Discussion Point: From Data to Decisions - Real-Time Analytics Support the Customer Experience

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Every organization captures data -- social media analytics, customer interactions, website traffic and other metrics, the list goes on. That the amount of data collected is growing exponentially is no surprise, that technologies are emerging every day to help us capture and analyze this data is also no surprise. But how are these analytics and data support tools changing to help better support the customer experience and what can we expect from these technologies in the next few years? That's the question we asked our esteemed panel in today's Discussion Point.

 The Question

How are analytics and decision support tools changing to meet CXM/WEM demands today; what key changes do you foresee in the next two to three years?

The Responses

Cathy McKnight -- Digital Clarity Group

A founding partner and Principal Analyst with Digital Clarity Group, Cathy has a passion for working with clients to maximize their potential for success and profitability by helping them find the right-fit digital content management technology that will increase employee engagement and efficiencies. As an analyst, consultant, strategist, speaker and writer on topics related to digital content technology, employee engagement, and social media, Cathy is a strong advocate of the concepts of communities both within and around the enterprise.

Until quite recently, "analytics" in the context of WCM was almost exclusively about what was happening with the website itself: How many visitors arrived? What pages were viewed? For how long? This data was rarely available immediately nor did it need to be, since it influenced decisions and changes that would be implemented over days, weeks, or months. With the shift to CXM/WEM, analytics need to deliver insights -- rapid and actionable insights -- into the profiles and behavior of the visitors to the web and the performance of the content assets. So, in the first instance, it is very important for end users to understand this significant transformation in the way vendors talk about "analytics."

That said, collecting large amounts of data on behavior and performance is relatively easy. And analyzing that data, with the right tool, shouldn’t be difficult. Mining the insight and value from the data is the hard part. CXM/WEM data is now largely a real-time commodity and real-time data must be analyzed with extraordinary speed to create maximum value. The analytics and decision support tools have to become better at finding and identifying the useful nuggets almost a quickly as the data is being generated and captured, and then being able to integrate and merge that real-time data with historical and supplemental data from across the organization to provide the full value it has to offer.

Different emerging channels require different types of analysis, so analytics tools will have to adapt to accommodate, understand and integrate new channels as they evolve, appear and are adopted by the consumer. As the value of analytics ultimately lies in its ability to inform correct decisions that produce business value, feedback and verification features will become increasingly important. For example, the ability to define key performance indicators (KPIs) within the tools and base both real time content deployment decisions as well as strategic customer engagement strategies on the measurements across various channels and audience segments, will be an important functional feature. 

David Aponovich -- Forrester

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David Aponovich is a Senior Analyst at Forrester Research where his research focuses on Application Development & Delivery professionals. His expertise includes web content management and digital experience technologies and related strategies. David previously was a Web CMS consultant at ISITE Design in Boston. Earlier, he was director of marketing at Web CMS vendor Ektron and additionally, had been a technology and business journalist in the Boston region.

The challenge marketers face in having an abundance of analytics data about their digital initiatives is dealing with an abundance of analytics data. There’s too much of it. Marketers are great at leveraging Customer Experience Management solutions like web content management and related analytics tools to generate data on how their websites and campaigns are performing, because it’s now relatively easy to do so. This opportunity has been conquered.

The next frontier that needs to be addressed relates to how marketers make sense of all that data, extract the information that’s most relevant and important to their business, and then take actions on the data in ways that allow them to move the needle in the right direction. I like the idea of systems being able to change content and information in real time, on the fly, to respond to what’s working and what’s not, as well as making it easier to update and tweak customer experience based on data flowing into the system. Those are just a few examples.

I like what I’ve seen recently available to digital marketers in the areas of data visualization and executive dashboards, which consume volumes of faceless data and literally put a face to it, in the forms of charts and graphs that don’t only inform, but which also guide marketing leaders to make better decisions, rapidly and effectively. The question is where these tools will be sourced: will they be an extension of existing platforms, like web content management systems and analytics systems, or will they be created and delivered by third-party developers and integrated with existing software solutions. Either way, growth of data visualization to help make more informed marketing decisions more quickly is a win-win for marketers and their organizations.

Loni Kao Stark -- Adobe

 As director of product & industry marketing for Adobe's Digital Marketing Solutions, Loni Stark leads a team responsible for defining solutions and go-to-market strategies essential to CMOs and digital marketers worldwide. Stark has over 14 years experience helping businesses apply technology to optimize critical functions to meet business objectives including building brand awareness and driving consumer demand. Stark co-founded Stark Insider, a west coast online magazine covering technology, theater, arts, wine and food to over half a million readers/year. She holds a masters in management science and engineering from Stanford University.

No company or solution that cares about CXM/WEM is immune to the demands of the increasingly mobile and social consumer--analytics and decision support tools included. IDC notes more than 700 million mobile devices will be shipped in 2012, which is twice the amount of PCs. Nielsen’s 2012 Global Study on Trust highlights the power of social influence with 92 per cent of consumers around the world saying they trust “earned media” compared to less than half who trust paid advertising. Analytics tools must measure what matters, where it matters.

Analytics tools are rapidly transforming to capture the data from these new channels, and merge it with “traditional” sources, to provide insight about target audiences regardless of how a customer wants to engage. It’s not just about analyzing what happens in one channel, but the ability to capture a complete view into what a customer wants to do across multiple channels, including offline, which separates the leaders and laggards in this arena. US Bank is a great example of a financial institution I presented with recently that is starting to nail this.

Need for speed: Think of the last crappy experience you had. Chances are it involved something you thought was humanly simple, but took a painfully long time. This doesn’t change just because technology is involved. In fact, expectations accelerate. Today’s analytics and decision support tools need to help business and marketing leaders make decisions fast, sometimes to the point of automation.

Make it easy: Democratization of analytics. Analytics and decision support tools are not just the toys of data gurus and rocket scientists. As the insight derived from them has greater impact on business, everyone from digital marketers to support needs access.

“Data has no value, action on data has value #CXMChat” was a key conclusion of the recent CMSWire Tweet Jam. Completely agree. The faster analytics can turn into action, the faster business value is realized. Analytics and decision tools that are deeply integrated into a Web Experience Management solution give companies a critical edge. In two to three years, table stakes.

If we have this conversation in two to three years, the biggest change will be having moved away from talking about pure analytics and instead about how to make them actionable. The businesses that are flourishing will already understand how analytics supports CXM/WEM and the area of competitive edge will be in extracting the most insight and executing on it.

Learning Opportunities

Phil Kemelor -- Semphonic

Phil is Vice President of Strategic Analytics for Semphonic, one of the largest digital analytics consultancies in the US.Phil was one of the earliest adopters and advocates for the use of analytics and has 16 years of experience in the field as a practitioner, industry analyst and consultant.

I have seen more organizations investing in initiatives to integrate analytics data with customer data over the last 12 months. While the accessibility and relative speed of reporting through analytics tools remains strong, the interest in combining all data … fixed web, mobile, social, point of sale, offline sales…into one system to understand multi-channel influences and identify marketing opportunities is gaining traction as the “holy grail.”

I see this emphasis as a positive shift in the expectation of how to use digital analytics systems.Instead of being thought of as a “system of record” (something they were never meant to do), organizations are using them for data collection to be exported out to CRM, CXM systems andfor high level reporting on marketing, content and site optimization.

Based on this, I see increased growth and maturity in the development of tag management systems for the management and governance of data collection. I believe that analytics vendors will continue to work on methods to more efficiently enable larger data exports out of their systems into external systems. Finally, I would like to see analytics vendors continue to evolve core visualization and data access within their systems so they can better serve the purpose of calculating and presenting metrics in real time … a feature analytics tools are in a better position to accommodate than the more complex data systems they need to work with.

Note: To hear more of Phil's views on customer experience and analytic, join CMSWire's free webinar: Smarter Web Engagement with Advanced Targeting.