Three Interviews, Six Interesting Web Analytics Questions

sweet thingsI recently had the opportunity to do three interviews, each from a different perspective. One with a Web Analytics Consultant, another with research and analytics Practitioner in Argentina and the last one with the CTO of a enterprise class retail systems company.

One of my key learnings after doing a bunch of interviews is that they are a lot of work! I think my perception was: its just web analytics, how different can the interviews be, I bet I could simple recycle the same words and just wing 'em.

Turns out even as each interview is on the general web analytics landscape they are all different. And it takes me a long time to write the replies and I struggle both because each question is delightfully unique and I want to send back a equally unique answer.

In this post I want to share with you key excerpts of the three recent interviews, questions that I found to be particularly fun (and perhaps you'll find something of value in them).

To start with I want to share perhaps the question I get very often:

Why should companies do web analytics?

And here I try a new answer:

Because it feels good to make lots of money, rather than staying poor, and it feels good to have happy customers who love you, rather than those who hate you with passion because your website is

What do you think? Is that compelling enough? :)

Ok here we go, "greatest hits" from the three interesting interviews by a Consultant, a Argentine Researcher and a CTO.

juan damia blog

Interview @ Juan Damia's Blog.

Excerpt……..

Juan: How would you define web analytics?

Avinash: As a member of the Board of Directors of the Web Analytics Association I would be remiss if I did not first provide the official WAA approved definition, here it is…..

"Web Analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of Internet data for the purposes of understanding and optimizing Web usage."

Typically people tend to think of that in very restrictive terms, just clickstream data you can get out of Omniture or HBX or Google Analytics.

I think of Web Analytics as collection and study of any data related to the website and the web channel. In addition to clickstream it would include survey data, experimentation and testing, competitive intelligence, integrated off site and on site data etc etc. It is a much broader view to understand the holistic picture.

Juan: Which advice / recommendation would you give to a web analytics professional?

Avinash: You are the hottest commodity out there, if you are any good, ask for a raise. :)

On a serious note here are a couple of thoughts:

- If you are only well versed in Clickstream data and "web analytics tools" then it is time to expand your expertise. Clickstream is just a small part of what it takes to understand web customer behavior.

- Common sense is greatly underrated (and under applied) when comes to doing analysis. It is important to be aware of its importance (and always remember the principle of Occam's Razor).

- Get close to your marketers and website owners. Being close to the business will give you the key context that you need to 1) know where to focus your analytical efforts and 2) understand your data a lot better than you otherwise would.

- Read Juan's blog religiously, it is very good!!

Here's an excerpt from the next one…….

lunametrics blog 1

Interview with Robbin Steif: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 (yes four parts!).

Robbin: How do people set conversion rate (or other) goals? It's great if the CEO says, "We have to increase our sales from our web channel by 50%” then you can just run the numbers. But absent direction from someone else, do people just say, Hmm, wouldn't it be great if we could increase our conversions by 12.45%? Do they pull out their HP 12C calculators and do an internal rate of return based on the cost of testing and the cost of money? (p. 256)

Avinash: Here is my recommendation….

1) A: Sign up for the shop.org annual study and look at what your competitors are doing. Use that as a initial discussion starter of what your conversion rate should be.

1) B: Type "fireclick index" into Google and look at last year's worth of data for conversion rate for the web or for one of the six vertical industries that they provide. It is free. Use that as a starting point for discussion of what your goal should be.

2) Plot out your conversion rates (segmented by your core acquisition strategies – DM, Email, PPC, Display, whatever) for the last year and see where things are trending. Bring this to your fireclick/shop.org discussion.

3) Finally see where in your acquisition strategy or site optimization you are making increased investments. If you just hired a SEM Goddess pump up the goal by 50% for that stream of traffic (Goddess will deliver). If you are implementing MVT then see what that will do.

1 + 2 + 3 = An intelligent discussion.

You'll come up with a goal for the next three months. It might be wrong but persist and repeat the process three months later, you'll do better this time. In six months when you do it you'll nail it.

Give yourself permission to be wrong, trust me you'll get better so fast.

Robin: p. 312. IMO, there is no way to get competitive conversion data outside of panel data. Am I wrong? (Go ahead, you don't have to be nice.)

Avinash: You can get it from ComScore (in case you did not mean that by panel data).

You can also use the FireClick Index, they even break it out for new and returning visitors! And for the last 12 months!! And for six different industry verticals!!! :-) Compare trends over time with the index and it will give you a great feel for how things are going for you.

You can also sign up for the delightful shop.org ecommerce / conversion report, many people think of that as the bible.

Finally, yesterday I got an email from Stephane Lagrange and I noticed on his blog, http://blog.webtarget.ca, he has referenced the Top 500 Guide published by InternetRetailer.com which also publishes conversion rates for top ecommerce websites. Here are some of the numbers, directly copied from Stephane's blog:

#1 Amazon.com: 3.52%
#2 Staples.com: 9.62%
#3 Office Depot: 7.10%
#498 Broadspan Commerce LLC: 0.35%
#499 Musicnotes Inc: 3.25%
#500 KneeDraggers.com: 0.99%

Here is a excerpt from the third interview……

variable markup blog

Interview with Michael Julson.

Michael: What are a few things that retailers should be doing with their analytics efforts that most don’t do today?

Avinash: I have a 10/90 rule and it simply states that if you had $100 to invest in your analytics efforts then spend $10 on tools and professional services and spend $90 on people who will actually understand your business, analyze the data and find insights.

Lesson One: Consider doing a quick back of the napkin calculation to see how you are spending your $$, if you are 90/10, as is often the case, then you know what the problem is.

It is very common to find retailers where analytics, specifically the pursuit of collecting data, is a afterthought. Only after the pages are released does someone say hey were is the data, well it went out with tags, or after campaigns are released it is realized that the tracking parameters were not attached (no data to measure success).

Lesson Two: Data capture and measuring success should be integral to your dna and a core part of every process to ensure data is being captured and analyzed. It cannot be a afterthought.

All of us, myself included, are full of ourselves. If you want to have a high conversion rate and make tons of money it is important to get over yourself (and the higher up the chain of command you are the more this is required). Instead shift to things of how you can involve customers in making decisions.

Lesson Three: Consider doing surveys, remote usability etc. Absolutely have a A/B or multivariate testing strategy so that you can involve customers in determining how your website should look, what promotions and messaging works etc.

Michael: In your book, you've got a great chapter on multichannel marketing campaigns. Are there proven tactics for pulling in metrics from non web analytics systems such as video analytics in the store, call center CRM call logs, and mobile web access into a single view of the customer experience?

Avinash: I think there are really only two little secrets.

1) Primary Keys: 100% of the reason why we can't do effective multi-channel analysis is the fact that we don't have the right meta data to connect our disparate pieces of information. So if you are doing multichannel campaigns then please consider investing a bit of extra efforts into creating vanity url's or unique 800 numbers of links with parameters or one of the many things I mention in my book. If you have the right primary keys (a database term) then nothing can stop you.

2) Data Warehouses: You can bring data into your web analytics tool, many allow for that, but if you are serious about this consider investing a true data warehouse environment were you will get tons more flexibility with what you can do with your data. You slap a off the shelf BI (business intelligence) tool on top of your data warehouse and you have created yourself a long term strategic data advantage.

Hope you found the above excerpts interesting, please check out the complete versions using links above.

Now its your turn. Please share your tips, tricks, war stories, critique, brickbats via comments. Thank you.

Comments

  1. 2
    Sarah says:

    I work at a fortune 100 company and have to constantly beg for resources for web analytics and justify every step.

    I am going to print out your answer about why should one care about web analytics and I am going to stick it outside my office wall.

    Thanks!

  2. 3
    Ashish says:

    Great post Avinash, as always very practical and helpful.

    The two answers to Robbin's questions were particularly helpful, the idea of 1+2+3 is fantastic (how simple and yet how powerful) and I was not aware that conversion data was so easily available.

    Ashish

  3. 4
    Amir Dekel says:

    Avinash, I thoroughly enjoy your blog and had to comment about your answer to multichannel analytics. Your two points are obviously correct but the problem with using a Data Warehouse and then just slapping any BI tool on top of it is that you still have to do all the work to extract value from it. The investment required in DW and BI is tremendous in capital, time and human resources. If you would like to discuss what we do and understand the advantage of using a tool like ClickFox please let me know.

    Thanks again, Amir

  4. 5
    Juan Damia says:

    Hi Avinash, thanks for mentioning these interviews. I didn’t know Luna Metrics and Variable Markup blogs, are very good ;-) (just one thing, it would be great if you create a link directly form the header image).

    One of the most interesting things to point out is that no one was extremely focused on web analytics tools but in web analytics models, procedures and techniques, probably with a more systemic view of how to track, measure, process, analyze and report information.

  5. 6
    Rajiiv says:

    Hi Kaushik,

    I am from india and have been following your blog for few months now, i would like to know ur opinion on Information Architecture through Web Analytics.Is this feasible and to what extent if so.

  6. 7
    Jahangir says:

    Avinash, as always this was a very interesting post. I just love your 10/90 rule.

    One question i would like to ask is that in your interview with Michael Julson you mentioned that

    "a core part of every process to ensure data is being captured and analyzed"

    My question would be what would be the end limit(threshold) of capturing and analyzing everything?? If we being tagging everything and trying to capture every simple event wont it just be an unnecessary overhead when a normal visitor visits the page. IMHO if we begin capturing of all data it will deny the end-user of the Rich Internet Experience that is so much talked about these days.

  7. 8

    Jahangir : The reference in that sentence is to pages not being tagged, campaigns missing tracking parameters, RIA's and videos released without proper built in tracking (events).

    If you want to measure success the last reason for you not being able to do so should be missing data.

    Given data storage is cheap and compute power not quite cheap but easily available, my belief is that you should put some thought into collecting all the data you'll need. Take a step back and try to think of what you are trying to do in your web business, then capture all you need.

    The examples I mention at the start of this comment for example are all deal breakers if you don't have 'em.

    An example of something not every one needs is the ability to track mouse movements of each visitor on your site. Some people might need it, most people will find terabytes of data and work, but the benefits might not quite be as one might expect. In those cases I could skip those parts of data capture.

    I am sorry I don't understand the last line in your comment ("IMHO if we begin capturing of all data it will deny the end-user of the Rich Internet Experience that is so much talked about these days.") Data capture is a passive activity and should not "deny" the users of rich experiences on your websites.

    Rajiiv : Web Analytics has lots of data that you can use as key input as it comes to defining a robust Information Architecture for your website. More than that if you do think of a few different Information Architectures for your website then Web Analytics can help you test them for optimal fit with customer expectations and help you make a much better choice (vs. you plunking the latest great thought on unsuspecting customers!).

    Amir : I have not had the opprotunity to try clickfox but you'll admit that this problem you mention in your comment:

    that you still have to do all the work to extract value from it.

    This will never go away! No matter what tool, what technology.

    On a serious note, I think your point was that things will get easier with your technology but companies will still have to do the work required to extract value, only perhaps a bit less.

    Juan : Done! Thanks.

    -Avinash.

  8. 9
    Jahangir says:

    Avinash, thanks for responding.

    BTW by my last line i was implying that if we start tracking everything it will decrease the responsiveness of the website since it has to do various analytic related activities in the background. Apologies for not making that clear.

  9. 10
    Jorge Cunha says:

    Avinash,

    For a new comer like me, i say for difficult questions, simple answers. For these simple answers it means lot of expertise and a lot of work.

    p.s: sorry for my English

  10. 11
    Cacasodo says:

    Jahangir,

    Your concern about tracking codes impacting performance on your website is warranted. However, if you are going to do ecommerce correctly, one of the best investments you can make is to invest in an outside-the-firewall performance monitoring service like Gomez (www.gomez.com) or Keynote (www.keynote.com). Simulating a user browsing your site, these types of services show you performance bottlenecks. Specifically, you will be able to see requests made to the servers where you are sending all that tracking data. And if those requests don't meet your SLA's, you can dump them.

    This service has saved me many a time and allowed me to objectively and truthfully communicate the condition of my website to my management. It answers the questions "How is the Website Doing" and "How Does Our Website Performance Stack Up" against everyone else.

    'sodo

  11. 12
    rv says:

    I am into seo from past 4 years.. currently willing to switch my career to web analytics. in this regard, to be called as a web analyst, what is the skill set required to apply for. thanks

  12. 13

    RV: Here are two posts that you might find to be of value:

    Plan Your Web Analytics Career: 4 Specific Options

    Web Analytics Career Advice: Develop Required Skills, Fast

    Hope this helps.

    Avinash.

Trackbacks

  1. […] I get asked frequently "What should the conversion rate on our website be?" I like to tell our clients that while we have a lot of tools available to help them get a sense of the competitive landscape for their vertical, ultimately it's only one piece of the puzzle to figuring out what their particular conversion rate goal should be. From an article by Avinash Kaushik, I'd like to recommend 3 things that will help promote intelligent discussion about setting conversion rate goals for YOUR website.

    1) Sign up for the shop.org annual study and look at what your competitors are doing. Or use FireClick Index. Or the Top 500 Guide from InternetRetailer.com.

    2) Plot out your own conversion rates by aquisition strategy (DM, PPC, Email, Display etc).

    3) Make sure to note… […]

  2. […] Avinash Kaushik gets 3 different perspectives on analytics from three interviews. […]

  3. […] Avinash answers six interesting web analytics questions Tags: Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. […]

  4. […] It’s been so long since I’ve interviewed Avinash in this blog (Actually the blog was called damia.com.ar in that time). In that moment I’ve just don’t even imagine having Avinash visiting our country or even Latin America. […]

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