One of my family’s favorite vacation destinations is Disneyland. The whole experience – the rides, characters, entertainment, fireworks, etc. – is wonderful for the entire family. With five kids in tow, you can imagine all of the work and effort that goes into preparing for a 10-hour drive from Utah to California. As we drive through Las Vegas, Nevada and enter California, the anticipation begins to build in the backseats. After checking into our hotel, the next morning is one of the few in which my wife and I don’t have a problem with getting our kids up early to go somewhere. After going through the process of parking, jumping on the shuttle, passing through security, and picking up our passes, we’re finally ready to enter the theme park.
Now what kind of father would I be if I decided at that point – with the Magical Kingdom’s entrance in full view of my children — to go back to the hotel and repeat the same process over the next few days, never actually entering the amusement park? Or what if we just entered the park for only 15-30 minutes each day? I’d be a pretty sick and twisted dad if I did this, especially since my kids have been to Disneyland before and know how fun it is. I draw a parallel between this scenario and what companies go through with their digital analytics programs.
The Two Lands of Analytics
In web analytics, there are two lands: Setupland and Actionland. The latter is a magical land that has all of the allure of Disneyland if you’re a data-driven marketer or digital analyst. Every company wants to be in Actionland, where you’re actually acting on the data and optimizing your business. It’s the promised land of analytics, and it has all the coolest rides. However, just like preparing for a Disneyland trip, most of us know that it takes planning and hard work to get to Actionland’s attractions – you have to pass through Setupland first.
In Setupland, there are three main stages for digital analytics tools: Align, Measure, and Report. The Align stage is where you gather, define, and confirm the business objectives and requirements of your key stakeholders. You want to make sure that your tagging strategy is closely aligned with the needs of the business. The Measure stage is where the technical heavy lifting occurs, which includes tagging, data validation, and data collection. A fair amount of time in Setupland can be spent on technical implementation, especially for large companies with multiple web domains, online marketing initiatives, mobile and social apps, etc. The last stage is the Report stage where the collected data is packaged up in meaningful ways for business users to consume it via custom reports, dashboards, and scorecards.
The key to getting value from your web analytics investment is to enter Actionland. However, many organizations spend too much time in Setupland and some may never experience Actionland. The goal should be to move quickly and efficiently through Setupland to Actionland. You want to spend more time focused on optimization rather than implementation and reporting. You can’t skip Setupland. There’s no easy, backdoor entrance to Actionland, and in fact you’ll probably need to go through Setupland multiple times during your data-driven journey. The deployment of analytics solutions is an ongoing process – not a once-and-done project. Think program, not project.
Your company evolves – new products, websites, campaigns, marketing channels, partners, senior executives, etc. The market trends change, customer behaviors shift, and competitors innovate. If your digital business is dynamic, your digital measurement approach can’t remain static. It needs to keep pace with your company’s online evolution and the shifting demands of your industry. In addition, after you’ve entered Actionland, analysis may identify more business questions that can only be answered through further implementation to enrich the data or pinpoint the right data. It’s okay to go back to Setupland to tighten up the data as long as the goal is to quickly return to Actionland. Some large companies might be in both places at the same time as they analyze and optimize existing projects and implement new ones.
Analysis is Your Ticket to Actionland
Most companies today are collecting vast amounts of digital data. As marketing budgets shift from traditional channels to digital channels, the volume is only going to keep increasing (e.g., social media, mobile, video, etc.). Analysts are often caught in a vicious cycle of endless reporting – maintaining current reports and building new reports. Unfortunately, too many organizations misinterpret reporting as the main destination of implementing an analytics solution and mistakenly view reporting as though it were a part of Actionland (when they’re really stuck in the parking lot). Reports display information – not insights. Information from reports is useful, but meaningful insights from analysis are invaluable because they can actually drive action and value.
Just like you need a pass to enter Disneyland, and you’ll need one to access Actionland too. Analysis is your ticket to unlocking the value found in Actionland. The insights from analysis set the stage for all optimization efforts by enriching the business’s understanding of its customers and market, pinpointing potential enhancements to digital marketing efforts, and helping to prioritize which opportunities to pursue. Analysis becomes the genesis for how your company can generate more sales, reduce marketing costs, enhance campaign performance, create a better user experience, reach specific target segments, etc. It’s the only way to gain entry to Actionland. To be honest, you don’t want just a three- or four-day park hopper pass to Actionland once a year. You really need a season pass to Actionland for recurring, deep-dive analysis and optimization of your digital business. Lock and load, action heroes!