Web Analytics Led Us to Marketing Analytics — Next Stop: Customer Intelligence

As customers have pushed vendors to provide better tools, smarter methodologies, and more powerful algorithms to help solve complex problems, the analytics industry has evolved dramatically. At the turn of the century, (I feel so old saying that) web analytics led the charge, in a hotly-contested hyper-growth industry that reshaped how marketing professionals thought about the role of data in decision making. During that time, companies took special care to make sure they understood what was happening on their web properties, and their willingness to invest in smart people and powerful software to help them gain insights went through the roof. As powerful and visually compelling as those products were at the time, looking at the leading tech now, clearly, we were just getting started.

The next major plateau for our industry was the shift to an expanded paradigm of digital analytics. Companies continued to measure the effectiveness of the web, but also started to analyze email, advertising, video, social and offline marketing channels. Sophisticated nurturing and content marketing strategies emerged as the norm, and enterprises pushed to understand their “digital” customers holistically. This shift was a natural evolution, but it left out several key leaders around the CMO’s table: social, PR and of course, offline brand interactions.

Today, most organizations are thinking about marketing analytics — a CMO-wide lens on marketing interactions with customers and prospective customers. This broader lens has had to make sense of big data, which led marketers into machine learning, predictive algorithms and the beginnings of a lights-out marketing automation movement. The analysis is beyond intelligent — incorporating artificial intelligence and data science that sometimes sounds almost Jetson-esque.

In a marketing analytics worldview, companies must have an accounting of and insight into all of their marketing programs in all of their channels, including web/browser, mobile apps, TV/video, social, paid media, field, print, outdoor and others. If your organization is still stuck in the web analytics mindset, it is time to reinvent your analytics practice, leveraging all of the available marketing analytics tools to make faster and better decisions and drive your business.

Just recently, Gartner published their first ever Digital Marketing Analytics Magic Quadrant. The report covered 12 different analytics vendors, positioning them in the four quadrants of their legendary grid: leaders, challengers, visionaries and niche players. As usual, vendors were evaluated against two dimensions: ability to execute (the vertical dimension) and completeness of vision (the horizontal dimension). We were pleased — although not surprised — by the results of Gartner’s analysis: Adobe Analytics was positioned as a leader (view the full report). Gartner’s rankings were very similar to the findings of Forrester Research in 2014 (read the full Forrester Wave Report).

While analyst reports and rankings are important when selecting a vendor, it is much more important for data-driven companies to understand which analytics vendor(s) are best suited to help solve their specific problems and drive results. It turns out that sometimes, the criteria the analyst firm used for their assessment needs some modification in order to apply to the needs of brands. To help with that, I thought I would share a few key questions and information I would recommend considering when you are evaluating which analytics solution is best to help solve your business challenges, keeping in mind that once you have your criteria, Forrester and Gartner both have the ability to help you re-cast their research to help you select a vendor.

Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to lead marketing organizations at multiple market-leading companies. I have seen, first-hand, the power of effective marketing analytics. I have, unfortunately, also seen the limitations that can come from leveraging less than stellar analytics systems. If I were searching for a best-in-class, comprehensive analytics solution today, these are the key questions I would challenge my team to answer:

  1. How does our analytics practice compare to others in our industry, and where are we specifically trying to improve (this assessment tool might help them with that analysis)?
  2. Can my current analytics solution help the team I currently have in place identify high-value segments and then expand our market reach into those audiences?
  3. Will the solution I am considering, help my company to measure all of the channels that we need to (silos are going to kill my ability to do important jobs like prediction and attribution modeling)?
  4. Does my analytics vendor’s technology enable employees with forward-looking intelligence to make better data-driven decisions?
  5. Does my analytics vendor have integrations with other key marketing technologies?
  6. How much is the vendor investing in incremental innovation (I don’t want to buy a product that is undergoing time-consuming and expensive platform renovations – I want powerful functionality)?
  7. Is the company willing to really listen to my needs and let me play a role in the future of the solution?
  8. Does the solution have the rich functionality to help me solve business problems? Are they investing in things that will make it easier for me to hire normal people — not just Ph.D data science ninjas?
  9. Is the vendor thinking about everyone in my organization who needs access to data? Can they help me deliver those analyses in a way that un-trained users can get immediate value from the insights?
  10. Does the solution tie into the systems where insights are applied, such as my CMS, testing and targeting, personalization, email, advertising and other systems?

A vendor who adequately answers these questions will help ensure that your organization most effectively maximizes your marketing investments.

As we move beyond marketing analytics, Adobe believes the next frontier is customer intelligence. This moves the focus beyond the CMO’s organization to analytics for the entire enterprise — and even on to business partners. In the customer intelligence paradigm, sales, product development, customer care and other customer-facing teams will begin to leverage the marketing analytics insights and tools to gain insights to shape their job functions. This will require vendors to make it even easier to find insights that can be acted upon. Organizations must have a 360-degree view of their customers to effectively deliver rich experiences to them.

At Adobe, we are happy to be positioned by Gartner as a leader in the new Digital Marketing Analytics Magic Quadrant. However, we are even more excited with the groundbreaking capabilities our team will continue to deliver as we pursue the opportunities and challenges customer intelligence will present.