Many things can go wrong in the world of digital analytics. Here are four common problems, personified as the four horsemen, and tips for how you can battle them.
While digital analytics can uncover unparalleled insights for marketers, too often something goes wrong and sometimes terribly wrong. Throughout history, the abovementioned "four horsemen of the apocalypse" have been identified as Conquest, War, Famine, and Death. Here we will look at how each, in a modern incarnation, can destroy digital analytics effectiveness, and how to battle them.
Horseman 1: Conquest
If you've been asked to abandon your healthy skepticism and buy into a single-vendor solution that "solves every problem" in analytics; if this also includes all "services" to be performed by the vendor; and worse, if you have allowed yourself to be convinced by your creative agency that yes, they also do analytics (in other words, they agree to umpire their own balls and strikes); then you have been a victim of conquest. You no longer control your own analytics destiny but have put it entirely in the hands of providers with an agenda that does not necessarily include your getting the most insight out of your analytics.
How to battle it:
Choose only best-of-breed solutions for each purpose. Worry less about interoperability. The dirty secret is that most branded solutions are made up of portals that don't work together all that well anyway — they just have the same logo. Choose your own consulting company, make sure they know the tool, and let them deliver what they can. In many cases this will be superior to what the vendor can deliver. Finally, don't let your creative team measure their own success. This is why baseball has umpires and why football has referees.
Horseman 2: War
Internal battles between IT and marketing can be ruinous. Endless turf-wars, truth-blockage, "not-invented-here" attitudes, and lack of clear chains of command make for heavy losses on all sides. And with the stakes higher and the "weapons" more powerful, the battle becomes bloodier. Analytics today is visible, but it's tough to find someone who can really own it. In too many cases it's easier to blame someone else — even if the only problem is that the trendline is headed south this month.
How to battle it:
Be an informed peacemaker. Understand the tools and technologies that powerfully affect your business and work to make sure how each division plays its role. Unlike today at most enterprises, the person "in charge of analytics" in fact needs to be in charge of making sure measurement is done correctly — and not at the whim of a developer reluctant to partake. Analytics is not an option. Clear leadership wins the battle.
Horseman 3: Famine
In a digitally driven media environment, lack of accurate information about usership is the equivalent of famine. No matter if you have spent enough to send rockets into space. If your tools are not instrumented properly (a far more common problem than most would want to admit), then your data is going to be inaccurate. Some might say this is nitpicky (yes, I have heard that) as long as the trends are well understood. But we are not talking about a few percentage points — more like the actual raw numbers of visitors, page views, and more. Data famine leads to blindness and eventually (see below).
Horseman 4: Death
You cannot fight death. If your analytics efforts are lying off in a ditch showing little signs of life, then your gong has been rung. But fortunately, in this world, you can reincarnate. Pull the wagon out of the mud. Choose new vendors. Strip out the old, junky code and have it replaced with something that will pass a basic QA test. There is nothing as bracing as a new start.
Remember that throughout history, in the real world, people have cheated every one of these horsemen many times over. In analytics it is no different. Next time we will talk about the legendary spider that failed seven times to make a web but succeeded on the eighth.