Improving Segmentation in Adobe Analytics
by Ben Gaines
posted on 05-20-2014
Those of you who attended Adobe Summit in Salt Lake City at the end of March got a sneak peek into something that the team here at Adobe has been working on for a while: a quantum leap forward in segmentation functionality throughout most of Adobe Analytics. Segmentation is the most important item in the digital marketer’s toolkit, so we’re pretty excited about these upgrades coming later this week. This post is all about introducing you to these powerful new segmentation capabilities so that you know what to expect and how to begin taking advantage of these improvements.
Use Segments Across Adobe Analytics Tools
The first major improvement to segmentation comes under the hood, where we have created a unified segment database that works across the tools in Adobe Analytics: reports and analytics (SiteCatalyst), ad hoc analysis (Discover), report builder (ReportBuilder), and data warehouse (DataWarehouse). This means that a segment you build in any of these tools will be available for editing or applying in any other of these tools without you needing to do anything. Gone are the days of creating a segment on the Web and then needing to create the same segment a second time to work with it in ad hoc analysis. Wherever your analysis and reporting workflow takes you, your segments will be there waiting for you.
There is a very small set of segment criteria that is not compatible with data warehouse, but the segment builder will make it very clear when you are using one of these criteria, and it will be well-documented. With the other tools in Adobe Analytics, segments will always be 100 percent compatible.
Use Segments Across Report Suites
Another great request we’ve gotten from you is the ability to apply a single segment across all report suites. Many segments are universally applicable, even with custom implementations varying by report suite, but in the past the need to recreate those segments for each individual report suite has consumed a lot of time. With this new update, any segment that you create can be applied across all report suites in your company. This means a few things at a practical level:
- If you have 48 different report suites, each with a “Tablet Visits” segment that you’ve created, you will be able to delete 47 of those segments once this update becomes available to you. (And don’t worry about scheduled reports or dashboards; even if you delete a segment that they using, they will continue to run and will use the deleted segment in perpetuity unless you decide to make a change to their individual configurations.)
- This does create the possibility for some segments to be used in the wrong places. For example, if you have two report suites (we’ll call them RSID1 and RSID2) and eVar5 is measuring two completely different things in RSID1 than it is in RSID2 (say, Customer Gender versus Internal Search Term), then applying a segment that uses eVar5 = Men to the report suite where eVar5 stores search keywords will return very strange data, or no data at all. Just something to be aware of in your new governance abilities!
Managing Segments for the Enterprise
Since the release of SiteCatalyst 15, many of you have seen your list of segments grow into the hundreds or even the thousands as you have tackled various analysis projects. It has become unwieldy, and you have been waiting for a better way. That way is now here. With segment stacking, cross-suite compatibility, and cross-tool compatibility, the sheer number of segments you will need to build and maintain will decrease in most cases. In addition, we are providing you with a number of new capabilities around management of those segments in a brand new Segment Manager:
If you are using ad hoc analysis or report builder, you will see a segment manager in those tools that looks and behaves like this one and shows the exact same list of segments. Actions taken there apply here, and vice versa. Notice that you can multi-select, so that you can take any of the actions in the toolbar at the top of the manager against multiple segments at one time. You can also filter this list by segment owner (for admins, this includes the ability to see/manage everyone else’s segments), by segment tags, or by “approved” segments—segments marked by an admin as correct, canonical, and ready for widespread use by the organization. Let’s drill in to a couple of the things you can do in the segment manager:
Probably my favorite addition to segmentation in Adobe Analytics is the ability to share segments. As an admin user, you have the ability to share segments with individuals, with user groups, or with all users in your company. Non-admins can share with other individuals. This is the first time you have had the ability to cater a list of segments to a specific set of users, based on their role in the organization, and to curate that list so that an individual’s list of segments is exactly the set of segments that person will need.
For example, I might create a few segments that include visitors who have participated in a set of email campaigns, and then share that segment with a user group I’ve created called ” Email Marketing Team.” All users in that group will receive those segments in their list. As new colleagues join that team, and I add them to the group, they automatically inherit those segments.
Of course, you can also unshare segments as well. Another thing to note here: Only the person who created a segment will be able to edit it, so you do not need to worry about sharing a segment with the entire organization only to have someone make unauthorized changes to it. Users can create a copy if they want to make changes, so that your original is unaffected.
A brief note here on segment organization: the folder structure in ad hoc analysis has been replaced by the ability to “tag” segments. This allows you to freely create labels that help give definition and meaning to your segments. This tagging structure becomes a way to organize, filter, and navigate your segments. A segment can have multiple tags applied to it, and then when doing reporting, you can progressively filter your segments as if you are moving through a folder hierarchy. Having used them for a bit, I think of tags as providing the best of folders and the best of labels rolled into one.
Stack Your Segments for Better Iterative Analysis
One of the improvements that you will notice immediately is that the way to select segments has changed. Gone is the drop-down list, replaced by a left rail, which expands out when you want to apply segments. There you can filter as you type or bring up an advanced filtering window which allows you to limit your list based on tags, approved segments, or segment owners. Segments are applied by clicking the blue “Apply Segments” button at the bottom of the rail. The reason for this is to allow for what we call segment stacking.
Segment stacking refers to the ability to apply more than one segment to an entire report at one time. For example, I might start an analysis by looking at first-time visitors but then realize that I want to see first-time visitors from mobile devices. Ad hoc analysis has made this really easy for several years; in other tools in Adobe Analytics, you previously had to create a new segment that would take both of these criteria into account. With this release, you can stack segments anywhere in reports & analytics for easy ad hoc segmentation. In the screen shot below, I have created what you can think of as an ad hoc segment defined essentially as “loyal visitors from the U.S. who are visiting on a tablet device.” I can save this report to a dashboard or to a bookmark and the stacked segments are all saved with it.
This is going to make your life, and the lives of your colleagues who use Adobe Analytics, a lot easier. By using segments as building blocks, you will not need to spend as much time creating complex segments that may only be used once. We have heard stories of companies creating thousands of segments to account for every possible permutation of criteria. With the ability to stack segments, this number can often be reduced by 90% or more. Additionally, the way that you navigate through your analysis and reporting becomes much more iterative; you may apply a couple of segments, then have a question which can be answered by stacking another segment to further filter the audience included in the data set.
Updated Segment Builder
But wait, there’s more! I would be remiss if I did not spend some time talking about the new segment builder, which is getting a major overhaul. Where you once had pop-up windows on top of pop-up windows, you now have an all-in-one-page builder that incorporates the best of the ad hoc analysis segment builder and brings it to the Web.
Dimensions, events, and even existing segments are available for me to add to my canvas by dragging and dropping from the left. I’m going to stop here to give a little more love to the idea of building segments using existing segments as components. Just as segment stacking lets you iteratively progress through your analysis using segmentation, the ability to build a segment using existing segments lets you modularize your segments; now, if I want to build a segment for long-term use, such as returning tablet visits that saw a campaign, I can simply drag the “Tablet Visits” segment and “Campaign Visits” segments onto the canvas and I’m done. No need to redefine all of the criteria and check to make sure I defined my new segment the same way as I’ve been doing elsewhere.
You will notice that sequential segmentation is available here. And as in ad hoc analysis, as I build my segment, a preview module in the upper right shows you the percentage of page views, visits, and visitors in your data set over the past 90 days that match the existing segment criteria. Even though segments now work across report suites, each segment is still associated with a report suite (we have to get the list of available dimensions and metrics from somewhere), and that report suite can also be changed here.
Publish to Adobe Marketing Cloud
The last thing I will cover—there’s plenty more, but I’m already close to 2,000 words—is publishing to Adobe Marketing Cloud. Another great announcement at Adobe Summit had to do with profile management and the Audience Library in Adobe Marketing Cloud, which allows you to do targeting based on an audience defined in Adobe Analytics. If you are enabled for Adobe Marketing Cloud and profile management, both the segment manager and the new segment builder allow you to publish your segment to Adobe Marketing Cloud so that you can begin using it for real-time profile management and audience targeting through Adobe Target.
As mentioned above, these changes and some other great ones are set to roll out to Adobe Analytics users within the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye out for them! We are excited about these improvements and can’t wait to hear your feedback and additional ideas to improve the segmentation experience once this is available. Happy segmenting!