Five years’ worth of surveys on digital analytics have led to some upbeat conclusions — and clear directives.

Digital analytics is coming of age, and perceptive businesses are actualizing its insights. This has created both opportunities and challenges, explained Phillip Kemelor, senior manager of digital analytics at London-based Ernst & Young and author of the EY Digital Analytics Benchmarking Survey.

Kemelor states unequivocally that "personalizing customer experience in the digital environment is not a question in most organizations — it is an imperative."

He defines personalization as the driving force behind the evolution of web, mobile and social media content, marketing and product development.

In short, it's the key to optimal digital experience and more valuable, stronger customer relationships.

(Editor's Note: Phillip Kemelor will be speaking at CMSWire's DX Summit 2015 conference on Nov. 3 and 4 in Chicago.)

Build the Foundation

Effective personalization requires commitment, vision and "rock solid analytics foundation," said Kemelor, who works out of his company's McLean, Va. offices.

And this year, the survey results show that more organizations understand this. In answer to the question, "What are the biggest opportunities for digital analytics," about 86 percent of respondents selected “adoption of digital analytics insights.”

Phil Kemelor

Historically, Kemelor, explained, respondents focused on why they couldn't get results with analytics more than on what they could potentially achieve.

Many complained that they need more executive support or higher budgets, or lamented that they could not find the right people for their analytics teams, he said of the four previous surveys.

This year represents a turning point.

Digital analytics teams have moved beyond the obstacles to focus on opportunities. They're looking at ways to create good metrics to maintain and grow support for their work, as well as drive adoption across their enterprises.

"This has been something of a constant theme" this year, Kemelor said.

Seeing the Potential

EY Digital AnalyticsSure, getting more resources and more senior leadership support are still important. In the current survey, just short of three of four respondents cited scarcity of qualified resources as their biggest challenge.

Half of the respondents have four or fewer people on their analytics team.

Barely 1 percent of those surveyed said that had someone on their team dedicated to training and communication. Some teams had data scientists on board, some didn't. Some have social media experts on board, others don't.

And sure, about 60 percent and 56 percent believe lack of organizational interest and lack of executive sponsorship, respectively, are their top challenges.

But now, it's not just about getting the right tools or making sure they get the right analysts on board.

Digital analytics teams are focusing on getting people to use the data in a productive manner.

It's about figuring out how you can get insights from data into the hands of people who can use them for business decisions.

Moving into the DX Ecosystem

Behind this development are digital analytics teams' realizations that they are part of the overall enterprise digital experience ecosystem. Kemelor explains it one way:

"Digital analytics is not just web analytics anymore," he said, adding how the data encompass social, email and mobile.

And even this broader understanding of digital is but one data set within many in the big data point of view.

Weaker parties may lament being potentially diminished in such a big data world, but it appears digital analytics teams are made of tougher stuff.

They’re embracing their role in the bigger picture. They are finding their purpose in the greater cause.

Driving Personalization

personalization EYTake, for instance, the focus of digital analytics teams on personalization.

Kemelor's research is proving the role that digital analytics is playing to drive content and marketing personalization strategies.

This can be seen in their focus on testing, whether it is A/B, multivariate, user experience, whether to improve in design, messaging in content or marketing, or navigation.

About 82 percent said their biggest opportunity with digital analytics was personalization of content and marketing based on analytics, and 59 percent said tighter integration with online testing.

"The idea of doing online testing programs is certainly building," Kemelor said. "[This is] where digital analytics program managers are seeing where the biggest opportunities are."

Again, Kemelor returns to the theme of coming of age, in how this new focus on opportunities is showing "how digital is maturing in using the data to drive tactics."

But Why Now?

Here, Kemelor's explanations will really get digital pros blood going in all the right ways.

Sure, it's about the evolution of digital experience. Content management platforms are now sophisticated enough to enable marketers, content strategists and other data consumers to effect change based on the data insights and testing.

And its also part of the bigger picture (again) that digital is no longer the "black sheep" of organizations; digital is central to business strategy, period.

But it's also a matter of digital analytics teams wanting to do more.

"I think it's aspirational," Kemelor said as the answer to “why now.”

The Start of the Journey

Aspirational, maturing ... yet still in early days. The EY survey bears this out, according to Kemelor.

When asked how many years their operations have been in place, more than 58 percent of all respondents in the survey said fewer than four years (more than 36 percent said fewer than two).

"We're still pretty early in the game," Kemelor said.

Another signal of youth is how digital analytics haven't quite found a home. Traditionally, digital analytics teams have been stand-alone or part of marketing. Now, we see a shift toward moving them into business intelligence groups, Kemelor said.

It shows people are still trying to figure out how to do digital analytics best.

Looking toward the positive, the trend also shows that people want their data to be leveraged and are integrating digital with other resources and data teams to accomplish that. That "M" word comes up again.

"It's still a maturing competency within organizations," Kemelor said.

If you'd like to learn more about digital analytics, Phil Kemelor will be speaking at our DX Summit, which will be held Nov. 3 and 4 at the W Hotel City Center in downtown Chicago. Find out more here.

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Title image by Olu Eletu.