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:
As your online ordering portal projects begins, it’s possible developers or marketers on your team have identified some questions, such as:
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:
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:
“Few businesses have the time, inclination, or resources to collect endless amounts of data in order to answer questions they didn’t need to ask or couldn’t care less about answering. It’s not productive or practical. The truth is we are so mesmerized by the data that we’ve forgotten that actually the question is much more important than the answer the data could, may, or should provide.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.