Alan Ng, Head of Insights at Branded3, says data is nothing without context. He explains why brands need to know their audiences and how to use that insight to drive your marketing activity
There are many interpretations of the term ‘agile analytics’, but when it comes to analysis it’s all about the ability to deliver actionable change in an environment filled with noise.
In digital, that noise could be a consequence of too much data. Almost everything is measurable online, but with 90 per cent of the world’s data having been produced since 2011, the sheer variety, volume and velocity of unstructured data means that measuring more doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll draw more actionable insight. If anything, you’ll draw fewer insights, given the amount of time you spend analysing the data.
If you’re working in the digital space – in particular in search – you’re probably already employing a degree of agile analysis. The scale of change in this area means that if you’re not, you’ll fall behind on your insights and will very soon find yourself outpaced by the competition.
More often than not, in terms of digital strategy, mention of analytics will bring up images of a siloed analyst producing reports or diving into data when something doesn’t quite add up. This reactive approach to data will never yield the most exciting results, as this isolated view of data will narrow your insights. Ultimately, it’s not about being able to analyse faster. To be agile means to be proactive. Analyse enough to put the next actionable steps in place, solving problems and finding ways to deliver value. How could you incorporate agile analysis to empower your strategies? Here are some pointers.
It’s all about context
To deliver actionable insights, you need to understand the data in context as much as possible, and with the current mix of digital signals, your context just got a whole lot broader. An analyst working in isolation won’t be able to understand the broader context and activity surrounding the data and so won’t be able to produce any meaningful insights unless they are part of the mix within your digital strategy. Without taking account of context, any insights could simply be misleading.
Here are some examples of context in search where your data might be influenced by technological or human factors that could be mitigated by integrating analytics into the conversation.
• Switching to HTTPS: you lose traffic from direct due to an increase in referrer information from other HTTPS sites
• Browsers turning off referral data: you gain more traffic to direct
• Incorrect tagging of URLs: incorrect attribution of traffic
• Site changes that influence tracking: incorrect traffic distribution
Key takeaway: you are no longer able to analyse data in a silo sitting at your desk. Analysts need to be part of the digital conversation.
It’s about the audience
In the past, teams could be working for a long time producing data and producing insights that went way beyond what was required, understood or even actionable. The audience and their motivations need to be at the forefront of any insight to drive actions.
The search landscape is a good example of this. Just a few years ago, agencies were able to work in silos to produce organic improvements purely by building links. Back then, you probably dealt with an SEO manager who was purely focused on rankings. As search engines have moved towards ranking websites that add value and engagement, the need to converse and get buy-in from across the digital arena from digital PR to content, design and development has also increased. Fundamentally, the audience has changed and you need to adapt your analysis and interpretation of data and understand the context of their needs.
Key takeaway: data is just an insignificant mix of numbers and words until it is segmented, analysed and made useful to the appropriate target audience.
Innovation and adapting to change
Agile isn’t just about delivery. It’s about innovation and making the most of any change to speed up that delivery. Innovation – in terms of the platform used to capture data, as well as measurement and analysis strategies – will aid that delivery.
The plethora of digital marketing platforms used to capture visitor information is growing constantly and the number of tools released to dissect, analyse and attribute that data is growing even faster. Being able to capitalise on their use will not only free up more time to derive any insights, but could also uncover hidden opportunities by looking at the data from a different angle.
Key takeaway: constantly innovate and seek out new tools to help speed up repetitive tasks and focus time on crafting the insights for the audience and applying the context.
It’s about the ability to influence change
In many cases, the success of a digital strategy comes down to an understanding of the business’s core goals and objectives and the ability to influence change to reach them. That change is much more readily accepted if it’s incremental and backed up by insights. And the insights drive actions if targeted to audience motivations. Being able to uncover the opportunities and insights to help facilitate timely changes is the key. To deliver this in a digital environment, combine the numerical savviness of the analyst with the hidden insight and context that’s provided by other digital disciplines. By doing so, any insights will be delivered in context to the correct audience, increasing the impact to drive change.
Key takeaway: understand the business and don’t work in silos, work collaboratively to influence change together.