At Digital Cream earlier this month, I took part in some intriguing roundtable discussions on ‘joining up online and offline channels’. 

Of course, the issue of aligning individuals and the data associated with them from different channels, in-store, e-commerce, social media, etc, has been plaguing marketers for some time now.

One of the biggest challenges is making usable sense of the vast swathes of digital data available...

Data agencies and bigger brands have become very adept at bringing data together from a variety of sources, both on and offline and creating those hugely informative multichannel single customer views.

But having at least understood the need to amass all of this data into an integrated location, what seems to be emerging as the biggest challenge is the daunting volume of data marketers are faced with from the digital world. This can include clicks, paths through the website, smartphone channels and of course the massive world of unstructured social media interactions.

This data can be collected, scrutinised and manipulated; but the question everyone is asking is ‘how to translate it into something meaningful and how to measure the value it is adding?’

And it’s not just the volume of data, it’s also the speed with which it is generated and the speed at which it is changing. 

The world is instant now. Not only do we have more channels to feed our customer profiles, making the data deeper and richer than it has ever been before, we also need to be able to filter out that which is usable from that which is noise.

We do need to understand this data, be prepared to act quickly where relevant, and recognise that customer behaviour appears to change very rapidly in the digital world. It bears reminding that in a world of endless possibilities, often little gets done and we can easily lose sight of what is practically valuable and doable in the confusion of what is theoretically possible!

It would seem to me that although we have plenty of data, our usable insight seems to be lagging behind. 

In my opinion, trying to tame and understand all available digital data is a bit like trying to operate on a mosquito, very difficult and probably quite unnecessary! 

What marketers need to do is to take a step back and refocus on their business objectives, then decide which metrics are the most important and informative. 

By doing this you will focus on analysing and shifting the data elements which will impact business performance. Although the other data might be interesting it is ‘nice to know’ information versus necessary.

Someone once said ‘if you don’t measure it, you won’t get it’. Every activity needs to be measured and irrespective of the channel or activity, there should be performance metrics that are tracked and targeted. 

Of course, to achieve this you need to join up all of the online and offline data but for the right reason:  to put the resulting data to good effect and transform your business performance.

Richard Lees

Published 25 March, 2011 by Richard Lees

Richard Lees is Chairman at dbg and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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Comments (5)



Exactly - no one can manage all the data that is published online.

Data needs to be of sufficient quality that other people will endorse it.

over 7 years ago

Matt Clark

Matt Clark, Analytics / CRO Consultant at Userflow

Very good points there Richard.

To add to the debate on how data should be interpreted - I think good data must always be coupled with good analysis in order to achieve results.

For me that analysis should come from an individual or group with experience and a deep understanding of online user decision making. Without this kind of experience an analyst can compile you the numbers you asked for, but not help you interpret what the data might mean.

Since data tells the "what" and not the "why" it requires interpretation to speculate about why those trends are occurring. Coupling data with qualitative user research methods can go some way to explaining it more accurately. But some interpretation and recommendation is always necessary at some point.

The uncertain nature of interpreting certain types of data highlights the importance of site testing (A/B or MVT) all site changes to ensure they do not negatively impact on performance.

Data tells you what happend, user research might tell you why, site testing tells you what works and what doesn't.

In a way site testing is more important than data or research, but works best when supported by them.

over 7 years ago


Chuck Eagan

It is easy to consume lots of time collecting and analyzing data. The first question you need to answer is, "What do I need to know and how will I use the information?"

Collect and evaluate the data you need and turn it into something actionable. This will keep you from the dreaded analysis paralysis.

over 7 years ago


Michael Wolfe

And your point is?
Stating the obvious makes for uninteresting reading.

How about addressing the real issues?

1. Asking the right questions.
2. Having the skills to dig for the answer

Most of the gaps in analytics deal with this. Data is not the problem.

over 7 years ago


Depesh Mandalia, CEO & Founder at SM Commerce

I agree with this point "...refocus on business objectives, then decide which metrics are the most important and informative." - the key question is 'so what?' - how will it help improve the way you trade/manage your site?

There are some numbers you need to report on for reporting's sake however as far as insights goes, Matt Clark's summary is pretty spot-on and one I strongly advocate

over 7 years ago

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