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Wednesday, May. 20, 2009 at 10:50 am

Why Bother to Collect Data?

By Bryan Eisenberg
May 20th, 2009

According to a recent study, Marketers are more likely to “monitor” than act on or react to Internet data. While 79% of businesses reported capturing Internet traffic information, only 30% of them actually modified their Websites as a result of traffic analysis. It makes me wonder if this move to be accountable by marketers is only important to them when they are measuring vanity metrics versus actionable metrics.

Are they only using metrics to make them feel better about their efforts or are they using the data to find ways to continuously improve their efforts? And with the widely available tools today, why aren’t the other 21% of businesses even capturing this web analytics data?

Is it because as John Lovett, Senior Research Analyst at Forrester claims in his post Forecasting Change for Web Analytics, that it because of unfulfilled promises by the analytics vendors, that their isn’t enough talent available to analyze the data, or is it because the tools available were too limiting?

Why do you think marketer’s collect data and don’t or can’t act on it?

P.S.  During editing, Jeff Sexton reminded me of one of his favorite jokes: “What’s the difference between a used car salesman and a hi-tech salesman?  The used car salesman knows he’s lying.”  No offense to my vendor friends :-)

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Comments (22)

  1. There’s a certain segment of the population that finds even basic sites like Google Analytics to be daunting. Imagine how many site are automatically tracking stats on the server side and don’t even know it, much less know how to analyze them.

    I would also contend that many sites consider these tasks to be pretty low on the priority list, even if that notion is a mistake.

  2. In my experience (and the UK may be 18 months behind the US) marketing departments lack the necessary analytical skills to understand the numbers. Many marketers come from creative backgrounds and enjoy the design aspects to their jobs more than the data. Also many marketers are not yet fully bought into continuous optimisation of websites and still still a site as something you build and then promote. Not something that should be measured and improved. Many departments just don’t have the time because they are too busy doing all the traditional non measurable stuff.

  3. Humans thend to behave the way they’re rewarded (or by fear of punishment). Most Web Marketers are evaluated by the amount of sales and increase of sales (or leads, or whatever) they generate. I still have to meet one who would have to report on *profitability*.

    Change that, make sure the interactive marketing department is a full P&L in its own right, and reward marketers on their profit optimization tactics, and I can garantee you everybody will be measuring like crazy.

  4. I believe the answer is two part:
    1. Marketers have been given reason to believe answers will appear before them like some miracle. In fact, you still have to think, analyze, plan, test, MAKE MISTAKES, and try again.
    2. Most marketers ask the question “did the campaign work” instead of “WHAT drove success/failure in the campaign”, and I believe this to be because most lack the ability and/or are not allowed the time to analyze the results rather than review them.

    I treat web analytics as a very technical thing, maybe because I was schooled as an engineer, and most don’t treat it as such. In engineering you’re taught to plan, test, prototype, create, and gather end user feedback. In web analytics, we’re taught to review the data, make some tweaks and hope it moves the needle in the direction we want. Imagine what Windows would be like if the results from the battery of testing before release was not acted upon?! Web analytics are essentially the test results to our web site being used by our visitors.

  5. My gut feeling: Traditionally ‘Marketers’ were never specifically responsible for moving quantitative business objectives forward. They are absolutely a critical piece of the business puzzle … but it was more common for the work of Sales, or Business Development types (fully supported by the marketing deliverables) to move the business forward. The success measures of traditional Marketers efforts were more often made in terms of brand, awareness, or other such qualitative measures.

    Along comes the digital channel, and Marketers are now responsible for many more quantitative objectives through this inherently more reportable medium. This is a huge shift that needs to be accounted for (i.e. How many traditional marketers operated under a direct performance related quota? How many digital marketers efforts are measured in conversion and or sales?)

    Again, this is just my opinion, but I would attribute the monitor vs. react ratio that you highlight Bryan to be a trickle down from the more traditional fit of this role in the old enterprise. With the digital channel moving closer to the center of every modern marketers universe, I think your numbers reflect a shift in the role of Marketing in an organization, than on the tools/technology used to support the role.

  6. I think many people are just plain lazy. Let’s face it, analyzing data and then actually acting upon it including setting up a/b tests or multivariate tests takes time and effort.

  7. There are many marketers out there that don’t know what to do with or how to analyze the data they collect.

    Marketers need a good tool, but they also need to have a reliable partner that helps them get the most out of the tool they’re using.

  8. I think part of the challenge is making sense of the data, know what to change/test/improve. The other part of the challenge is finding the resources to actually make the tests/changes happen.

  9. Jeff is right, that’s one of my favourite jokes too. A hi-tech salesman short on tech will get so fired up by listening to the techies go overboard with their gizmo that he will sincerely believe that we already have FTL technology :)

  10. How does the saying go…You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make the CMO drink the kool-aid?

    Even if the data is collected, correctly analyzed, and deemed actionable and valuable, it may not be cost effective to allocate resources to a channel that only brings in 3% of total revenue. Consider the effort it takes for a multi-million dollar corporation to change a Title Tag…hours of meetings about why to do it, when to do it, can IT do it in-house or does the hosting company have to do it or does the Creative Agency have to do it, does Legal have to review it, does Creative have to review it, does Marketing have to review it, is it ‘on brand’, is the change just to the Corporate site, to the Investor site, to micro-sites, to local sites or all of the above, is a work order required, what is the turnaround time, does this take priority over product and inventory updates; and these are just the discussions before a work order request is even submitted. Now factor in salaries, agency fees, service fees, tracking tool expenses…all this time and money to improve organic rank by 3 positions? It’s just easier to re-run last year’s commercial. Besides, Online’s budget is being cut next Quarter…again.

  11. I have to agree with Laura.

    I think the biggest issue that that most companies see their web site as a “static” entity like a house, not as a dynamic entity as it should be.

    This means in terms of budgeting time and money, most companies are not including in their budgets something along the lines of “make changes to web site based on analysis of web analytics”.

    Most marketers are over-loaded as it is, and it’s simpler for them to just run another campaign then trying to make changes to the site.

  12. 1 – Silos. Organization tend to work in silos. People responsible for marketing (where web analytics “exist”) are not the same responsible of the products offering (where new products are developed).

    2 – Web analytics is still new. We still have to proof we can have value. Data discrepancies is still (wrongly) a show stopper sometime.

    Solution? We, as web analytics practitioner, must educate decision makers. Show the VALUE of doing this.

  13. Blogs about A/B tests frequently show *examples* of something they optimized.

    Blogs about Analytics rarely site examples of something they optimized.

    Hmmm…

  14. I believe it’s because of the lack of the analysis knowledge.

    The internet for marketing people is very new, it started for technical and and with time it evolved. Marketing now aware of this new medium and trying to engage and understand how to use the data behind the human behaviors online.

  15. I agree on the lazy-comment. You can look at your data, but if you have to act on them, it takes (a lot of) time.

  16. Two words: Analysis paralysis.

    Too much information , particularly for companies that don’t have a firm grasp on their goals and KPIs.

  17. Our team is guilty of this — too busy and no clear plan to respond to the data we are collecting.

  18. [...] why bother collecting data? [...]

  19. Collecting the data isn’t the difficult part, it is the ability to analyse it and then interpret it to see how it can be used for your business’s benefit.

  20. wonderful article
    good question
    i believe that the reason is the lack of the analysis knowledge.

  21. I know that when I get a bunch of numbers in front of me I feel lazy and overwhelmed. It is just a matter of breaking the numbers down and organizing them.

  22. Very good post. For me, I always look for my history. Analytic is always useful if you need to improve in something. Trust me you should always review what you have done before you move on.

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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