Today’s world is filled with data. The vast number of available metrics alone can be overwhelming, and it is now more important than ever to gather that data. In recent years, however, there has been a shift in how and when we can do that. We no longer have to wait until the end of a campaign to see how we’ve performed. The results are at our fingertips, available whenever we want or need them in nearly real-time. This shift also necessitates a change in how we must respond to and use this data. We must use the data as a tool to tell us what we should do throughout a campaign to improve upon it along the way.
In order to leverage all this information to its fullest potential, you’ll need a data and reporting tool in place. With a host of different services available, it can be difficult to know which one is right for you and your company. Each one has its pros and cons, but no matter what field, there are four key areas to consider when selecting your preferred service: cost, customization, data reporting method and data storage/management. Let’s take web analytics as the most obvious example.
The size of your company and campaign as well as the level of data reporting you will be conducting can help determine the necessary cost associated with setting up this service (this can range from free to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually). Google Analytics, a free service, is often regarded as one of the industry’s most robust and accurate tools available, and many businesses use it as their primary data and reporting tool.
From there, it is important to consider the level of customization needed for the reporting outputs. While some companies can gather sufficient ”raw” data through a service’s standard outputs and reformat it into their own reporting structure, others want to be able to customize the output itself. For example, Adobe’s data service, Omniture, offers high levels of customization with hundreds of metrics available with which you can customize your own reports.
Data Reporting Method
You’ll also want to consider the service’s reporting method. Some offer reporting on the full volume of data, while others may sample your data, depending on your sample size and the volume of traffic your campaign is generating. You should decide which method is most preferred for your company’s reporting needs. The key element to note is that the greater the sampling, the less specific detail you will be able to get.
Finally, you should consider the method of storage offered through these different services. Some will store your data for a specified time period while others give you the ownership of storing your data on your own servers. You’ll want to consider both of these options as you choose the service that best fits your company’s needs.
Once you’ve selected and set up your preferred data and reporting service, the data must be gathered and analyzed. It is crucial to realize that the lessons learned from the data apply to everyone working on the campaign. In the agency world, we can’t make strategic or creative improvements without knowing how we’ve been performing. For example, when a set of banner ads didn’t generate desirable time-on-page results, the data led to a hypothesis that we needed to change the landing page. A test of that hypothesis led to improved results. In another case, response data showed us that banner ads that communicated specific “what’s in it for me” messaging to the customer drastically outperformed banner ads with more generic brand information. These results now drive our creative concepting for future banners.
The use of performance data and results throughout the creative development process has become key in our industry. Next time you kick off a new project or campaign, I urge you to consider data results that you’ve previously gathered. How can they help you determine the most effective campaign vehicles and creative executions of those vehicles? What have you learned from the last campaign that you can incorporate this time around? And how will you measure this campaign in real time to bring light to any adjustments that need to be made throughout the course of the campaign?