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Web Analytics Wednesday TO: Bring Your Homework Edition!

I admit it. I have not published a post for a while. However yesterday’s event certainly deserves breaking that pattern. I am talking about Web Analytics Wednesday TO “bring your homework” edition.

Web Analytics Wednesday - Homework Edition

Web Analytics Wednesday - Homework Edition

So what is different?

The “analysis homework” of course, and the great discussion that follows!

Under the premise that analysts would we willing to share and openly discuss on analysis and results, participants were invited to bring a one pager with three analysis bullet points, including actionable recommendation and supporting data. All of this using public sources of data (the idea is not getting anybody into trouble).

Too much work? Will anybody prepare anything barely interesting? Will anybody show up? How can such an experiment be successful?

Keep on reading to find out…

The Results

As any good scientist will do, @cjberry decided to give this idea a try. From what I saw last night, I would say that IMHO opinion the experiment was a success.

Why?

Well, first because:

(a) Some people did show up (it is always a risk).

(b) The organizer’s paper was not the only one out for discussion.

(c) Most of the presents were actively participating, positively criticizing and contributing to the discussion and even taking notes, and…

(d) What is even more important, it was fun!

The Cons

- Smaller turnout:

Yes, the crowd that showed up was smaller than on previous WAW. The strong invitation to bring some homework certainly scared some people. However it was not that bad either (around 15).

Not for everyone? May be not. Actually this is open for discussion. While not everyone will bring a paper, most will contribute with the discussion and just listening can be beneficial.

- Finding the right topic:

If you want to prepare a paper, finding a topic, finding the time to compile the data and do the analysis can be challenging. Even more if preparing this piece is not part of your 8-10+ hours a day job description or if you are not already working on a paper for research project of your own.

- Collecting the data:

Not everyone has a multi-dimensional data base loaded with a public data set periodically collected, or has the time to gather that kind of information on their spare time, to prepare a case study. That being said, I welcome the fact that those who have access to these resources are willing to share some results (even if “hidden agenda is hidden”). The rest we can always bring the processing power to criticize and debate.

The Pros

- The engagement and open contribution. It was interesting to see how everybody focused on the particular topic at hand.

- Even experienced analysts can benefit from the feedback of their peers. It was interesting to see how many new ideas, new perspectives or points the presenter didn’t consider came up from such a brainstorming and open discussion experiment.

- If you are new on the field, you can have a grasp of what analytics looks like.

- If you really passionate about analytics and its potential, this is a very enjoyable exercise and even inspiring.

- Even if you are not that much into analytics, with content of quality, it is very likely you will learn something.

Some Takeaways and Recommendations

- The obvious. This should not be the only format and it may not be suited for all WAW groups.

- While this format will not appeal to all the Online Analytics community, I certainly can see that it can stick and that a good portion of the regular and casual participants will see more value on this offer.

- The need of a committed organizer that can lead such an event, providing some basic content, guidelines or ideas of questions to be discussed is fundamental for this type of WAW to be successful.

- To solve the problem of choosing a topic and finding the data, defining in advance a business question to answer as a group or a problem that can be tackled by all the participants will be a interesting variation. Making a set of data publicly available would be great (let’s just say I will add this one to my Christmas wish list).

That being said, congratulations to the organizer and thank you for trying this out. I am always up for creative initiatives that try to bend the boundaries. This new WAWTO format has potential, we may be into something here. I am looking forward to the next event!

Posted in Digital Marketing, Web Analytics. Tagged with , , .

Closing the Web Analytics and Panel Measurement Gap.

Yesterday’s announcement of the partnership between Omniture and comScore to provide a “Unified Digital Audience Measurement Service” added an interesting touch to the Adobe-Omniture deal made public a few days ago.

If you did not read about it you can go here and here to get the nifty details.

It is definitely an interesting piece of news with lots of potential benefits for publishers and advertisers. The expectations of such an agreement can be high. Hopefully the proposed solution will match the expectations and finally close the gap.

It seems that whoever has Omniture tags will be able to activate the comScore Media Metrix 360 tracking with the flip of a switch. (Which will be the extra fee?) It would be really interesting if it works. Is this the only solution resulting from this partnership? Most probably not.

Here are some random initial thoughts and questions on the subject:

  • While this can be beneficial for a publisher if the comScore numbers are under representing your real traffic and market share, what will happen if the new numbers look much worse after activating the MM360 tracking? That will may not please some publishers. Can then you go back to the previous status quo?
  • Advertisers will of course benefit from having a better picture the audience and reach, instead of a projection. This assuming the Omniture implementation and comScore processing work accordingly.
  • What will happen with the publishers that either (A) don’t have Omniture tracking or (B) don’t want to implement it? If we compare their numbers with the ones of websites who are already part of the MM360 program, are we still comparing apples to apples?
  • Are we going to have different qualities of audience and reach measurement? “Premium” measurements for the websites who are part of the comScore Meadia Metrix 360 program and “Regular” for the rest? Is this going to be a differentiating factor when advertisers look at the numbers of a given web property?
  • How is the information going to be shared. If I am part of the program will it be public to anyone that is also part of it? What if the publisher don’t want to make this information public? Can he opt-out?
  • Or it is going to work as some Google Analytics Benchmark on steroids, hiding the information from other websites behind an industry segment or category?
  • How will competitors such as Hitwise, Compete, Nielsen and Google will react to this new challenge?

For sure many other questions and concerns will be raised. It will interesting to see the evolution of this new measurement service and agreement. For now congratulations to comScore and Omniture!

Posted in Digital Marketing, Online Media, Web Analytics. Tagged with , , , , .

Path Analysis: A Paper and Some Thoughts.

I just wanted to quickly touch base on a topic from an article I recently reviewed for the Web Analytics Association Peer Reviewed Journals project: “Path Data in Marketing: An Integrative Framework”.

This paper was appealing because it made me think on all the data and information that is being gathered by organizations and how much (or how little) of this information is actually being used. I agree, may be a lot of it is noise and can even be useless. There are even pieces of information that should not be collected at all. For sure we are missing to track many golden nuggets.

However, so many valuable insights can be hidden on those data stores. In that context, how valuable would it be to dig more into path related data?

Here is a quick summary of the article:

Executive Summary

By analyzing different marketing scenarios or “domains of data collection” (grocery shopping, eye tracking, web browsing, information acceleration), the authors attempt to formally define a path in the context of marketing. Their main objective is to propose a “unifying framework” that will facilitate further research on the topic. This is accomplished while showcasing the importance of path data in the future of marketing research.

The authors define paths as “records of consumer movements in a spatial configuration” or as “a conscious agent’s movement in a physical or simulated environment that is observable”.

As part of the suggested framework, two primary dimensions are identified: “characteristics of spatial configuration” and “the agent”. Specific characteristics of the actual spatial configuration, either if it is physical or nonphysical, continuous or discrete, as well as the existence of constrains, will influence the model and the approach of the analysis. Defining agent factors such as the level of (1) “social interaction”, (2) ”goal-directedness” and (3) “forward-looking-behavior” should also be considered.

Based on literature review, references to relevant related research sources are introduced. Several examples in the context of “retail/service environments”, “advertising studies”, “e-commerce”, “experimental research” and areas outside marketing are also considered. In the next section important operational issues, considerations and restrictions for researchers working with any form of marketing path are identified.

Finally, the authors conclude on potential directions of future research in the field.”

You can find the complete review at the Web Analytics Association Website.

If you are a member of the Web Analytics Association you can even get a single copy of the full journal. To request a copy, email Lindsay De Santis.

[...]

Why will this become important? Well, may be path analysis can answer some critical business questions that we are not able to solve now and we are just guessing at the moment.

Look for example at what Next Stage Analytics is doing. They claim they are able to predict demographics and detailed visitor information, among other projects, by only looking at their behavior. I wonder, how much of their approach relies on some sort of complex path analysis?

I feel that a deeper analysis of this data, and more specifically of path can become more and more important in the months and years to come. Who knows, I may be wrong. Am I?

[Added - August 27th 2009 ]

If you found this enticing you can also check some interesting thoughts and comments on the topic at Christoper Eyes on Web Analytics Blog.

Posted in Digital Marketing, Web Analytics. Tagged with , , , .

About EcommerceCamp Toronto: First Edition!

Last Thursday night, May 21st 2009, I was part of the first edition of the Ecommerce Camp Toronto. The event was the result of the great initiative of Chris Long and Alexandra Dao from Well.ca.

Rick Segal, Partner at JLA Ventures and former President and COO of Chapters Online Inc., was the “keynote” speaker of the night. We welcomed the audience, talked about his experience and vision of the Canadian e-commerce and venture capital market. His speech was short, concise and to the point… may be too much “to the point”? Perhaps not. Well, it is the first event of this kind, and the opportunity to network and exchange ideas that came after was pretty valuable on itself.

It was interesting to see gathered a nice group of marketers, entrepreneurs, developers, web analysts (…myself) and other professionals. From seasoned marketing and e-commerce experts to new practitioners eager to learn, coming from a mixture of companies, recently launched startups and well established organizations.

Some of the comments during that night were around the potential this new series of events has, mixed with friendly chat between old time friend and networking, lots of networking. Also some of the participants mentioned they were expecting “to learn more” from this experience. Organizers take note. I am quite that in future sessions they will be able to fulfill these expectations.

It was also to realize how many people interested on this topic can get together on a short notice. Another fact to notice is the potential of new concepts that bring a fresh approach to the e-commerce field and try to close the gap we have in Canada compared to other markets. Wishabi.com, an all Canadian online shopping aggregator. With only three months in the market, it tries to differentiate itself from other “commodity-solutions” with added value services and social media elements.

I am particularly excited about how small startups and “lean” organizations with the proper leadership and support can leverage the power of web analytics and online business optimization. Taking action faster than bigger, more traditional companies, where adoption barriers like corporate politics and resistance to change can sometimes hinder the development of new ideas.

Would they be able to take advantage of this opportunity and close the gap with their bigger counterparts? It would be interesting to be part of this kind of changes, don’t you think?

Posted in Ecommerce. Tagged with , , .