Digital analytics is all about using data to drive change. But the data needs to be relevant to your business. To get the most benefit from analytics you need to tailor the implementation to your needs. In this lesson we’ll talk about how to create an analytics measurement plan that is specific to your business.
Building a solid analytics infrastructure
Good data is the foundation for making smart decisions. Managing and implementing infrastructure for this data may require some time and effort, people, processes and technology. The larger your business, the more involved this can be.
Let’s talk about the skills you need on your analytics team. You need someone who understands what the business objectives are and the strategies used to support those objectives. You also need someone who understands what analytics can do. Finally, you need someone with technical skills who can implement an analytics tool.
If your organization is large, you may need an analytics team that can support different business units. If you have a small business, your measurement plan will be simpler, and you may be able to fill all these needs on your own.
1. Define your measurement plan
Once you’ve organized the right people to be involved with the planning conversation, decide what you need to measure. Start with a measurement plan which identifies your business objectives.
2. Document your technical infrastructure
The next step is to understand your technical environment by documenting your technical infrastructure. In this stage you will be asking your team questions like:
- “What are our server technologies?
- “Are we active on mobile?”
- “Are we using responsive design?”
- “Do the technologies we’re using make it possible to track everything we need to track?”
3. Create an implementation plan
After defining your business needs and documenting the technical environment of your business, the next step is creating an implementation plan that is specific to the analytics tool that you’re using. For Analytics, this means defining the code snippets and specific product features that you’ll need in order to track the data defined in your measurement plan.
4. Implement your plan
Once the implementation plan is designed, the next step is to have the web development team, or the mobile team, actually implement the tracking recommendations that you’ve made.
5. Maintain and refine
This process isn’t complete once the implementation stage is over! Because the digital world changes so fast, your measurement plan needs to be maintained and refined so that your data can evolve with your business. Therefore, the measurement planning process should be cyclical, if not continuous.
Designing a measurement plan
Let’s dive deeper. We’re going to spend most of this lesson talking about the measurement plan, using a simple model developed by Avinash Kaushik. This model can be used to design a digital measurement plan for any size of business -- large or small.
Avinash’s model teaches us that the way to approach digital measurement is by leading the conversation with the business’ objectives. Why do we start here? The whole point of measurement is to understand if you’re making good business decisions or bad business decisions, and then figuring out how to make changes moving forward.
You will go through a series of five steps in order to define your measurement plan. We’ll go over each of the five steps in this lesson, but here’s an overview of what they are:
First, document your business objectives.
Second, identify the strategies and tactics to support the objectives.
Third, choose the metrics that will be the key performance indicators.
Fourth, decide how you’ll need to segment your data.
Finally, choose what your targets will be for your key performance indicators.
Remember, this process requires you to meet with the people who make the decisions in your business. This could be managers, executives or you, if you’re a small business owner.
Example measurement planning process
Let’s use a fictional outdoor equipment company as an example of how we would actually apply this process to create a real measurement plan. For the sake of this example, let’s say that we sell our outdoor products on our website and in stores. This outdoor company also maintains a blog to engage customers in conversations about how to enjoy the outdoors.
1. Document your business objectives
The first step to create our measurement plan is to define our business objective. We need to ask ourselves -- why do we exist? Often you need to dig really deep to get the true answer. In our example let’s say the business objective is:
“Help people enjoy the outdoors through innovative products and cultivate their love of the outdoors.”
2. Identify strategies and tactics
To support our objective, our business will use specific strategies and tactics.
- One strategy to support our mission would be to sell outdoor products. A tactic to support that strategy would be to sell online via a website. Another would be to sell items in store. We could even develop a mobile shopping app.
- But, in this scenario we also have a physical store -- so one way we might drive sales is by giving people information on our website or in our mobile app that helps them locate one of our stores. That can be another tactic of our website.
- Finally, to support the second half of our mission -- cultivating our customers’ love of the outdoors -- our strategy would be to engage customers in conversations about outdoor topics, and we might do that through posts on our blog.
Remember, each business will have its own set of strategies, but most of them will closely relate to these five common types:
- Ecommerce: selling products or services
- Lead generation: collecting potential leads
- Content publishers: encouraging engagement and frequent visitation
- Online informational or support: helping users find the information they need
- Branding: driving awareness, engagement and loyalty
3. Choose key performance indicators
Let’s continue breaking this down. The next step is to choose the Key Performance Indicators, also referred to as KPIs. These are the measurements of your strategies and tactics and are the numbers that you’ll look at day-to-day to understand how your business is performing.
In our example business, for selling products, we’re going to look at KPIs like how much revenue we’re generating and the average order value for each transaction.
For the tactic of driving brick-and-mortar store visits, we can look at how many times the store locator on our site is used, or how many times users print a coupon for in-store use.
To measure user engagement on our blog, we might look at recency and frequency metrics and whether or not users share our brand content on social networks.
4. Choose segments
Once you have defined the KPIs you want to measure, you need to document which segments of data are important to measure.
For example, when we’re thinking about our fictional store, we might want to see our KPIs segmented by marketing channel. As a business we’re likely investing in different marketing channels, such as search, display, email, and social. We want to know how much value we’re ultimately getting from those investments.
We might also look at our customer type -- our new customers versus our repeat customers -- to see how much of our business is being driven by each segment and whether there are opportunities for driving more customer loyalty.
Since we have physical stores, we might also be interested in looking at the geography of our site visitors to see if certain geographies near stores are performing better than other locations.
The segments you choose can be the same or different across all of your website objectives -- it all depends on what your business is doing and which strategies and tactics are being used to reach your objectives.
5. Choose targets
Finally, you need to add some context to your data so that you can better understand the performance of your business. You need to know, from your business leadership, the targets for each of your KPIs. Adding targets to the measurement plan helps everyone who looks at the data understand if the business is doing well or doing poorly.
Translating your measurement plan to an implementation plan
Once your business measurement plan is complete, you will have documented what you want to measure. But, can you measure everything in your plan? It depends on the website, mobile app, or other device you’re trying to measure.
You need the help of your IT team to translate the business needs to an implementation plan. The IT team can help you understand the website or app environment and ultimately determine what you can track.
There are a few website technologies that will require additional planning. For example:
Query string parameters
Flash and AJAX events
Multiple domains and subdomains
Responsive web design
All of these scenarios require extra attention when designing your implementation plan for tools like Analytics. It is absolutely critical to have a thorough conversation with your IT team to understand the environment you want to measure. For guidance on how to adapt your implementation to these technologies, check out our developer resources.
Once you know both the business requirements and details about your technical environment, the next step is to create a basic implementation plan. In this plan, you will document the features of your analysis tool that you’ll use to capture the data you need.
Let’s review a few of the most common features used in an Analytics implementation plan for a website.
First of all, to get any data, you need to implement the standard Analytics tracking snippet. This gives you the bulk of the data you need.
Next, looking back at your measurement plan, you need a way to track the KPIs. You can do this using goal tracking and the ecommerce module if you are an ecommerce business.
Another feature you may want to use is filters. These normalize your data so that your reports are more accurate and useful.
To properly track marketing campaigns you should use campaign tracking and AdWords linking.
Finally, you can use custom dashboards and custom reports to simplify the reporting process. This can help save a lot of time.
Usually you will combine the measurement plan, technical information and Analytics features into a document that details the implementation recommendations for your business.
The result of this process is reliable, accurate data that helps you understand the performance of your business day in and day out.
Managing your implementation over time
The final step of the measurement planning cycle is to maintain and refine your plan. This is a really important step of the process because your business requirements and your technical environment can change over time. Without a team to maintain your measurement plan, your data won’t keep pace with your reporting needs.
Also, keep in mind that in your first iteration you may not be able to implement your entire plan due to time or resource constraints. If you have a robust implementation plan, you may consider tackling it in phases by prioritizing the most important features first.
In summary, creating a good measurement plan requires you to organize people, processes, tools and technologies.
Planning has five main stages:
- First, define your measurement plan. Make sure you involve your business leaders and marketing team. They will identify which objectives, goals, KPIs, segments and targets should be measured.
- Next, document your technical environments. This is when you’ll want to get your IT team involved.
- Then, translate your measurement plan into an implementation plan based on your technical environment,
- Only once the plan is ready, move on to implement analytics.
- Finally, refine your implementation over time to keep your data current and useful.