Saturday 21 Sep, 2019

Starting at 9am

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Can web analytics finally be taken seriously?

An Interview with James Gurd by Michael Feiner

Most clients I work with tell me that their organisation loves data and is data-driven. Nonetheless, only rarely do major business decisions taken based on web analytics data.

As web analysts we think of ourselves as capable professionals. Yet no matter how good we are almost all of us have experienced the deflating feeling of working hard to make ourselves heard only for no real decision to be taken based on our recommendations.

I have wondered about this problem for a while now. Are we at fault or are business managers not ready yet? Is it a communications problem or market maturity? I find this issue one of the most fundamental problems our industry faces. It was a big topic at the recent XChange conference in Berlin. Only there we discussed it mainly from the web analyst’s point of view.

At MeasureCamp, I would like us to discuss it from a business as well as web analyst point of view. That is the reason I asked James Gurd of Digital Juggler to lead this discussion. James has a great understanding of web analytics without being an analyst. His background and work are very much on the business management side.

James, can you tell us a little about yourself and the role of web analytics in your work

I’m a consultant so happy to talk about myself! My background is in business development and e-commerce, first client-side in retail, then for a UK e-commerce agency as an e-commerce consultant (also looking after the digital marketing team). I now run my own business, Digital Juggler, which provides e-commerce support and advice to clients in B2C and B2B.

Web analytics is central to everything I do – my clients need to be able to measure the impact of their investment, which means knowing what tools to use, how to configure them, how to extract relevant data and how to interpret the data to get valuable insight. Without intelligent analysis, decision making is at best visually impaired; at worst blind.

As web analysts we all believe web analytics is essential for business success these days. Do you feel senior management has finally come to appreciate web analytics as we do?

I think there is a much better understanding of the importance of getting your web analytics implementation right but still a degree of disconnect between analysts and commercial decision makers. I think that’s because sometimes there is a lack of analytical skill client-side, so all decision makers see is reports, not true analysis. This can make them under-value intelligent analysis, making it harder to sell-in an investment project.

I still think there is a lot of work to be done to get web teams to buy into web analytics/Voice of Customer/testing etc right from the start instead of suddenly turning to it when there is a problem. Or when they’re not sure how to improve KPIs at which point there is no historical data collection and you start from scratch. That’s where consultants like me come in – education is a key part of what I do.

Web analysts are often accused of failing to convey the commercial value of their data to senior management. What are we doing wrong in your opinion?

Ah the million dollar question. I think it comes down to three key challenges:

    1. Not asking the right questions to understand why the project sponsor is initiating the project and what outcomes they want to achieve.
    2. Not always understanding the motivations of the target audience, or not being able to fully understand the pressures they are under.
    3. Not being able to translate knowledge and expertise into easily digestible conclusions and recommendations.

Analysis has no value to senior management unless they can use it to make discernible improvements – cut costs, improve conversion etc. Sometimes analysts go off at a tangent and get lost in the data undergrowth, which is easy to do. They concentrate on the cool data manipulation/interrogation stuff and lose focus on the commercial targets.

I actually think some of the issues are down to trying to do too much. Web analysts by nature are detailed and thorough (well, most of you anyway!!). However, senior management doesn’t want the detail/complexity, they want the difficult numbers interpreted and presented in a simple conclusion with actions to take. Less can often be more.

Your session at MeasureCamp is called “Lost in Translation – Understanding Your Business Audience”. Can you tell us more about it?

Sure. Well first I borrowed the title from the film with Bill Murray & Scarlett Johansson because consultants don’t have original ideas. Second, I wanted the focus to be on how the business audience and web analyst audience can work smarter to deliver projects that hit the mark.

There are a lot of brilliant analysts out there doing things with web analytics tools & data that I wish my brain got instinctively. However, from the same people I’ve seen data analysis reports that could be written in Mandarin for all I know: cluttered, clumsy and confusing. I can’t take these to my clients’ senior management team because they would tune out and wonder why I’m wasting their time.

I feel that we need to find a business audience/web analyst babel fish that can translate your intelligence and wonderful analysis work into a polished management report that has clear/concise recommendations and actions. The session is geared towards discussing the challenges and using everyone’s experience to thrash out how to improve this.

What are you hoping to accomplish through your session?

World peace and goodwill to mankind. Failing that, I’d be happy if it helps some of the web analyst audience go away with an improved understanding that the quality and presentation of data analysis reports are actually as important as the analysis itself. If you can’t translate your knowledge and insight into easy-to-understand recommendations and actions, you devalue the analysis work.

I’d also like to get more insight into what web analysts think about the business audience and working with consultants. What can we do better to help you deliver more effective projects? What are we missing? How can we better understand what you can do and how you do it? It’s a two-way street and improved communication is going to be essential.

Are there any other MeasureCamp sessions you are looking forward to? What do you hope to achieve during MeasureCamp?

Yes a few. Without meaning to sound sycophantic, your session on Voice of Customer integration looks interesting, though it does mean listening to your voice for more than 5 mins. And I’m keen to tap into either Mobile Analytics with Zeljka Stojanovic or Social Analytics. I’m also going to sit in on Russell McAthy’s session on Conversion Rate Expectation – I value his opinion and experience.

I’d like to make new connections with smart analysts who have e-commerce experience. I believe the business audience like me has as much to learn from web analysts as you do from us.

James’ Lost In Translation – Understanding Your Business Audience session will take place at 13:40 in the Main Hall.

Interviewer: Michael Feiner
Position: Director, AEP Convert

Interviewee: James Gurd
Position: Owner, Digital Juggler