With digital ad spend of $333.25 billion in 2019, and a predicted increase of $51.71 billion in 2020, a company’s ability to accurately measure, optimize and understand the impact of digital marketing is ranking high on the priority list.

Where a business is selling online it’s straightforward (in some ways). They can easily identify return on investment (ROI) and may only have one or a few websites to consider.

However, for many global businesses that have numerous brands, who don’t have an ecommerce model and are operating across multiple markets, measurement remains complicated.

With an ever-increasing focus on digital marketing these organisations need to know how they’re doing at a macro level. Are they reaching more customers through digital and are they providing meaningful interactions?

What makes this complicated?

  • Having multiple brands in markets across the world can necessitate hundreds of disparate campaigns and websites.
  • ROI is harder to track as conversions tend to be interactions with content or other actions that suggest the intent to do business, not just a straight transaction.
  • Historically, the creation of websites may not have been standardized – let alone the measurement framework, analytics tagging and reporting.

At a global level, businesses want to make macro decisions and monitor performance from a high-level view. For example, what percentage of their target audience are they reaching? What level of engagement are they achieving within each segment? Which channels work best and how are markets performing across channels in comparison with each other? To facilitate this, businesses often end up starting with a set of global measures and passing those down to local markets to report on.

Here’s what usually happens

Given they have varied target audiences across multiple brands, companies look for broad targets and measures for digital reach and engagement. In order to try to gain an overview of global performance, companies typically work backwards from their global strategy and business goals, and choose KPIs which:

  • They know each brand or region can provide the numbers for;
  • Logically seem helpful in understanding whether they’re meeting their business objectives.

This approach provides numbers for senior leaders to look at, which make sense in the context of the global objectives. The trouble is these numbers don’t necessarily reflect the strategies being executed at a local level. If you start looking at the problem from above, this is the logical thought process – it’s inevitable.

The approach to developing a global measurement framework ends up looking like this:

  1. Global business objectives are set.
  2. Brands develop strategies to help the business meet those objectives.
  3. A global measurement framework is created, to allow for high level reporting on progress towards business objectives.
  4. The framework is broad – there is a lot to try to encompass.
  5. While all brands can contribute the numbers needed within this framework, those numbers aren’t necessarily the most pertinent to their actual strategies.
  6. Brands end up with their own measurement framework, which matches their digital activity, and report separately into the global framework.
  7. OUTCOME: businesses end up with a mismatch between what’s going into the global measurement framework, and which numbers matter for understanding whether brands’ strategies are working locally.

So what’s the alternative?

Once the brands have been through individual planning processes, with the local and regional strategies reviewed and signed off globally, a plan has been created that matches what needs to be achieved. Now the following steps should be employed:

1. Start with an expansive set of metrics: Based on what each brand is doing and working towards, they’re going to have a load of metrics they can track, covering all the channels and websites that are in play. There’ll be email, social, website metrics and others featuring for every brand, which allows for the creation of a matrix of everything that’s available across global activity.

2. Each brand needs its own KPIs: Just because there is a tonne of metrics available it doesn’t mean they have equal importance. Each brand should select the KPIs that matter most, i.e. those that really inform them about whether they’re meeting business goals. The remaining metrics are still useful and can be used as pulleys and levers to optimize campaigns, but it doesn’t mean they live in the exec summary of a report.

3. Look for the cross over: Once a robust set of KPIs have been developed by each brand, they should be thrown on the table and examined for the areas of parity. From here those that sensibly ladder up to the global framework can be selected.

4. Standardize your website and campaign tagging (e.g. UTM parameters in Google Analytics): Once a universal framework has been agreed a standardized analytics blueprint can be applied to all sites. This doesn’t mean that only those elements within the blueprint should be measurable. It means that 75% of what is measured is the same, leaving room for nuance that will help the brands optimize day to day and measure individual content or approaches that are unique to them.

5. Make sure all data sources are integrated into one place:  This may be a digital dashboard, either through a platform such as Google Data Studio or Tableau, or it could be a dashboard set up in an analytics platform. The outcome should be that all reports can be generated from the same place.

6. Build reports from the ground floor: Once analytics are set up correctly across channels and platforms, reporting can be built bottom up. By default, each site’s metrics will ladder up to a consistent country, regional and global view, with comparable data.

7. Keep analytics in good working order: Once everything is in place, make sure there’s a process to maintain data integrity. Who is responsible for ensuring tags are working correctly? Who checks after each site update? At what cadence are analytics audits performed? Getting analytics for all websites deployed correctly is a major job, and it doesn’t stop once the set-up is complete. It has to be maintained constantly.

The end result will be that brands will be running useful and insightful reporting, with all their local nuance, and it will seamlessly ladder up to a set of measures that genuinely allow a solid understanding of global performance.