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In the nineties and noughties, the web was talked about as more measurable than any other medium.

The idea was that attribution of sales would be completely sewn up before long. Last click analysis was duly mastered and dashboarded. However, there remain difficulties in identifying customers and tracking them as web usage has splintered across devices.

There are plenty of other issues, technical and cultural. Let’s take a look at the challenges in data analysis for marketers.

For guidance in selecting a digital analytics supplier, see our Digital Analytics Buyer’s Guide.

1. Skills shortage

There simply aren’t enough people skilled in web analytics. Shortage in teams is still very evident. Many fairly sizeable teams still don’t have trained or dedicated analytics bods to back up decision-making with data.

26% of respondents to the Econsultancy/Lynchpin Online Measurement and Strategy Report 2013 said they had no dedicated web analysts.

skills

2. Cookies

Web analytics tools depend on cookies. Whilst the EU directives on privacy haven’t served to scare companies into seeking consent (many serving warning roll-ups or roll-downs), many internet users routinely delete cookies or set their browsers to refuse them.

cookie

3. Lack of vendor support

The service provided with digital analytics products can differ dramatically. Taking a cheaper package and not getting the guidance necessary, or again not employing a specialist or consultant, can hinder implementation.

4. Culture

Simply, the data-driven spirit hasn’t yet pervaded across all companies and departments. The battle is becoming easier fought, but there are still some in the thick of it.

culture club badge

5. Access to data

This comes down to culture and legacy technology. Getting access to multiple datasets and combining them so they can provide more insights is an uphill struggle in many companies, especially where regulation is tight.

6. Belief in the silver bullet

Perhaps the hype around attribution and big data has led some to see analytics as a silver bullet. 

The mindset that the dashboard solves everything can be flawed, even though it’s a major attraction of any suite of tools and can impress senior management. Analytics can only point to a problem, it can’t explain the reasons for it.

werewolf

via Martin Grondin

7. Lack of statistical rigour

Drawing conclusions from data needs to be done with an understanding of where the data comes from and the limitations associated with that data.

With a growing number of digital analytics end users coming from non-technical backgrounds, there’s a danger that data will be interpreted incorrectly.

danger

8. Lack of single customer view

An arms race is underway with devices and platforms proliferating as the power of digital analytics tools increases.

Most marketers are still far away from having a single customer view and indeed for many businesses this is not a realistic aim. It’s not achievable and arguably not that valuable for many.

A lot of businesses, in ecommerce for example, have only just organised their data in one place. The next stage involves significant financial, time and resource investment to start defining audiences and personalising marketing.

view point

Ben Davis

Published 11 June, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

901 more posts from this author

Comments (4)

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Heather Hopkins, Senior Analyst at Econsultancy, Centaur Marketing

Ben, Great post - and a topic that I am keen on (and tend to go on about a bit these days...).

In our recent UK Search Benchmarks report 36% of marketers told us that they don't have a definitive tracking solution to measure across different channels. And 40% of marketers could not measure ROI of PPC effectively. (https://econsultancy.com/reports/uk-search-engine-marketing-benchmark-report).

Do you get the sense that firms are moving away from trying to get a single view of the customer - realising that it may not be achievable in the short term?

over 2 years ago

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Adi Clark

All good points Ben. How about number 9) Creating a silk purse from a sow's ear.. How often are we asked to find out why Event A is happening, without any usable or useful data to go on!

over 2 years ago

Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith, Director at eschermanSmall Business

Great post - agree with all points. Another common issue I encounter is lack of rigour in goal setting and objectives. In the words of Avinash Kaushik, there is a lot of "data puking" going on, but little in the way of insight. Also a lot of exploratory measurement (ie you get thrown a bunch of data and asked "what does it mean?" - rather than using data to inform decision making - working out why you are measuring what you are in the first place).

over 2 years ago

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Matt Lovell, Head of Group Analytics & Digital Insight at Thomas Cook Group AirlinesEnterprise

Great article Ben.

It definitely continues to be a problem and one of the biggest difficulties in terms of staffing up is this assumption that in paying for some form of analytics system, the need for people to analyse this is not completely redundant.

For me in all comes back to understanding both from wider marketing teams but also, potentially more importantly from the people holding the purse strings (be that a senior exec or in some cases a finance team) of what it can offer but more importantly, what is required to actually deliver these insights...

over 2 years ago

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