Jon Tomlinson, Metric Partners – Maximize Your Marketing Channels for Adobe Analytics

January 16, 2020

Accurate marketing channel reporting is a key factor in decision making for any marketing team. To ensure quality channel data and attribution, rule definitions should be carefully considered and maximized to bring decision-makers the best insight.

Learn from Jon Tomlinson, Sr. Analytics Architect at Metric Partners Consulting, about how to:

  • Use sub-channels to improve data quality
  • Maximize Adobe's marketing channel reporting

Fill out the short form to watch the presentation on demand.

Thank you for joining us today. I'm John. I'm going to be talking about maximizing your marketing challenge. I'm part of Metro partners. We're a consulting group and we are focused on data consulting and analytics optimization. I'm an architect there, that's my role. I help customers with the analytics integrations with implementations and architecting the solutions. So I report up to Mark Stringham, him and I put our brains together on this project. This client that we're going to be showing you today. We also, these are logos just between me and Mark that we've worked with in the past. So we've been doing this a couple of decades and I really enjoy what we do. We've also been in customer success in strategic roles where we advise and manage client relationships. So that's a little about us. 

The other day my son came to me and said, "Hey dad, can you help me out with this game? Battleship. The voice thing is not working anymore". You guys know how that is with electronic games these days, you have to have the voice thing working or the buttons working or else it just is no good. So I said, sure, yeah, let me help you out. So we started to look at this thing and got stuck on trying to get the screw off the bottom, which is pretty funny. It took us a while to get into it but replaced the batteries and soon learned that it was not the batteries that were the problem. Voice was still not working. So what we did is we went a little deeper. So we started taking it apart and we got into the guts, we got out the wires, we got out the chip board, the logic unit and everything. We completely just took this thing apart. And then is when it got really interesting. So it turned into just like replacing batteries and then it turned into this big huge electronic party. So what happened was we started to enhance it. So we started asking ourselves questions. We said, what would happen if we put this wire on here? Then we added this over here? So after the whole process I realized, Hey, wait a second, this is kind of similar to my job! 

So we went through this, this process of where we found the problem. We looked first at the problem and then we started with something simple where we just looked at the batteries. No luck. Took everything apart and we got really creative. We started to add things like a speaker, some more sounds. We tested what would happen if you like increased battery power and just asked ourselves questions along the way. So it turned out to be a really fun Sunday afternoon father son activity and the other kids came in and got super excited to. Then at the end we analyze the results. We said, “Hey, this, this thing's working pretty cool. What can we do to improve it? Like what else could we add?” Maybe like a super uber big board that we could use as a part of the game. So this was our little contraption and this is just the gut part of it. So we're able to enhance it now with other things. So it was just a really fun project and I realized, you know, these steps that we went through, these are similar to my job. This is similar to what you do as whether you're a marketer or a manager, we go through this decision making process and also creative process of whatever our type of work. 

That's the process we used for this client. So this client is in the hotel industry and we enhance their marketing channels. We took something that was simple and we enhanced it to work in a way that helped them get deeper insights and also make better decisions, more informed decisions. A little bit about marketing channels specific to Adobe Analytics, some of the poor concepts. Some of these would also apply to other analytics platforms.

To give you a quick idea of what is involved with marketing channels in Adobe, first you have the era view of traffic sources. So this shows how people are coming to your sites and which channels are most effective for conversion. So that's really it at a high level and there's lots that you can do with this. There's breakdowns, there's, there's ways to segment, even at attribution modeling, things like that. We kept this solution simple and I'll show you what I mean in a moment. But a couple of other things to understand with rules and with processing rules are critical in the order that they're specified. Because when a hit comes through on your site, it's going to start at the top of the rule chain. At that point when it goes through all the rules, it's going to break or stop whenever a rule is met. So I won't continue on any other rules after that, it just stops and says, okay, put the hit as this channel. It's also important to understand processing order so you know which elements are available to marketing channels processing rules. So the data layer is available. The data collection layer processing rules and Vista, any elements defined there are all available to your marketing channel processing rules. It's critical that when setup happens that it's done properly because marketers are really heavily invested in understanding these channels.

So our client wanted to make sure that things were set up in a way where they were getting the full picture and understanding how everything was working. So a little bit about our client. I'm working with them today. A great client. They are a large hotel client and they have 30 plus properties and these are mostly beachfront properties all over the world different island resorts and vacation rentals, other things like that. And they they are focused really strong on growing these properties, expanding and obviously along with that comes bookings. They want to understand how to increase their booking rates and just to improve their guest experience overall. They have a really heavy, strong investment in online marketing. Bookings are obviously done online, so they have to make sure they're investing where it matters in the right channels. So we have worked with them on about a dozen microsites plus the main site and lots of other smaller sites that are either redirects or kind of information sites. But these 12 microsites have been a big focus. There's a few ways when you have a microsite strategy to leverage microsites to increase conversions on your site. A marketing channel is actually one method. So we included microsites as a channel so that it could be a scene alongside other channels, but at the same time your traditional channels like paid search, email and PaperClick and all these other traditional online channels. These are actually driving traffic to the microsite plus to the main site. So trying to set this up in a consolidated view was a bit of a challenge. So we needed to make sure we advised properly on that view. The way they have analytics set up is through reports suites so that their main report suite is actually just collecting all these microsites as well. So you've got the main site rolling up into a main reports suite plus all the other microsites are actually reporting up there as well. We could've done multi-suite tagging, but we just decided this was the best approach and there actually wasn't really a need for suite tagging because they wanted to understand how these microsites were performing but have them all in one view.

So that's a very simple model. We just set it up that way then when we set up the marketing channel processing rules, we included microsite towards the bottom there and that allowed them to see how microsites were performing against all the other channels. So again order here is very important because if your hit comes in through one of these previous channels, it obviously won't continue down the chain. So we're just catching microsite at the bottom. What we've found though is that it actually performed pretty high. I'll show you an example of that in a moment. So let's just take a typical customer scenario. So here's a customer, he's ready for a vacation, it's getting pretty cold so he wants to head off to Fiji with his family. So he searches for Fiji vacation rentals and sees a paid search ad. So from there he is taken to the microsite for the Fiji resort. So in this case what's going to happen is Fiji, the microsite is actually going to get the credit. So you might see where the problem may be already and I'll point that out in a few minutes. But the booking engine is then brought up and from there the booking takes place. Now that looks great, except for that one piece where you know, you have a paid search ad right there in the mix. So there's a little disconnect. That could actually be a huge factor with decision making and affecting decision making because at the hotel marketing team, they're going to get together, they're going to start analyzing these reports and then they'll see, and this is an actual screenshot here, of how things are performing. You’ve got natural search on the top, then direct, then microsites is performing pretty strong. It's pretty high up there, it's the third best channel there as far as bookings go. So they could make a decision at that point and just say, "okay, microsites are performing well let's just add more content or let's add more microsites" and obviously there's way more to it than that. But you know, microsites can be used for content purposes, for engagement purposes, and like I mentioned before, as a channel. So they want to do all three of those things. Now the problem is that they wanted to be able to analyze everything in one view, but as these arrows point out here with the red lines there's a huge disconnect. So the marketing channels are not being retained when they go through a microsite. So if they started at a paid search, they go to a microsite main site, it's not going to be remembered. The paid search is not going to be remembered. So how do we get that to roll up into one view so that they can see their channels for their microsites and for their main site?

We looked at a couple options. So separate reports suites could be an option. The challenge with that is if you've ever set up separate report suites you know that reporting can get complicated if you have a global report suite that could simplify things, but in this case it wouldn't work because there's that big break. So there's no way to get the original marketing channel source there. So again, could you multi-week tagging, but what would happen there is we'd have to have all these microsites in separate reports. We then run marketing channels, reports for a dozen reports suites, and that's just super complex. There's a lot of work involved there. You've got to analyze 12 dashboards and 12 reports. You could put a lot of more effort into an Excel or power BI thing and try to figure out how to consolidate it, but to use Adobe workspace and just get one consolidated view that would not work. So we looked at segments, segments is an option, but we do have segments to actually view other data just for these microsites but marketing channels will actually be affected by that. Just like you slice a piece when you're making a segment, when you slice out a segment, you're also going to be slicing out attribution or marketing channel information as well from those segments. So that wasn't an option either. So we had to really get into the guts and really come up with another solution.

Luckily, it turned out to be pretty basic and this is something I think is really realistic for you. Whatever role you're at at your company, you can easily set up sub-channels. So that was the solution we came up with was setting up sub-channels. Now of course this does depend on your architecture, depends on how things are tracked through the cyber. Remember how simple we kept it, we kept it a bunch of microsites rolling up into one site. So all these sub-channels we created rules for. So now you can see a natural search. Along with natural search, we now have a new channel sub-channel defined as a natural search microsite or email microsite etc. So now when we look at, just to show you the rule here, if natural search detection rules are defined and you see a microsite name, we're collecting microsite in any bar. So we can identify which site is being tracked. Both of those rules are matched, then bucket it into the natural search microsite channel.

This turned out to be a really good solution for them first because it was simple, but second it gives them a consolidated view, which I'll show you in just a minute after this. So before they had these channels lined up and I showed you that screenshot earlier, Microsoft was towards the bottom. Then after we had everything set up, they just have a duplicate channel of everything except it's gotten microsite upended. Then now they can actually go through and see a consolidated view. So the end result looked like this. Let's analyze this a little bit. So line three on the left looks like a pretty healthy chunk of revenue from microsites. And also if you look at their look to book rate, you can tell that's higher. So a hybrid look to book rate to me says that's an effective channel for converting. So after we implemented these a couple months later, or a month or so later, we could look at the data and actually see how traffic is pouring in through the microsites. And then you can analyze at that point revenue, you can see there's a couple here like natural search going into microsites is a pretty healthy chunk of revenue. But in addition, I like to look at the "look to book" rates because those are a good indicator of what could be a good channel. Even if they're getting just a handful of bookings. It still could be a higher conversion if they were to invest more traffic in it. So email for example, if they were to invest a little bit more in emails specific to a microsite and you can drill down and see which specific microsite is getting this really high look to book rate, I may make a sense to do some more campaigns specific to that microsite. Lots of cool things you could do here. And this is really what this solution allowed them to do and us to do as analysts at metric partners. We're able to just drill deeper and get more insights and understand how marketing channels are really influencing their bottom line.

There's lots of other cool things you could do with this. There's some other enhancement ideas for kind of tweaking or hacking your marketing channels report. Let's say you have some channel that's nontraditional, it's not one of those traditional channels like paid search, natural search, but it's something totally different. It's an app or it's an email vendor that's specific or even LinkedIn forums. Some kind of nontraditional route to get people to come to your site. You could bucket these as sub-channels and even sub sub-channels where you can see displays and then view through and then microsite. Same with LinkedIn forums. We have another client who is a lead-gen customer and they do a lot of investment with LinkedIn forms. What they've found is those convert really well. So when people fill out forms do forms and fill them out, they get a high conversion rate that may direct them to their side for more downloads or white papers or whatever. Understanding LinkedIn forms as a sub-channel made sense because of the high focus they have on it or the investment they have in it. So again, if there's any area where that's driving healthy conversion, where you're investing heavily in it, it's worth calling out in a marketing channels report.

So those are our thoughts on how to work with sub-channels and how to enhance your marketing channels. And at this point we're happy to answer any questions, so we'll go to that point!

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