Digital in Context: Business Beyond the Clickstream

by Colin Temple

Digital analytics has been maturing over the years, moving from pageviews, through sessions and individual events, to a visitor-centric approach to understanding online activity. Most digital analysts are, at least, coming to the point where they understand that customer journeys are bigger than the last session. Many are well past that point, and are looking across channels, and across devices, to understand how their customers interact with their brands online.

In particular, advanced digital analysts are moving beyond the clickstream for customer data — that is, they are looking to understand how customers interact with a brand offline, and how that impacts the digital channel.

Business is bigger than digital

However, in my experience, I’m seeing that there’s a definite focus among digital marketers in understanding how the rest of the business impacts the digital channel, and a little less on how the digital channel impacts the rest of the business. Both are, of course, important, and a significant part of embracing both is placing all of your data from the digital channel in the context of your organization’s other data sets.

I’ve been working with a number of our customers to do exactly this: build key data integrations between digital and information from other areas of the business to add context to the digital data. It’s paying off; gaining this understanding not only highlights the importance of the decisions made from digital data, it actually changes what some of those decisions are. I want to share some of the things I’ve been working on, what I’ve learned that works, and how you can use these connections to empower better decisions in your organization.

Best Practice #1: Ownership

This can be a big project. When I say that you need to put digital in the context of your larger business, I mean that you need to understand costs, content, and customers from all over the place. Advertising tech has made it easier to factor in your marketing costs when looking at your site data, but what about the cost of obtaining your products? What about offline refunds? What about sales opportunities beyond the initial customer engagement?

There are two key ingredients here:

  • The right data
  • The right people

To add appropriate context, you need to decide what appropriate context is. To get it, you need the right people owning this project and working together to make it happen. In my experience, this works best if a primary stakeholder — whether in your organization or in a partnering agency — takes ownership of this project and acts as the ambassador between their department (which may be a digital marketing, IT, or dedicated BI team) and others.

Best Practice #2: Data accessibility

If you’re going to be bringing multiple sources of data together, you need to make decisions about where that data lives, and how you can make that data accessible to the people who can benefit from it. There are a huge number of possibilities here, but I’m a huge fan of a cloud-hosted destination for the data that will accompany your digital analytics data to add context. If your analytics platform supports it, getting the context in there is fantastic because it gives analysts and marketers the opportunity to see the context using tools they already understand. Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics both offer opportunities to do this.

But if you’re a little more hardcore from a data science perspective, you may lean toward another data warehousing solution to store raw data and supply it for analysis. That’s well and good for the power users, but accessibility of this data to all those who could benefit from it provides huge wins for your organization. Try hooking up a presentation tool like Google Data Studio to help democratize the data across departments.

From there, you need to build (or use) a standard for the way you’ll store that information, and you’ll need a governable (and preferably automatically governable) process for getting the data together. How do we do that?

Next steps: come and hear more!

On Thursday, November 9, I’ll be speaking more on this topic at the ObservePoint Analytics Summit, a free online event for digital analytics and digital marketing practitioners. Check out my session at 2pm, along with the rest of the available sessions. ObservePoint runs a great event and it’s an invaluable opportunity to brush up on the latest in the analytics space.

Register here for the 2017 Analytics Summit and learn strategies for success in 2018. I hope to see you there!

Colin Temple

VP, Product

Colin serves as VP, Product for Napkyn Analytics. A diverse background in data, software and marketing and an education in logic and philosophy give Colin a unique perspective on where the analytics practice is, and where it should be.

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