Magnifying Glasses, Microscopes and Web Analytics

by Jim Cain

We have been talking to and working with a lot of companies this year for web analytics, and an interesting trend has been emerging with the executives that we are dealing with. Most digital decision makers we talk to either want to have Napkyn deliver ‘magnifying glass’ focused consulting on a few critical business metrics every month, or they want us to pull out the microscopes and look for new revenue potential in the specifics of their data.

In understanding these two types of executives, their motivations and ultimate goals, we can quickly see what value a good web analyst can immediately bring to an organization.

Executives who are responsible for a digital channel tend to fall into one of two types:

  1. Analytics for performance management (macro level analysis) : Macro executives view WA data as a set of health metrics that can be used to understand the digital business. Their ultimate goal is to have a small set of business critical metrics that they can monitor to assess their online success. An example of this would be Patrick Byrne at Overstock, who says that he continually monitors their net promoter score as an operational success metric.
  2. Analytics for performance optimization (micro level analysis): Micro executives are a fast growing group (especially in digital retail), and they focus on using their website data to continuously improve the results and returns of their site. Keyword reports, landing page data, shopping cart step analysis are all areas where reams of data are modeled and tweaked.

Macros tend to be more traditional executives, often in roles where the website is only one part of their overall mandate (i.e. business to business). Micros tend to be almost exclusively digital marketers, and often have the vast majority of their marketing spend online (i.e. eCommerce).

The Napkyn Analyst program includes a performance management component. By listing the top 5 things a Macro really cares about and then reporting monthly on the health of these 5 things, we can create a really transparent ‘state of the union’ report. No decision-maker will look at their website the same once they have a strong ongoing understanding of the health of their traffic, their primary goal conversions and their marketing ROI. The problem with this being the endgame of analysis is that it is entirely too reactive. Knowing that traffic has gone up (green) and conversions have down (red) is important, especially if you can isolate root cause. There is no component of a straight performance management initiative that relates to optimization.

Napkyn’s Analyst Program includes an optimization top 3 report and optimization index in each monthly report we deliver to a client. The purpose is to isolate segments of under performance in the web data, make recommendations on ways the under performing segment can be optimized, and then track the results over time. This is a huge selling feature to Micros, who don’t have the time and the expertise to build a plan around this kind of continuous improvement initiative. But how valuable can optimization be if not taken into the context of the overall health of the business? Perhaps we grew the conversion rate of Australians by 300%, but hurt our overall sales by alienating North American Traffic. Context is king.

What we see happening with our Macro and Micro executives is that they start working with Napkyn to meet their specific goals “I only care about the Magnifying Glass reports” and after about a quarter of ongoing deliverables become equally as interested in the other half of the document “I’m losing that many conversions from that landing page? What should I do?”

I could carry the metaphor into how our reports are like bifocals….but I digress.

The important point is that a good analytics process allows you to see the big picture in such a way that you can understand and action on the specifics that you isolate.

What’s your process? Is it profitable?


Jim Cain

Founder and CEO, Napkyn Analytics

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