Aimee Bos, Blast Analytics & Marketing – Measure Twice Cut Once: Improve Your Digital Analytics for Better Insights

January 16, 2020

Customers have come to expect experiences that are relevant and personalized to their past behavior. As a result, measuring your customer journeys, taking action on those journeys, and developing digital experiences has become even more complex.

In this session Aimee Bos, Director of Analytics Strategy at Blast Analytics & Marketing, discusses how to:

  • Build a data strategy to collect and identify your customers' digital footprints
  • Take action to enhance customer experiences and drive growth

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Aimee: (00:00)

Hi and welcome to the virtual analytics summit. Thank you for joining my session. It's "Measure twice, Cut Once: Improve Your Digital Analytics Strategy for Better Insights." I am Aimee Bos. I'm the senior director of analytics strategy at Blast Analytics and Marketing. I've been working with digital analytics for about 15 years. I am an Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics certified expert. And Blast Analytics, we're great company who supports Women in Analytics, the Digital Analytics Association. We are a certified partner for ObservePoint along with both Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics. So our goal here is to really help support leaders evolve and organization evolve. So that is really to help not only our stakeholders personally evolve and professionally evolve, but as a company we want to evolve and we want to help the community evolve. We want to help evolve our clients, the industry, we want to help everyone evolve, so everyone we touch. So that's to help not only our consultants, but to help the entire analytics industry evolve.

Aimee: (01:06)

This is just a snapshot of our clients.

Aimee: (01:09)

And what do we do? We do everything across the analytics spectrum from digital analytics to marketing analytics, paid media, content marketing. We're taking that data and we're taking action on it as well.

Aimee: (01:21)

So I'm really here to talk about analytics strategy today. So why is strategy important? Well, developing strategy is really going to give you those advantages and it's going to help you increase your revenue. It's going to improve your ROI. So what you do today to help structure your data is going to improve and help you take action tomorrow. So there's this great quote from a professor at Boston university, consumers have access to websites and can purchase, and it's 24/7, 365 economy. They're on your websites anytime of day on devices, on tablets, on desktops, and they're really generating enormous amounts of data. The quality of that data is very important. So we want to make sure that we're capturing good quality data.

Aimee: (02:12)

So really what is an analytics strategy? So your analytics strategy is going to provide focus. If you don't have an analytics strategy, you're not really probably taking the time to look at what you're doing. You're not trying to understand what your business objectives are. You're not really looking in at your goals, your KPIs, and you're not taking the time to prior to deciding what you're going to track, really understand what you're going to do with that data. And that's really a big part of this. When we look at analytics strategies, we sit down, we understand with stakeholders, what are we gonna do with this data afterwards. So when we gather the requirements and prioritize those as a part of the analytics strategy and prior to doing the implementation, it's taking that data and correlating it to what are you going to do with that data later? How are you going to develop business requirements, um, who's going to be using that data? Cause there's likely different requirements for the marketing team versus your actual product teams. You might all be part of the same organization, but you know, marketing cares a whole lot about what they're going to spend and optimizing that ad spend. Whereas your product teams care about who is using your individual products, how the website is being used, what customer journeys look like, and your business stakeholders care very much about the customers and what they're doing and they have optimal experiences. So it's very different user journeys and and tracking KPIs based on the different users on your site. So you need to take that into consideration. What do those users expect as far as reporting requirements when you're actually designing a strategy? So that's very important when you're thinking about a strategy, you want to make sure that you're tracking the right data, you're understanding who's going to look at that data and who's going to make decisions on that data. So as strategy is really focusing on what is important and then designing your KPIs, your business objectives and your goals around that. So how you track it, what kind of events you track, what kind of variables you're going to use, are going to be based around the needs of the users who are actually looking at those data types.

Aimee: (04:28)

All right, so what should I focus on if I'm creating a strategy? Start with your overall business goals. So what are you focusing on? What does your company do to create revenue? You know, everyone's goals are to create revenue. You have as a business, something that you do that creates revenue, whether you're a lead generation company, um, whether you're a nonprofit and that's actually, you know, getting donations from outside, or whether you're actually a retail company and you have regular customers that actually buy something from you. And then also look at what are your stakeholders goals. If you have a marketing team that's out and buying ads and you have a product team that's developing apps and products, whether it's OTT and other devices, and you also have a set of business stakeholders that are very concerned with your customer journey. Each of those has different objectives. So you need to understand the overall business goals, not only of your company as a whole, but also every single one of your stakeholders as well. So look at those goals, talk to your stakeholders and understand what everyone is looking for and what everyone needs and take those, document those and really try to understand what you need to do to track those goals. So that really leads into number two here. What are the customer touch points that enable my business goals. What are those macro and micro conversions that happen that would allow me to accomplish those? So if, for example, you are a lead generation site, what does somebody have to do on the website to generate more leads? The marketing team is like be sending out a lot of ads. They're doing stuff, whether it's through paid media, through email, they're buying leads, they're going to different events and it's driving people to the website.

Aimee: (06:19)

What do people do on the website that likely will have someone do that? That funnel conversion point, which is you know, actually becoming a lead and that is either probably filling out a form. Um, they might be downloading content, they might be reviewing something on your site there. There's a number of things that they could do. Depending on the type of site that you have, it might be a download, it might be a trial, and it's look at that, your individual site and figure out what are those things that the customer has to do on your site to get to that final touch point that actually turns them into a lead. Figure out each of those, figure out what's important and what's essential and figure out how to track them. You know, if you're a Google Analytics customer, what events do you need to track? What customer dimensions do you need to have?

Aimee: (07:09)

If you're an Adobe Analytics customer, really figure out what traffic variables you need to have, figure out what conversion variables you need to have and figure out what events you need to have as well. And then who are your stakeholders? What types of reports do they need? Really, you need to think longterm. Our goal overall is to make sure that someone is taking these insights that you developed in your analytics strategy and they're able to take action on them. So you really need to go back to your stakeholders that help you develop your business goals. Ideally, each one of these people are either going to be looking at the analytics data directly themselves and then higher than that, you're going to have leadership level individuals that you'll be able to deliver this data to as well in reporting and you should be able to provide them with insights that they can make business decisions on. What type of reports and what type of data points do you need to be able to deliver these insights? And you need to make sure that every single one of those data points is available as a part of your analytics strategy. So it's just that second check for you to walk through and go, here are my reporting requirements. Am I tracking everything that I need in my analytics strategy to this point that I'm going to be able to deliver my reports that I said I'd report. So whether that's what my stakeholders are expecting, that's what I'm anticipating I'll deliver as an analyst, or that's what I expect that my leadership team will ask for. or what anyone who is making a business decision will need. So overall actionable insights is something you're always going to want to be looking for. So make sure that you're tracking those high level KPIs that are going to be important to deliver actionable insights.

Aimee: (09:03)

And then as a last check, you know, these are the things that are the what else to track. Walk through your site as if you're a customer. Go through what would be the normal customer journey and look at the things that you attract. What do you touch? What type of information is valuable? If somebody comes into a friction point, what the common friction points might be that you're aware of. Would that information be valuable or do you think errors would fall? Where do you think success points are? So make sure you're looking for those things that are kind of out of the order ordinary, not necessarily the nice to have data that someone might not look at all the time, but the stuff that you think is valuable. So we don't want to track everything, but we do want to make sure that we're finding that tidbit of information that really might be that diamond in the rough that you didn't necessarily think of because it isn't an obvious KPI or it isn't an obvious business goal, but it's there and it's something that you can grab and you didn't really realize it until you walked through and really, you know, put on the shoes of a customer who's actually utilizing the website.

Aimee: (10:15)

So the whole idea of this, as I said, is you really want to gather data that is going to enable making business decisions. We want to use data to drive your strategy and to make sure that you have actionable data. You don't want to be just making gut decisions. We have a tremendous amount of valuable data and that's the goal is that you're using data for this purpose.

Aimee: (10:37)

So what challenges to data analysts, and strategists encounter? So identify what data is relevant. So you want to make sure that when you're developing your strategy that you are capturing the most relevant data. Identify your KPIs and capture those data points that are relevant. We commonly run into challenges where clients will ask us to just track everything they want. The data that is, you know, they want to prepare for data or questions that might come up in the future that they don't even know what those are. So I don't like to track for the, "Hey, I'm just curious" questions. We want to track for the questions that you can actually take action on. And that's where understanding those business questions and being able to provide actionable insights based on your business objectives is very important. Those curious type questions, you can almost always kind of derive that type of information from almost every analytics tool. We can usually figure that out. And then a lot of tools like session cam tools can help you find those. Hey, I was just curious answers. So there's much better tools to help find that type of information than developing an entire analytics strategy around that. Identify what data to use and what data to discard. Strongly encourage you to audit your analytics strategy on an annual basis. Your website changes. So your strategy. So you should go through review, decide what to keep, decide what to discard and continually decide to evolve this. It's very important to make sure that you continue to evolve your strategy as your business evolves. Stakeholders will change, products will change. And so will you your business objectives. So make sure that you're continually, you know, updating your strategy and it can be a living document for you.

Aimee: (12:33)

Trust can be eroded over reoccurring data quality issues. So make sure that if you do have an issue that you're able to resolve it and that you're able to keep up with, you know, tracking issues that you're constantly QAing. ObservePoint's a great tool to be able to, once you develop a solid strategy to be able to test that strategy. Set up alerts, all of the analytics tools have the ability to set up alerts if there's any sort of fluctuation in your data. So make sure once you have a strategy in place that you have a plan in place to also be able to monitor and manage data quality issues.

Aimee: (13:12)

And data quality issues can erode trust in the data collection tools and the teams that support them. So this is not only about the strategy, this is also about making sure people can make business decisions on the strategy. So any sort of large data quality issue, PII getting into your data, or large fluctuations, if it makes someone in a leadership position question the data that you have, it can very quickly make them question things beyond that about the data or past data. So it's very important that you continue to manage this data. You continue to stay on top of your data and your data quality. So as I said, having a plan for data quality, having a plan for QA and having a plan to just continually monitor this is very important because your data is something that you should continue to make business decisions on. So make sure you're supporting your data.

Aimee: (14:08)

So as a party strategy, always make sure that you're focusing on formulating the right questions to ask. Make sure that as a part of this strategy, you also focus on a way to manage data quality, you focus on a way to manage the support of your data quality, and focus on best practices as well. Typically a best practice for us is that we like to lean towards data layers versus doing anything like Dom scraping. This ensures that when it changes to CSS, things like that happen, that you ensure that you don't have any sort of erosion in your data. But I understand that there are certain businesses that are unable to do those things. And that's where QA tools and data monitoring tools like ObservePoint are very essential to that. So keep that in mind that you do need to have data quality plans in place to ensure that you can trust your data and you can manage your data and people can continue to make decisions based on your data.

Aimee: (15:17)

So you may be wondering, well why do I need a strategy at all? There are plenty of ways to just capture everything. There are tools out there to capture everything. Why don't we just do that? So one of the biggest challenges with the capture all mentality is that you end up with unstructured data. And a lot of times unstructured data is difficult to use data. So when you capture every click with no strategy, that means there's no taxonomy to it. And the resulting reports then means that you must manipulate the data. You have to reorganize the data. You generally have to categorize the data. So that requires a whole lot of effort on the part of your analysts to actually look at the data. When you have to do that, that means that there was no strategy in the first place to determine you know what data is important to you. And with, as we said, there is a 24/7 365 day cycle for all consumers. They don't really care at this point to make sure that they manage and minimize the amount of data that they're sending to your businesses. So it makes it very difficult for you to act on because right now you have a tremendous amount of data coming in. And if you just capture every interaction that your customers have with you and not just the ones that are most important to you, there's a lot of data that you're going to have to weed through and throw away potentially to figure out what it is and who are those important high value customers to you. And what are those high value important touch points that customers take, you know, to identify, you know, who's converting, how they're converting and what you need to do to attract more of those people.

Aimee: (16:57)

So analysis becomes very difficult and you'll spend much more time on prep than you would on the actual data analysis. So the time spent on strategy ahead of time will save you far more than what you will spend on the analysis afterwards if you just rather than just capturing everything to begin with. Again, actionable data is a common problem that you'll end up having if you just capture everything. So because you just collect all data, it doesn't mean you should. So you end up a lot of times in kind of analysis paralysis. You have to just scrub through all of the data to act on it. It's to figure out what's actually driving your business. You're going to have to scrub through everything you're going to have to those little snippets. But with the idea of a strategy we have talked about really understanding what your stakeholders need, what really drives your business, what your business objectives are and what types of reports you're going to need in the end. When you track everything you haven't thought through that it's just going to come in, in the unstructured format, in whatever format the tool uses or in whatever database format that's going to come in, which requires a whole lot of effort afterwards. So not necessarily the best way to do it.

Aimee: (18:22)

Unnecessary costs are a possibility as well. Most tools, um, and it's probably going to require you to upgrade to a premium tool unless you're just using some type of script and sending it to a data warehouse, in which case that's the cost associated with that as well. But most tools charge based on the hit level. The more data you send, the more data, the more it's going to cost you per hit. So without having some sort of strategy behind what you're actually tracking, the more it will cost you. So again, think through what you would like to actually track instead of just dumping everything in there, not the best philosophy.

Aimee: (19:00)

There's also the potential that it could create consumer privacy risks. Yes, there's a benefit to owning the data, having it all in one place, but you potentially could be tracking PII in these cases and depending on where your customers are located, some of that data complying with CCPA, GDPR and a lot of these privacy regulations that are now there, could be quite complicated. You could be capturing things that are email addresses, IP addresses, first name, last name, all of those different values that are considered PII depending on where someone is located. And now complying with any of these privacy regulations for someone's right to be forgotten could become quite difficult. So if you have large amounts of data and somebody says, "I want to be forgotten," and you're just collecting everything, it could be very difficult. Or they can be massive amounts of data that you have to delete.

Aimee: (19:56)

Or if someone contacts you and says, "Hey, I want to get my file for me," this could be a tremendous effort that you have to actually comply with. And now there is a very, very large value to click stream data, but it should still be structured. Still consider having a strategy based around it. Click stream data, very important, it's very valuable for data science efforts, valuable for attribution efforts, but make sure it's tied to your business objectives. You don't need to collect everything to have click stream data. I would still encourage you to have a strategy based around it. Track what you need, don't track everything you know you're going to want to be able to make business decisions. Click stream data is about being able to tie your data, understand customer journey. You don't need to understand every minute interaction.

Aimee: (20:53)

And then of course data quality matters. So data-driven organizations need to make their decisions based on their data and if you are not driving your data based on the strategy, there is higher likelihood that there is going to be some sort of errors in your data. You could potentially be tracking PII, you likely don't know what you're tracking. So less documentation on your data. We frequently see clients come to us where there's been very little strategy in the past and there's a lot of mixed bag in their data, custom dimensions that don't have common taxonomy. Sometimes they're tracking different things. And sometimes it's just all over the place. They don't really understand. It's not easy to transition from different employees across the board. You can't really train people. So having a strategy in place is not only about, you know, having some sort of consistent business objectives, but it's also about having data governance to go with it.

Aimee: (21:53)

It's about being able to pass that data and the knowledge transfer along with it as well. Additionally, data quality, not having that it can lead to lost revenue. If you can't take action on your data, then what is the value of capturing that data? You don't know what the revenue is, you don't know what the ROI is, you're likely losing opportunities. There is definitely value that is being lost in that data. You are not seeing who your high value customers are. You don't understand what those customer journey touchpoints are. You don't also understand what the customer friction points are. So there's positives and negatives within your data and if you can't do analysis and you can't take action on that data, you're losing money. As I said, when trust is eroded in your data, that's a challenge for everyone. So you want to make sure that leadership and everyone believes in your data and that no one questions the team that is responsible for the data. No one questions your reporting and no one is questioning what's happening with your data. You want them to trust your tools, you want them to trust the analysis and you want them to trust the strategy. So your analytics implementation, your tools, your team, it's all an investment and all of that data can become worthless if there's just one instance where there's a data quality issue. So making sure that there is trusting your data, having a strategy ahead of time is very important.

Aimee: (23:29)

Additional resources. So Brad Millett, one of our senior year analytics strategists at Blast, created a blog post for us on transforming your business goals into a powerful analytics strategy. There's a link below on it or you can go to and you can see that blog post on there. It's a really good post. It's very detailed on some of the challenges and solutions to creating a analytics strategy and encourage you to go out there and read it. And I'd like to thank everyone for joining me today and listen to me talk about strategy and if you have any questions, I'd be happy to chat with you about them.

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