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Before you invest in an analytics solution, put it to the test with these six questions PHOTO: algenta101

These days, it can seem like the only thing constant about software features is change. For example, Microsoft Excel existed for years before the advent of the ribbon, which we now take for granted as the useful toolbar displaying menu selections at the top of each spreadsheet page.

Meanwhile, Google continues to roll out updates to its Google Analytics solution, most recently with the attribution features and tools introduced at Marketing Next.

Analyzing the Analytics Tools

No matter what features change, the question of what business teams should seek in an analytics tool remains the same.

As many legacy solution providers begin to offer new features and upgrades, here are six key questions to keep marketers focused on what really matters when it comes to choosing the right measurement strategies and tools:

1. Does the Software Allow for Statistical Overlays?

All analytics software records page views, session length and unique visitors. But the ability to incorporate statistics has become the new gold standard for analytics software.

Cloud capability has allowed solution providers to increase accuracy and introduce calculations that were once impossible. This has also made the ability to integrate statistics possible, which can save users valuable reporting time.

2. Are the Dashboards Convenient and Customized?

The objective of a good dashboard is to provide quick insights into various metrics and stats. A dashboard should allow users to define their desired metrics and customize how they are displayed.

Flexibility is key — dashboards should also permit results to be easily shared with key personnel across your organization to let them view relevant performance measures at a glance.

3. Is There the Capability for Visual Clickstream Analysis?

Clickstream analysis, also known as path or navigation analysis, is a basic feature of analytics programs that tells you how users travel through your site. Many beginners confuse this analysis with clicks over time or pins over time because social media dashboards tend to display those metrics at a glance.

However, having an indication of how people navigate through an app or website is more valuable because it can detail where traffic is consuming your resources. At its most basic, this looks like source/destination page referrals, but a more robust clickstream analysis solution will display branching diagrams to indicate which routes visitors are taking from beginning to end.

4. Can you Customize for Labeling Analysis and Segmentations?

An analytics solution these days must permit navigation and traffic segments to be customized to allow for viewing results conveniently. A good customization can highlight whether data sources that are blended to create a hybrid metric make sense within the context of your analysis.

Tools to make sense of segments are also increasingly important aspects, given that customer populations can now be sliced and diced any number of ways through the use of first, second and third-party data.

5. Is There Campaign Attribution Tracking?

Marketers once thought they needed to understand attribution from last click or be able to isolate which channel provided a conversion, but better analytics have changed that. Now, your analytics solution should relate your campaigns to cross-channel customer activity, whether paid search, email campaigns, banner ads or other forms of marketing.

New reporting tools such as Google Attribution permit a more nuanced drill-down into how individual marketing elements influence customer journeys. Seeking out solutions that can easily chart those steps and integrate reports at a user’s convenience will provide the best value for an analytics user today.

6. Is Data Hygiene a Priority?

The idea of incorporating advanced statistics is new, and so is the concept of data hygiene to describe the process of actively checking for errors and selecting data sets that will train an advance model.

The ability to clean data is becoming a more frequent demand as examining data sources for advanced techniques becomes increasingly essential. For example, IoT devices are generating massive amounts of data. The data quality can be degraded by factors such as misaligned sensors or missing data from devices that have gone offline.

Marketers will increasingly need solutions that can provide data quality capabilities as new integrations such as IoT devices, chatbots and apps present new data challenges. 

Take the Time to Decide Carefully

Marketers should always be leery of how overwhelming any analytics reporting can be without first putting a strategy in place for analyzing data. Then, when making purchase or upgrade decisions, they should view demos, either in person or online. In the final analysis, there’s no substitute for making decisions based on a careful assessment of precisely which advanced solution features will be really necessary.