By Chris Shores
Imagine you work for a pizza chain that is about to rebuild its online ordering portal. Your company wants to maximize its return on that investment and has tasked you with taking a look at the current portal’s analytics and pulling out some valuable insights.
You open Google Analytics and see pre-made dashboards with graphs and data points like active users, page views, bounce rate and average session duration. As you click from dashboard to dashboard, the data points keep on coming: traffic source reports, a browser/device breakdown, a city-by-city comparison and more. There’s a seemingly endless amount of data at your fingertips.
Even if you knew the exact metrics you wanted to learn, and where to find them, you’re unlikely to produce the kind of insights you’ve been tasked with finding. Pageviews increased last month by 15 percent. So what? Why did it happen and how can this information be used to inform the next development project?
While you were certainly able to view a lot of interesting things, the approach was problematic because:
- You have yet to identify what your business strategy is and how you will measure success.
- Since you haven’t completed step one, it’s impossible to know whether you’re asking the right questions.
A better approach to analytics planning
As your online ordering portal projects begins, it’s possible developers or marketers on your team have identified some questions, such as:
- Did people get frustrated with the checkout form and leave at a certain step in the process?
- Did customers click on the offer to add a discounted dessert?
- Did they enter an address that is just outside of your delivery range?
These questions seem like good ones, but are they the right ones?
To ensure that the right questions are being asked, I highly recommend that any project team begins an engagement by working together to create an Analytics Measurement Plan. It contains the following:
- Business Objective: Why your company is investing in this initiative.
- Digital Strategy: How you plan to use your digital products to accomplish your business objective.
- Tactics: How you plan to accomplish your digital strategy.
- Key Performance Indicators: How you will measure the success of your tactics.
- Metrics, Segments and Analytics Implementation: The details for how you will capture and report on your key performance indicators (KPIs). This includes data segments you will use to view your KPIs.
Why bother going through this process? Bernard Marr, author of Big Data: Using SMART Big Data, Analytics and Metrics To Make Better Decisions and Improve Performance argues the following:
I’ve also found that the “right question” to one stakeholder will be viewed as the completely wrong one by another. The analytics measurement plan can help by requiring stakeholders to work together to align on what project success looks like.
A high-level look at the measurement plan
Now that you’re armed with the right approach, the first thing you do is ask stakeholders, “What is the business objective of this initiative? Why is our company investing in this project?”
The answer to this question should not be “We need a new website that offers delivery” or “Our mobile app’s user experience is outdated and cumbersome.” Those are tactics to support a larger business goal.
At a minimum, you’ve guessed that your pizza chain wants to see an increase in total sales. As you dig in more, though, you learn that executives have identified a specific priority for the new ordering portal: increasing loyalty of repeat customers.
Next step: Identify a digital strategy to achieve the business objective.
Once it’s clear the objective is to increase the business of the pizza chain’s repeat customers, your stakeholders agree that the best digital strategy is a mobile app and loyalty program that encourages repeat business. A responsive website redesign will follow suit, but is a second priority.
With an objective and strategy now laid out, you then dive into the tactics your company will use to accomplish that strategy. These tactics can include both user actions and ways to learn more about your customers.
- Enable customers to place delivery orders from their mobile device
- Enable customers to save favorite items
- Learn customer motivations to inform expansion of loyalty program
Now the real fun begins. For each of the tactics, you consider: What KPIs will your company use to measure success? A tactic can, and likely should, have multiple KPIs to support it.
- Increase daily revenue
- Increase number of monthly orders per customer
- Increase number of favorited items per customer
- Increase click-through rate of targeted offers
- Increase understanding about item popularity
- Increase understanding about most popular time of day to order
- Decrease abandoned/incomplete orders
- Decrease wait time for delivery orders
- Decrease time needed to complete shopping cart flow
If you have specific percentages for these KPIs (e.g. Decrease abandoned/incomplete orders by 50 percent) then that’s great! But if not, don’t let these hinder you; at a minimum laying out KPIs like the ones above will ensure that your team aligns on what success looks like.
Metrics, Segments and Analytics Implementation
With the hard work now done, you then look at each KPI and determine the best method for measuring it.
It could be that Google Analytics or another tool provides 75 percent of these out of the box. For metrics that aren’t captured by default, your developers can build custom code to capture the data. For example, developers could program in an event that captures the time it takes a customer to navigate through the shopping cart flow.
Don’t be confined to one tool, either. If one of the KPIs is best captured through user surveys or some other means of data collection, then use that approach to measure that KPI.
It’s also important to consider that you may need to break down the data and view a specific subset in order to understand whether the KPI is successful. Some examples of these data segments include:
- Whether a user is registered or not
- A user’s selected store
- Operating system
Since segments can apply to multiple KPIs, it is sometimes broken out as its own section on the analytics measurement plan.
As you go through this phase of the plan, you’ll work with your project manager to create and assign work tasks for:
- Developers, for any custom data collection work needed
- QA engineers, to test that the data is being captured correctly
- Yourself (the analytics owner), to build dashboards in your analytics tool that automatically pull these metrics together to present progress to stakeholders.
Avoid the temptation of diving into the data
Having powerful analytics tools at your company’s disposal is truly a double-edged sword.
On one hand, tools like Google Analytics allow virtually anyone within an organization to see how their digital products are performing — sometimes even in real-time.
But on the other hand, they can serve as a crutch because the instant data they provide — and the degree in which anyone can drill down quickly and easily see very specific data points — make it tempting to skip over the first and most important step: Strategy.
Taking a step back and beginning with a measurement plan allows your team to first agree on what you’re building and why, and then further align on tactics and KPIs. It also will enable you to spend your time where it matters the most: answering your company's most important questions and measuring the success of the initiative.
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Published on 04.18.18