DX Leaders Phil Kemelor

For Phil Kemelor, being able to communicate the real value of digital analytics to business people is what helps build a solid foundation for successful projects.

“It’s about getting people to feel that they can buy into what’s going on around them,” he said. “Analytics is definitely still challenged in being accessible to people in business, whether they’re executives or on the marketing or finance side.”

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Kemelor came to the world of digital analytics back in 1995, not as a technologist or strategist but as an early website creator eager to track the success of subscription newsletters. In his career, he’s worked in journalism, marketing and research as well as in leading digital analytics projects at companies including Bell Atlantic, EY, Semphonic and Verizon. Kemelor’s current role is vice president of client services at boutique digital analytics consulting firm MaassMedia.

A lot of the work Kemelor has done with different organizations has centered on the creation of digital analytics strategies. 

“The output of a strategy like that has to be clear why digital analytics should be taken seriously enough to either hire more people or invest in different technologies or even make an investment in training or in community building,” he said.

Kemelor will be speaking at CMSWire’s DX Summit taking place Nov. 13 to 15 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago. He will give a workshop titled “Shaping Commerce Experiences for Revenue Outcomes Using Analytical Frameworks” on Nov. 13. 

We asked him to share his observations on the evolution of digital analytics and how organizations currently use the tools and how they might do so in future.

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CMSWire: As an early advocate for using digital analytics, what are the most significant shifts in the market you’ve seen so far?

Kemelor: From a pure-play analytics tools perspective, what we’ve seen is a real consolidation in the market. While there are other tools, it comes down to Adobe and Google. The advances we’ve seen in those tools are incremental so you can do more inside the tool in terms of behavior, segmentation and filters.

What’s making digital analytics better is the availability of third-party visualization packages like Domo, Sweetspot, Tableau and others which can handle the input of digital data well. They create visualizations that are more interactive so you can do more analysis and are more visually appealing, which encourages adoption.

CMSWire: What’s yet to happen in the digital analytics market which you would have expected to occur already?

Kemelor: While tag management systems have helped improve digital analytics platform configuration, there’s still a data quality issue. There’s no real baked-in way to do data governance well as you update tags and look for gaps in tagging. There are third-party spidering tools like ObservePoint and Hub’Scan, which are known for doing data quality audits, but there’s nothing really embedded in the analytics tools themselves.

What’s also still lacking is an understanding of how to create a good digital analytics adoption program. A program which is a combination of training, culture and shared learning. It also helps to embed analysts and train analysts up within a business unit so that they’ll be able to understand both the data and the organization at a more local level.

CMSWire: In your work with companies, what misconceptions do they harbor about digital analytics?

Kemelor: There’s a preconception that simply combining data sets will give you all the answers about the customer journey and customer experience, but it’s not just about getting data into the system. There needs to be more thought and strategy about how they’re going to use the insights from the data.

The other problem with digital data is what you get out of tools — data points and baseline metrics — are still very difficult to map to insights that facilitate decision making. To really plan how you take baseline metrics and make them meaningful is a process that requires critical thinking and perspective — this is an investment in time that is often not given enough attention.

CMSWire: How should companies be thinking about digital analytics?

Kemelor: More and more people are specializing in different areas in the digital ecosystem and they get very attached to their areas. So, digital analysts feel that digital analytics give the right answers, while social media analysts have their tools. There are still not enough cross-pollination efforts to look at data together, it’s still very much in silos. There’s not enough collaboration and thinking through how everyone should all work together.

Most organizations are also using analytics in a fairly constrained way. So they’re looking at analytics to determine ‘How can I improve customer acquisition and retention?’ The way they’re answering that question is with a 100-year-old model based on targeting more advertising and content — not unlike direct mail.

What I don’t see too often are companies using analytics to drive transformation and innovation. Companies have yet to think of compelling new ways to engage customers through new products and services that are based on data and analytics.

CMSWire: One topic you focused on in advance of last year’s DX Summit was the importance companies need to place on cultural transformation as part of their projects. Have you seen much progress in this area?

Kemelor: I have seen clients who are starting to take more of this overall cultural approach and I am heartened by that. What has always surprised me is the tendency to think investing in communication, knowledge, training and community building is a nice thing to do but not where we should be spending our money.

Yes, digital analytics tools are getting better, but they’re not all that different from 10 to 15 years ago. If people were to invest in learning the tools and training people on them, they would be saving a ton of money. Training is still not a focal point for spending.

CMSWire: As a keen gardener, you’ve been turning your suburban lawn into an edible garden. What have you harvested so far? Do you use analytics to track what you’ve grown?

Kemelor: We do benefit from the garlic, arugula and kale we’ve grown and I’ve put up some fruit trees. On the other hand, I’d say that local birds, chipmunks and occasionally deer have been major beneficiaries — although not intended. Our hops are doing OK. I used to brew beer, now I give the hops to brewers in the hope they give me beer back. It’s a barter culture!

How I view my garden influences my ideas on analytics adoption. I think it’s organic. You can’t just throw something in there and expect it to grow. You’ve got to tend it. It’s a blend of art and science. It’s not a fast process, it’s a slow process.

Editor's note: Learn more about DX Summit here. Phil Kemelor will also be giving a DX Leaders webinar titled ‘Analytics, Insight & Action’ on Oct. 19, learn more here.