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The success of analytics within a business is not just about numbers, technology and processes, it's about how we integrate between analysts and marketers. 

This was the thrust of a fascinating presentation by Suniel Curtis, Head of Web Analytics and Insight at Hays, formerly of lastminute.com.

Speaking at our Crunch event at the Truman Brewery, he set out six principles of psychology which affect analytics and decision making...

1 Create a story, don't just use numbers

While numbers can be very convincing, this isn't always enough to convince stakeholders to take action. 

Instead, you need to be able to use the numbers to tell a story and bring the data to life. 

2 Provide just enough data

Often, meetings don't produce enough decisions to take action, but instead can often end with requests for more data.

People will delay decisions if more data can be found, even if it's irrelevant. 

Suniel referenced Princeton research paper, On Pursuit and Misuse of Useless Information. Here's a very apposite quote from the paper: 

Decision makers often pursue noninstrumental information--information that appears relevant but, if simply available, would have no impact on choice. Once they pursue such information, people then use it to make their decision.

Consequently, the pursuit of information that would have had no impact on choice leads people to make choices they would not otherwise have made. 

The lesson here? Present the minimum amount of data required to make a decision. 

To illustrate this point, he used an example from Hays. The company advises job applicants to update and maintain their social profiles to improve their employability. 

However, many tend to ignore this advice but one key stat changed this: 90% of hiring professionals view social profiles.

That's all the data that was required. 

3 Use the voice of the customer

Data can do a lot, but using customer feedback can be more powerful in convincing stakeholders to take action. 

Suniel used an example from a previous role at Hilton, covered here in Marketing Week. He had identified an issue where customers were encountering unintended error messages during the booking process, causing them to abandon their purchases

Suniel calculated that this error could cost up to $3bn per year in lost bookings.

However, identifying the issue wasn't the end of it. People higher in the business needed to be convinced, with some dismissing the problem, saying that customers would just call instead. 

By looking through customer feedback and providing examples of angry customers who had abandoned their bookings, these stakeholders were persuaded to act. 

4 Don't push a choice, push a test

Suniel used the example of the 'ugly baby problem'. In other words, if analysts go to marketers or developers with problems, they are insulting their 'babies'.

A developer or marketer may have ploughed months of time and effort into a campaign or website, and doesn't want to hear that this effort wasn't worth it. 

The recommendation to give choices, not absolute recommendations. This can make it easier for people to accept the data, as they are brought into the process.

5. Co-locate with stakeholders

Rather than having analysts grouped together on same bank of desk, apart from everyone else, integrate them with the parts of business they are servicing.

Then, the analysts are in with the decision makers and joining their meetings. This enables people to form ideas together, based on the data. 

Business should be cautious here, as analysts do often like to work together.

Therefore a balance needs to be struck, perhaps they could spend one or two days a week working together, or congregate for regular meetings. 

6 Change tack when you hit resistance

Here, Suniel quoted Hans Rosling, a Swedish doctor, academic and speaker:

When I have an argument with someone, even with someone I am not very close with, I can't sleep at night thinking about it. It's terrible.

But I still manage speak out frankly because I have also been gifted with the ability to read people. I can sense when they start to get irritated with me, and then, I shift.

The point here is that analysts need to understand that they can create strong emotions among stakeholders when they present reports and recommendations. 

Sometimes a change of approach is needed. As in the Hilton example mentioned earlier, if stats alone aren't working, bring in things like customer feedback. 

The conclusion? Success with analytics is not all about numbers, technology, data and processes. It's about how we integrate between analysts and marketers. 

Graham Charlton

Published 10 October, 2013 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (2)

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

Really interesting article so a shame I missed the event as sounds like it was really good.

I really like the points made as most of them fully echo with past experiences both here and at previous jobs. I think ultimately all of the above resolves to involving other non-analysts within your process and working as part of the wider team in order to properly integrate analytics into the wider team(s) as a whole so that marketing, content, trading, finance etc. can all see see the benefits of what the analysts are able to pull together and as a result buy in to what they are doing / are enthused by their findings.

The customer feedback element is crucial to me and something many companies often forget. Yes if they launch a new site or a new product they may be persuaded into doing some user testing to make sure they are on the right line but systematic testing within their BAU from customer feedback on site, questions posed within site search / FAQs and regular user testing are essential to fully understand not just whether customers are really struggling with a particular issue on the site but also why...

almost 3 years ago

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Sean Burton

Great points here.

Far to often we try to shoehorn a problem to fit a product or approach, rather than trying to use the most appropriate tool or technique.

From experience, blending web analytics + voice of customer + operational/transaction data sources can be extremely powerful as any gaps in one can be filled by insight from the others. Combine this with user research AND the ability to tell a story or visualise your insight then you have the ability to actually get stuff done as people will listen.

At the end of the day, we're all human and story telling is the best form of communication.

almost 3 years ago

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