Back in the old days, when the web was new and naïve, when earnest young webmasters from Portland to, well, the other Portland, said things like “information wants to be free” with a straight face, it was actually easy to, in the words of the modern-day Aristotelian philosopher Daniel Whitney, “Git-R-Done.”
The web person or web team splintered off from other departments and was sequestered into distant cubicles to huddle over text editors or Dreamweaver. The department meetings were just as likely to devolve into critical analysis of middle period Elvis Costello albums as produce substantive business decisions. (“Goodbye Cruel World was an awesome record; you just don’t get the vision, man.” “Dude, Elvis doesn’t even think that was a good record.”) But beneath the general sense of chaos, there was a bright spot that many companies used to their great advantage — In retrospect, once you were given the keys, it was actually pretty easy to do stuff.
Fast forward to today, and the e-business industry is in its multichannel glory. Much needed obviously, because, of course, a customer’s interactions online with a particular company are nowhere near the complete picture of how they engage overall. As marketers, we are all the better for the change in vision. It makes complete sense, after all.
However, one can’t feel somewhat nostalgic at the loss of freedom that came with the arrival of the grownups. The web team is rarely sequestered anymore, and when they are, it’s a bad thing. The advantages of instituting real structure were rallying all the innovative energy into a positive advancement for the company’s bottom line and keeping a grip on costs. The downside was that the web team often became infected with the sclerotic culture of the rest of the company… You can’t just Git-R-Done any more. Not without a pile of TPS reports signed off on by each of your seven bosses.
Andrew Edwards writes far more effectively on ClickZ in “Acting on Actionable: Why so Hard? and does so without the middlebrow cultural filler on which I rely when I write. Nobody likes to be told their baby is ugly (and I’ve built some hideous infants in my career), but the reason you install a web analytics tool on your site — the only reason you bother at all — is so you can do something with the information that advances the reason you are in business in the first place. Otherwise, it’s just a string of meaningless numbers.
Where it should hit home is the intersection between web analytics and customer experience. We’ve all used websites that have frustrated us, and one of the most important exercises a company can do is to evaluate the reason why they have a website and the processes a customer must go through to make the single most positive outcome happen. You never want to say to yourself, “Why am I making it so hard for someone to give me their money/email address/fluid sample?”
The web analytics tools give you the data. Analyze it, and then just do something. Plus some tests. Make a change and see what happens. Switch some content around. Have your intern make a new jpg or two and trot them out.
What’s the worst that can happen? OK, what’s the second worst thing?
Maybe the financial stakes are too high now and that makes even the perception that even momentary failure is a possibility an untenable one. Or alternatively, and more likely, that I’m just a crank who longs for simpler days of one-person web shops that have passed him by. But I know this much is true: Remember why you’re in business.
If you’re trying to get more sales or leads or registrations, an acceptable answer for what prevents that can’t be, “We have a strategy meeting about that with all the teams involved scheduled in three weeks, which takes place after the database upgrade.” If you can highlight three things in your data that could be preventing that sale, and it will take a programmer an hour to make all three fixes, why would the "Council on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Purple JPGs" need to be assembled? Surely they all have bigger problems.
The data is there, and it’s waiting for you to use it.
About the Author:
Andrew Lucyszyn is the Director of Web Analytics at SIGMA Marketing Group.