen. However, again this is not enough.

With a cookie-less future on the horizon, strategies around zero-party data are becoming vital to a company’s success. At a high level, think of first-party data as a user’s past and present and zero-party data as the bridge to the user’s future. While first-party data can help a company tailor the user’s experience based on their previous actions, zero-party data goes beyond measuring what users are doing and creates the ability to predict how, when, where, and what users want to see. The ultimate goal is to serve them a digital experience that’s in line with their potential future decisions. This will expand the company’s ability to observe their users beyond their initial interactions and allows the data to tell them how to adapt to the user’s needs.

Tracking and gathering data has become increasingly crucial to understanding the ebbs and flows of user interactions. To understand the needs and demands of the user, a comprehensive digital experience tracking strategy is a must.

Tracking and gathering data is a hot topic, but getting to the next step of analyzing the data can be a challenge for many companies.

Analysis of the data is as important as the tracking itself. Having data gathered but tucked away collecting dust or just merely looked at without any deeper thought can lead to seeing the data but not understanding the data. However, once a company gets to the analysis, a whole new world of insights opens up. While tracking and gathering data is the start, analyzing the data will lead to insights that can truly help a company adapt to the changes around them.

Use the Process to Adapt When Needed

Analysis is the first step in taking observations and using them to adapt strategies around them. This is central to serving the best digital experience to the end user. Without analysis, the ability to pivot when needed is almost nonexistent, with the knowledge of the need to pivot going unnoticed.

Say a barbershop website gives the user the ability to see a list of links to various partner company products (with monetary compensation for each product the barbershop’s users buy), and each link goes to a description page with links to the partner’s product pages. One of those description pages is a list of beard oils. That same website also has functionality that allows the user to view the list of partners and products in a collapsed view or a detailed view with more company or product descriptions. The collapsed view is titled “list view” and the detailed view is titled “detailed view.” When looking at the data, a stakeholder sees that users are clicking the “list view” button quite a lot recently. They aren’t sure why and move on. Later the stakeholder sees that the search term “beard oils” is their fourth-highest search term. They think that’s interesting and move on. Finally, the stakeholder sees that a high percentage of users are exiting from the beard oils description page. The stakeholder doesn’t think much of it as the page is designed to move people to the partner’s site for the user to buy the products.

What the stakeholder thinks is happening (expectation):

how stakeholders expect their analytics strategies

However, that’s not what’s happening. Unfortunately, the stakeholder is merely looking at metrics but not connecting them and not analyzing them to go deeper. They see interesting bits of data but don’t delve into the why. If the stakeholder took more time and looked deeper, they may see that users are going to the list page, clicking the beard oils list link, going to the description page, then clicking the “list view” button, thinking this functionality will give them the list of beard oils instead of needing to click hyperlinks at the bottom of the page. The user gets frustrated, searches for “beard oils” and still does not get the list, and “rage exits” the page.

What’s actually happening (reality):

reality of stakeholders analytics strategies

The stakeholder didn’t connect the various data points or dig deeper to see from what pages the user is clicking on the functionality or conducting the search. The stakeholder is seeing the data but not understanding it, missing an opportunity to adapt to usability issues.

You tracked, you gathered, you analyzed, you found insights. Great, so what do you do with them? You use them to help make updates to your website or application.

Updates based on data are how you can adapt to what’s happening. Adapting is the process of making decisions and taking action that helps a company keep pace with the changes and shifts impacting the business.

Take the example above: If the stakeholder realizes the usability issues, they can use them to make changes for a better digital experience. The company may update the language of the “list view” button to say “collapsed view” or “simple view” to remove the confusion of the user thinking this will give them a new list. In addition, they may choose to remove the button from the description pages, as this functionality is not needed on these pages. Or the company may decide to update their site architecture and remove the description pages altogether, linking directly to the partner websites to remove the confusion and unnecessary clicks. The result: fewer “rage exits” leading to larger partner product buys and more revenue for the barbershop.

The need to adapt is not just impacted by a company’s current digital setup. The world is ever-changing, and shifts in the market can change second by second. Both external and internal variables can impact any given industry. A company’s ability to adapt and pivot to these is crucial.

A celebrity or social media platform creates a buzz around a product or idea, creating a shift in supply and demand. A political move or health concern causes ripples in the economy, creating a shift in the user’s ability to spend money. These types of shifts are impacting the world every day. and the ability of a business to adapt can determine who’s top dog and who sinks further behind.

Furthermore, tracking the impacts of these shifts can come with its own challenges. With the end of third-party cookies, a shift in your marketing strategies becomes imperative for having steady conversions. With changes to analytics platforms, such as Google Analytics Universal to the New Google Analytics (GA4), a shift in how you track users and user interactions becomes essential to knowing your end users and the best way to serve them.

How do you adapt? You change, you update, you grow, you become dynamic. You take your observations, analyze them, turn them into insights, and then make decisions on what updates to make to gain the most impact from your observations. Taking action on these decisions is the next step in evolving.

Take Advantage of the Process to Iterate

Too many companies experience the ideas of perfection and negligence when it comes to design, development, and analytics.

There are those that say “we can’t go live” with a site until everything is perfect, nitpicking over the smallest details. Then once it goes live, they neglect to make necessary changes to improve user experience. Yet, those same people say they are data-driven and want to look at the data, but not act on it. Acting on data is how to drive impact, and it requires iteration and updates to do so.

Updating a website or application, whether it’s the look and feel, the content, or the functionality, is how a company can listen to what users are telling them and deliver a better digital experience that not only can increase user satisfaction but also keep pace with the shifts in the market. Having these insights from the data is great, but it’s what a company does with those insights that can be the deciding factor on how great a company can be.

Similarly, analytics implementations and dashboard creation also need updates and iteration. They aren’t just a “set it and forget it” task. As a company updates the website or application, their tracking will also need to be updated.

Tracking the updates to the website or application is how a company can see the impacts the updates had on the business. Using tracking that involves outdated URL patterns or code that has since been changed can lead to inaccurate data and inaccurate insights. Updating the tracking to fit the updates to the website or application is key to keeping the wheel in motion. Track, gather, analyze, update, then track again.

Analytics and iteration go hand in hand. There’s no purpose in tracking data if you’re not willing to make use of the data. Websites and analytics are fluid and need to be dynamic. Remaining static will leave you behind, collecting dust, while others charge ahead. Don’t just say you’re data-driven, be data-driven.

Websites and analytics are fluid and need to be dynamic. Remaining static will leave you behind, collecting dust, while others charge ahead. Don’t just say you’re data-driven, be data-driven.

Many companies get worried about making the wrong decisions. True, not every data point will be a positive one, and not all updates will be good decisions. However, if a company can celebrate the ones that are and keep learning from the ones that aren’t, there’ll be more celebrations than not.

Analytics involves time and effort, something many companies are short on. However, when given the proper time and utilized to its fullest advantage, analytics can help a company grow, both in revenue and internal process. Allowing data to be another “person” in the decision room is the final step to being able to evolve.

Let the Process Help You EVOLVE

The process of evolving is constant, and a company’s capacity to continue the process depends heavily on their ability to observe and willingness to adapt and iterate — not looking at change as a potential to fail or get worse, but looking at change as a way to evolve, to get better. When a company can observe shifts in the landscape, whether with their end users or in the industry market as a whole, they have a greater ability to adapt when needed. The willingness to adapt and iterate on a company’s current digital presence is how a company can take something good and turn it into something great.

Analytics is a powerful tool to aid in the process but can only be useful when actively used and maintained. When a company ensures proper tracking and data gathering, they create a doorway for stakeholders to view what’s going on between the end user and the digital experience the company is creating. Analyzing that data is how a company can understand the user’s experience to create meaningful connections (insights) that were before separate bits of information. Taking those insights and using them to make informed decisions on how to update the digital experience, enhances the quality of that digital experience. Then, ensuring to track the updates to see the impacts gives a company the ability to learn from the process. Learning is how a company evolves, and to learn you must be willing to change, to go beyond the comfort zone, sometimes failing, but always growing.

Analytics is a powerful tool to aid in the process but can only be useful when actively used and maintained.

When a company can embrace data, both good and bad, learning from mistakes and listening to what the data is telling them, they can truly EVOLVE.

Taylor Cruz
About the Author

Taylor is an Analytics Strategist at Blast Analytics who helps guide clients through the analytics setup, and supports clients’ analytics needs for optimal success. Taylor is passionate about making connections through data and fostering a data-driven culture. She works to create a foundation of trust with the data by ensuring quality in the details while maintaining a view on the big picture.

Connect with Taylor on LinkedIn. Taylor Cruz has written on the Blast Digital Customer Experience and Analytics Blog.

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