Is it time to kill off your analytics report?

Adrián Gastón

15 November 2018

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Over the past few years, we’ve experienced a revolution in digital marketing; there has been a massive increase in the amount of information and data we’re able to gather on clients and customers. Marketers have had to become familiar with terms like big and small data, business intelligence and data science.

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), by 2020 the data collected globally will have grown by a factor of 10 since 2013 – that means data collection will have multiplied from 4.4 trillion gigabytes to 44 trillion in just seven years. It’s no surprise that this growth of information is accompanied by a wealth of unused data. What’s more, by 2020 experts predict that just 37% of data will prove useful, if tagged and analysed.

Analytics teams are experiencing an information overdose and it’s having a direct effect on their day to day. This leads us to ask one, critical question: are analysts making the most of the information they have?

The commoditisation of analytics

The evolution of digital marketing and the current information overload highlights the importance of analysis within a department’s marketing strategy. Proper data analysis makes for an easier data extraction process, however this convenience has led to the over-commoditisation of analytics. Now marketers feel the need to introduce analytics into every project, regardless of whether or not it serves a real purpose. Analytics have lost their true value and analytics teams are already overwhelmed by too much information. The inability to handle that much data has limited what we can achieve relying on analytics alone, and so more and more teams have begun to focus on measuring performance and results instead – purely quantitative data.

In the process of writing this article, I asked my co-workers why they felt analytics were a core part of a modern marketing strategy. Here are some of their answers:

  • We (as marketers) tend to assume our audiences think in the same way we do, which is a little dangerous. We need to understand that our customers and clients have a different perspective. Analytics can help us to realise that.
  • If you don’t stop for a minute to analyse the job you’ve done in detail, you’ll end up making the same mistakes.
  • Customer behaviour analysis is essential, if you don’t want to waste your money.

All the answers I received had something in common; they were focused on clients and customers, and our need to understand their behaviour. However, when I asked these same people if they felt they understood their customers and clients, answers were vague and full of caveats, proving that information and data are not always being utilised effectively.

Continuing this conversation, I asked them how they involved their analytics team in each project. The answers I received were to be expected; analytics teams helped them to measure the effectiveness of their work and give them a better idea of how close they were to meeting their goals. For the most part, analytics teams invested their time in building periodic reports that either went unnoticed by the majority of the department, or served as a receipt for marketing campaigns.

This is the reality for many analytics teams – and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. We need to measure the work we do and we need to understand whether or not we’ve hit our targets, but we also need to be self-critical. Maybe we need to stop producing superfluous, complex periodic reports that don’t really contribute to our collective knowledge.

Maybe we need to go back to basics and allow our analytics team more time to explore new fields that enable them to deliver powerful insights and focus on more concrete topics. At Good Rebels, this way of working has allowed our analytics team to save the time they would have usually spent building reports and spend it developing case studies that are helpful not just internally but externally too. What’s more, coworkers who weren’t usually involved in analytics began to show new interest in the subject.

Make analytics great again

If you’re starting to feel like maybe you haven’t made the most out of your analytics team, maybe it’s time to kill off the traditional report. It’s time for an evolution in analytics:

  • Establish valuable objectives to analyse: try not to think about analytics as a method of measuring the work your team has done so far, but as a way of understanding your organisation better. Decide on both quantitative and qualitative goals.
  • Sweat the small stuff: let your analytics team focus on the details, instead of trying to match up all the data together. This way, the insights you gather will be far more concrete, enriching and valuable.
  • Use only the information you need: analytics is not about ‘go big or go home’ – we’ve already discussed information overload. Don’t add variables to your analysis just because you can. Focus on what’s really important and curate your data with care.
  • Don’t waste time: analyse only what you really need to analyse and don’t invest the majority of your time on periodic reports which show slow change and are usually ignored. Dedicate that time to exploring new fields and discovering more about your organisation and your brand.
  • Talk to other people: speak with other departments, talk it through with your co-workers, find out what information they need and what gaps can be filled. Remember that every department has its own concerns and analytics are useful outside of just marketing. Maybe your Corporate department wants to better understand how your buyer personas perceive your CSR actions, or maybe your Customer Care department wants to understand how their performance feeds back into ongoing marketing campaigns.
  • Spread the word: you need to make sure that everybody understands and is aware of the key insights you’ve obtained. Maybe sending your most recent report via email is not enough – maybe it merits further explanation. Dedicating some time during internal meetings to explain the latest results will expose you to new points of view and possibly inspire your next area of analysis.

Changing your approach to analytics is not easy. It’s going to take time, and you’ll probably end up falling back into old habits at some point. But, with a little bit of determination, you’ll find it’s worth it. You have to spend time to save time.