According to a recent presentation on web metrics by Google, the world’s digital habits have dramatically changed in the past 3 years. In 2009, the internet boasted a healthy 1.5 billion users, and just last year, this figure topped out at over 2.3 billion. That’s a 53% increase in just a few short years. Buying habits have also continued to shift. In 2009, when a customer arrived at a brick and mortar store, 70% of their purchasing decisions were already made. Last year, that figure bumped up to 90%.
We live in a multi-channel, multi-screen world, and the sheer variety and volume of paths and choices a customer has to make results in a complicated challenge for marketers. Deciphering how and where your audience is making key decisions continues to be a gigantic hurdle for businesses hoping to understand the true meaning of their metrics.
As you read this outline of today’s modern way of reading metrics, consider how your business stacks up with the elements of planning and analyzing. What worked in analytics 3 years ago is not at the forefront today. To be current and truly aware of your customer’s purchasing habits, your marketing team must be using the most recent tools and looking at the complicated landscape of various screens, funnels, and opportunities available to all.
The 3 Top Reasons to Study Your Site’s Metrics
While the methods by which we study and analyze site metrics continues to shift and morph, the reasons remain universal.
1) Know Your Customers – This is the single most important factor to understanding why your business may be successful in some places and not so profitable in others. Your audience, not your channels or silos, are the key to unlocking your business’s potential. True analysis of your metrics helps to unravel the identity of your core customer.
2) See What’s Working (and What’s Not) – Your instincts alone cannot decipher the strengths and weaknesses of your business. Taking an honest look at your performance metrics shines an authentic light on the smartest of your strategies, and exposes those elements that haven’t moved the needle.
3) Improve Your Results – You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken, and proper analysis of key metrics shows you exactly where the holes in your business are, and also ignites ideas on how to make smart, effective changes.
Take a Holistic Approach to Reading Metrics
It used to be businesses could target a few essential metrics that were most relevant to their industry, and ignore the rest. Sadly, these shortcuts no longer exist. Marketers must take a holistic approach to measuring performance data, due in part to the multi-faceted way customers and users interact with content. These days, most people have at least 2 digital devices, from laptops to tablets to cell phones, and chances are your average customer interacts with your site on various screens.
Channels are equally varied, as many businesses have on and offline presences. It is therefore critical to look at measurements from a big picture viewpoint – you need to understand your customer’s entire journey.
Focusing on the channel is no longer a realistic way to tackle metrics. As an example, if you just analyze phone app behaviors without understanding the relationship your other online and offline campaigns have on your iOS and Android business, you’re missing a big chunk of the customer’s story.
These days, a customer’s path is non-linear and highly unpredictable; therefore, a holistic approach is key. Marketers must now efficiently anticipate where and when their audience will appear, and this involves a full understanding of all devices and funnels available to each user. Metrics today absolutely revolve around understanding the customer’s habits, not the life cycle of a channel.
Develop a Comprehensive Measurement Plan
Now that you’ve embraced a holistic approach, the next step is to create a plan that outlines how you will measure your data. You’ll want to clearly define your company’s mission, all the details of your demographic, and the multitude of channels your customer might use (your web site, phone app, Twitter, Facebook, email campaigns, search keywords, direct marketing tactics, etc.)
Then follow this outline:
1) What are your business objectives?
Clearly defined business objectives are the cornerstone of your measurement practices. Understand why you have an online presence, how this complements your offline presence (if applicable), and all the myriad goals your company has for the near and long terms.
2) What are your key strategies and tactics?
Now that you’ve defined your goals, outline in detail the processes by which you intend to realize these objectives. These strategies will be determined by the type of business you operate, whether it’s traditional ecommerce, lead generation, or content publishing. Define specific promotions and campaigns, improved SEO tactics, content polishing, a more streamlined purchase flow, or any other tactics you feel will help you reach your goals.
3) Who are your stakeholders, and what are your core channels and segments?
Next, list all the folks on your team that have involvement in your metrics, from the actual analysts to those who simply need to know what’s working and what’s not. Along with stakeholders, identify your top channels (or ways in which customers interact with your content, products, or services).
4) What are your holistic key performance indicators (KPIs)?
Finally, be extremely specific about your top level KPIs. Don’t just, as an example, state that you intend to increase search efficiency; define actual marketing campaigns and keyword tests that will attempt to meet the goals set earlier in your plan. Keep your targets well-balanced – they should be both aggressive and realistic.
Once you have written a well thought-out plan, your next step will be to hone your skills in reading your site metrics. In Part 2 of this study, we’ll help you dispel the main reasons companies are failing at gathering critical data, and we’ll walk you through the strategies for holistic metrics analysis. This will involve an in-depth look at compound metrics, an outline of all the latest and most essential features of Google Analytics, and advice on using attribution as one of the most important marketing techniques available. You’ll be an expert in identifying channel trends, defining your core demographic, and seeing the full life cycle of your customer throughout all your funnels and touch points!
Digital producer, game designer, Internet marketer and staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs, Tina Courtney-Brown has been shaping online businesses since 1996. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, massively multiplayer games, social networks and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, nonprofit director and true cooking diva. Learn more at her personal website, or find her on Facebook and Google+.