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Is data analysis as important as it used to be?
Posted by Maria Brosnan on 20 December 2016 12:14 PM

Turning website visitors into paying customers, or at the very least getting them to perform some sort of desired action (such as signing up for your newsletter), is the essence of Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO). It’s the holy grail of every online business, and the better the CRO strategy, the more profitable the company is likely to be. Historically, website analytics has provided data about visitor behaviour to form the basis for decisions that theoretically should increase buying activity.

The problem is, recent studies show that the data being offered by various analytics tools isn’t enough for Chief Marketing Officers (CMO) to make clear strategic decisions and drive the business forward. There is a gap between what is provided and what is needed, so the question now being asked by key decisions makers is:

“Do we rely on people who make strategic decisions based on their ability to evaluate data, or do we rely on people to make strategic decisions based on their CRO experience instead?”

What are the reasons for this change in approach?

While the amount of money spent by marketing companies on analytics is still on the rise, it has slowed since 2012. Does this mean the value of analytics to a company is declining, or are CMOs less skilled at deciphering the enormous amount of information given to them?

A recent MIT survey has revealed that CMOs and other key decision makers actually want to increase the use of analytics, yet two-thirds of them rely on the experience of their CRO team, rather than the analytics being provided. Conversely, only a fraction of those surveyed are happy with the data they get to make accurate business decisions.

Is analytics still important?

Three-quarters of the respondents acknowledged the data they are given has improved, is useful and they can act on it. They also acknowledged that their ability to interpret the data was slowly improving. However, only one in eight of those analysing the data felt they were part of an organisation that valued analytics as a key part of the decision making process. If analytics is considered important enough to a business that they are willing to pay for it, but it doesn’t place enough importance on data analysis, its highly unlikely the best CRO strategic decisions will be made. So, should that money be spent on something else?

A recent Marketo report has found that investing in quality data will ensure better strategic decisions and higher business growth. Only social marketing and mobile marketing rank higher for organisational investment over the next 3-5 years, so while money is clearly being spent on marketing analytics, it’s not being given the cultural focus it deserves.

So what’s the problem?

It certainly isn’t a desire to use analytics given CMOs want to invest more money in this area, and their knowledge is slowly increasing. Therefore, because organisations aren’t hardwiring the use of analytics into their DNA, despite a desire to use more data in their decision-making, it has to be the quality of the data they are getting. Is it easy to understand? Is it relevant to their goals? Can it be used easily and quickly? Will CMOs be able to interpret the data and increase profits as a result?

There is so much data being mined from website visitors that there must be enough of it to make sound business decisions. However, it seems CMOs are unable to cut through the wall of analytics noise being thrown their way. So what should they do?

This is where people with experience in CRO are invaluable. The question was asked earlier whether ‘analytics or people were better placed to make CRO strategic decisions’, and the answer is both. It’s time to wind back the clock and go back to what has worked since business began. Ensuring the customer experience is first-rate is just as important as any analytics offered in website visitor behaviour reports, probably more so. There are so many human factors that analytics simply can’t measure, and it’s time to go back to the basics of customer relationships. Data is able to tell us what channels are working, but it’s the experience of seasoned practitioners that give companies the edge.

There is a place for both analytics and human experience in devising the best CRO strategy for any business. It’s just a matter of blending the two together in such a way that data interpretation is given it’s rightful place, while understanding that decisions made about human behaviour are best made by humans.

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