Your digital channels aren't fields of dreams. You can’t just build them and wait for engaged people to come.

Managers of digital channels must intelligently engage their visitors -- and that’s not an easy task. CMSWire, Semphonic and Sitecore recently explored the topic of Smarter Web Engagement during a live webinar and even livelier Q&A session. Here's the written recap and the full video replay.

Webinar Recording

Connecting Analytics to Digital Goals

After a brief introduction by CMSWire's Managing Editor, Barb Mosher Zinck, Phil Kemelor, VP of Strategic Analytics at Semphonic, kicked off the event with a discussion of the techniques you can leverage to get more value from your digital analytics tools.

Most business have similar high level goals for their digital marketing efforts:

  • Acquisition of new customers
  • Customer advocacy
  • Retention of current customers
  • Up-sell and cross-sell products and services

The good news is that organizations are increasingly turning to their analytics tools to help them monitor these goals. Unfortunately, according to Kemelor, traditionally analytics tools have offered a wealth of metrics and reports, but little business insight.

In other words, the tools often provide lots of data, but it is often difficult for organizations to connect raw metrics to real world decisions and progress toward business goals. Increasing your page views is not a business goal, says Kemelor, it's an analytics metric.

No Context, No Story

Contextualizing the information these tools provide is critical for overcoming these challenges.

Drawing upon his extensive industry experience, Kemelor suggested that organizations monitor and evaluate data within a framework that makes sense for their business, instead of getting lost in raw metrics.

Marketers can use what Kemelor refers to as the “Success Metrics” methodology. This methodology helps organizations eliminate the disconnect between metrics provided by digital analytics tools and business goals and objectives.

Construct Your Success Metrics

R. Donald Daniel of McKinsey and Company developed the framework and John F. Rockart of the Sloan School of Management later refined it. The success metrics approach encourages marketers to begin with a high-level organizational mission then:

  1. Identify strategic goals that map to the mission
  2. Determining concrete and measurable objectives that help evaluate if strategic goals are being met
  3. Define success events (site/digital activities that analytics tool can track like conversion or a form submission) that can be used to evaluate the objectives
  4. Develop key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure success events based on the goals

Kemelor provides multiple real-world examples to illustrate how organizations can use the methodology to associate web analytics with real-world business goals.
successMetricsExample.PNG
Success Metrics framework Example by Phil Kemelor

Once organizations understand the relationship between digital events and their business objectives, determining the drivers for conversion is often the next step.

From Measurement to Understanding

According to Kemelor, the first step to understanding what influences visitor behavior is actually understanding visitors.

The process starts by segmenting visitors into groups based on demographic and behavioral attributes like their physical location or how they arrived at your digital property (e.g., via a search vs. campaign X).

Once organizations understand the different types of visits, they can begin analyzing their behavior for similarities and differences. This information helps organizations understand the types of visitors that are interacting with content, how they are interacting and ultimately converting to customers (or repeat customers). Organizations can also use segmentation analysis to refine their goals, objectives and engagement strategies.

Optimizing Digital Marketing with Engagement Analytics

Ron Person, Sr. Consultant, Business Optimization Services at Sitecore, continued the discussion (after a small over share about buying Jerry Garcia ties at Nordstroms!) by revisiting what engagement means in any human context, and exploring how marketers can move away from focusing on driving high levels of traffic to their sites towards raising experience quality across the board and refocusing budget where resulting visitor engagement and response are strongest.

According to Person, the smartest and most effective digital strategy is to leverage segmentation but strive to create a more engaging digital experience that increase the visit quality for all visitors.

Measuring Engagement: New vs. Old Methods

Engagement is critical. However, Person admitted that measuring true engagement with traditional analytics tools has been difficult.

As digital marketing evolved, unique, often siloed, tools and metrics also evolved for each new channel (e.g., email, marketing automation, analytics, social, etc.). Determining the level of engagement for an individual or segment holistically across channels can be harrowing and frequently requires a dozens of metrics.

Person suggests leveraging a single engagement value metric that marketers can use for comparison across channels may be a better approach.

One web analytics consultancy uses what can only be described as a complex formula for calculating this metric after a campaign is complete, and charges handsomely to do so.
engagementValueFormula.PNG
Measuring Engagement the Hard Way

Obviously, this level of analysis is out of the reach of most businesses and agencies. Most organizations need a simpler approach.

However, Person proposes that traditional metrics alone are not the answer because businesses can only use them infer engagement. Like Kemelor, he believes marketers must first determine their objectives and then define the activities, KPIs and metrics to achieve and evaluate success.

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Sitecore Promotes a Digital Strategy Similar to Kemelor's Success Metrics

Measuring Engagement: The Traditional Way

What do traditional web analytics platforms typically capture? “The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity” identifies eight key metrics that most measures:

  • Visits
  • Visitors
  • Time on Page
  • Time on Site
  • Bounce Rate
  • Exits
  • Conversion Rate
  • Engagement

Five of the eight, time on page, time on site, bounce rate, exits and conversion rate, are useful for helping marketers infer how engaged visitors are with a site.

However, as Person explains, making this inference isn’t easy. It requires skilled, experienced analysts, which aren’t always available. Even when an appropriate analysts is available, this data provides few clues about engagement with specific resources or activities.

How Humans Engage: 5 Steps

According to Person, marketers should consider measuring engagement in a manner similar to how humans measure relationships by looking at:

  1. Attraction: Is there a common interest?
  2. Communication: Two-way interaction that conveys information
  3. Trust: Developed as a result of positive experiences and consistent communication over time
  4. Commitment: Visitors and customers tend to become more committed to a brand as their trust grows
  5. Advocacy: High levels dedication increases the likelihood that visitors/customers will organically promote the brand and its offerings

Using this core philosophy, it’s possible to measure web engagement without complex formulas and indirect inferences.

Weighted Engagement Model

Person suggests using a weighted point system that involves assigning points representing the level of engagement to digital marketing activities.

For example, an organization might assign 25 points to site registration and 100 points to requesting a demo. In this scenario, requesting a demo indicates a more in-depth level of communication, more trust and a higher level of attraction than just registering to use a site.

It’s possible to use this approach in any analytics system from the free tools to platforms like Omniture and Sitecore.

Person cautions that in some platforms, like Google Analytics, it is only possible to track at values at an aggregate level for a single session, not for specific individuals over the life of a campaign, channel or asset. In more sophisticated tools, it is possible to track more detailed information and relate information to individuals, personas and/or profiles.

Value vs. Traffic

Person then illustrated how it’s possible for sites to have climbing traffic but falling engagement value. If organizations look only at raw metrics without a goals or value framework, they can easily mistake activity for effectiveness.

Taking a step beyond web metrics to engagement allows businesses to understand if their digital marketing efforts are truly driving engagement and higher levels of business value.

Once organizations collect this data, they can also use it to visualize the success of their campaigns and further optimize their digital marketing efforts.

In the diagram below, each colored circle represents a campaign. The left axis represents average visits and the bottom axis represents average engagement value. 
campaignSuccessVisualization.PNG
The information can then be used to drive decision making and refinement. 
optimizationMatrix.PNG

Ultimately, whether organizations use Person’s approach, Kemelor’s framework or some hybrid, the key is connecting metrics to business goals, objectives and value. 

The webinar concluded with questions from attendees such as how do you use the models if you have no clear strategic/management objectives (start by identifying more tactical or task related goals) and how many segments should organizations have (it depends on the business and the objectives).

The number of questions showed both the level of interest organizations have in improving web engagement as well as the challenges they face institutionalizing useful analytics and engagement programs. See the full webinar recording for additional details and the full Q&A session.