This article was originally published in the Fall 2012 edition of OnAnalytics, published by the Institute for Business Analytics at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.
This article focuses on insights from Vaibhav Gardé, who at the time of the article’s publishing was a Marketing Principal in the Interactive Marketing practice at FedEx.
Digital marketing today is driving rapid adoption of measurement techniques across devices and channels. According to Forrester Research, the shift to digital marketing is placing a premium on web intelligence: the collection, measurement, and utilization of multichannel digital data to drive mutually beneficial customer relationships. A 2011 Forrester survey shows that 84% of businesses are currently using web analytics technology. This market is expected to evolve into three main categories: Enterprise Marketing Platforms, Online Marketing Suites, and Digital Analytics Specialists. The technology helps track the influence of online channels on sales, customer experience, loyalty, and issue resolution, among other things.
Within this decade, however, the field of web analytics has begun changing so profoundly that it has taken on an entirely new identity. The leading industry standards group – the Web Analytics Association – recently changed its name to the Digital Analytics Association. This shift in terminology reflects a tremendous growth in mobile, social, and other emerging digital channels. The “web page,” as we know it, may soon become obsolete.
The new customer interaction paradigm
SoLoMo, meaning Social Local Mobile, is the hot new growth area for customer interactions. Whether for marketing, payments, customer service, or news consumption, companies are moving from addressing the masses to serving individuals in highly customizable formats. These technologies, and the associated explosion in devices, are fundamentally changing the way we live and work.
This protean nature of digital analytics creates many challenges for marketers that can’t be solved with outdated “web analytics” methods. The new customer interaction paradigm, however, also generates new opportunities for continuous, relevant engagement. Marketers are now closer to the holy grail of marketing: “serving the right message at the right time to the right person at the right place.”
Most consumers today – all across the world – rely heavily on online search to discover, research, and buy products and services. Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo frequently modify their algorithms in an effort to serve up the “best” results. These results are increasingly based not only on the user’s search key words but also on user parameters like location, browser, search history, device, and, increasingly, social media interactions. Today’s search results are materially affected by user ratings, friends’ reviews, and other social signals.
Given the instantaneous results of online search, the cost of product comparison is lower than ever before, with sites like Pricegrabber, Bizrate, and a host of others offering comparison shopping at the user’s fingertips. Online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay have made it extremely easy to search for specific products and buy at the lowest price, from the highest-rated seller, or based on other criteria like location of seller, shipping costs, or product reviews.
New career opportunities for digital business analysts
The net result of all this digitization is that incredible amounts of data are being generated each minute, 24/7/365, across many platforms, devices, and languages. All of this data gets stored for in-depth analysis and site optimization to enable companies to better meet their competitive objectives in the realms of profits, sales, donations, readership, and more.
As a result of this data explosion, job titles like “Chief Data Scientist,” “Social Media Strategist,” and “Chief Content Officer” are becoming increasingly common. To fill these roles, companies are looking for candidates with the right mix of technical skills, ability to continually learn and adapt, and a firm grounding in business principles.
In the area of marketing analytics, it is critical to understand how to deploy paid search, optimize for organic search, and leverage both social media and content (including text, images, and video). This is not your grandfather’s marketing; it is heavily driven by data and technology. The ability to quickly make sense of the (vast amounts of) data, generate insights that galvanize action, and continually create “testable” scenarios will be paramount to employers going forward. Drawing insights from “Big Data” and creating accurate attribution models to optimize performance of digital channels will be critical factors to improve profitability of programs.
Digital analytics will continue to be a very exciting – and demanding – field for the foreseeable future. Talent in this area is going to be very hard to find (and keep). But for folks who understand data, thrive on learning new technologies, and are curious about ways to solve the ever-evolving problems of doing business in tomorrow’s digital world, the sky is the limit!