sign on a wall "ask more questions"
Without analytics the promise and expectation of personalized digital customer experience cannot become reality PHOTO: Jonathan Simcoe

We live at a time when customers are increasingly powerful — and fickle.

As a result, tracking customer journeys, taking insights from those journeys and developing digital experiences to continue customer engagement has become even more complex. Businesses have turned to analytics to surface the business intelligence they need to personalize digital experiences and keep customers coming back.

Dozens of analytics products ranging from simple packages for quick insights to help close sales, to predictive analytics that aim to predict how customers will act and what they want flood the marketplace.

So how do enterprises choose which analytics product meets their needs and where should they apply these tools to gain their full benefits?  

What Role Do Analytics Play in Building Digital Experiences?

We asked a number of practitioners their thoughts on where analytics fit in creating digital experiences.

Foundational, necessary, crucial — whatever the term they chose, all agreed to the fundamental role analytics play in delivering effective customer experiences.

(Editor's Note: Learn more on how to advance your digital analytics practice at CMSWire's DX Summit, taking place Nov. 13 through 15 at the Radisson Blu Aqua in Chicago.) 

Analytics Practitioners Speak 

David Ingram, Product Strategist, Acquia

David Ingram, Product Strategist at digital experience company Acquia
David is Product Manager for Acquia Lift, a product I've been working on since its inception. Prior to that, he was a Solutions Architect at Acquia helping prospects evaluate Drupal and Acquia's various products. He has also run his own Drupal consultancy, building sites end to end and working on small teams. Tweet to David.

Simply put, today’s consumers have come to expect experiences that are relevant and personalized to their past experiences and current journey with a brand. Without data analytics, brands would be operating in the dark — without knowing anything about your customers it’s impossible to meet these high expectations.

Past behavior, demographics, location, device, timing — all of these feed into data-driven insights which can and should be used to craft the most personalized digital experiences possible. Data analytics is the linchpin to delivering engaging digital journeys, which increase conversions, boost customer loyalty and, ultimately, lead to greater business success.

Meghann York, Director, Product Marketing, Salesforce Marketing Cloud

Meghann is director of product marketing for Salesforce Marketing Cloud, the platform for delivering 1-to-1 customer journeys. She leads product marketing for the Marketing Cloud’s Journey Management, Predictive Intelligence and Data & Analytics applications. She joined Salesforce through the acquisitions of both iGoDigital and ExactTarget. Tweet to Meghann 

Driven by customer demands for better experiences with brands, marketing, sales and service organizations are in a state of dramatic change. Customers today expect personalized experiences that are seamless, consistent and relevant to them across all touchpoints. In fact, more than half of consumers (and 65 percent of B2B buyers) claim they are likely to switch brands if a company doesn't make an effort to personalize its communications to them.

In order to deliver these personalized customer journeys, leading companies must ensure that each customer interaction builds on and is contextually aware of every preceding interaction. The challenge is that companies have more data and channels of engagement than ever before, so unifying and analyzing data to gain a single view of the customer can be exceedingly difficult. Now more than ever, marketers are investing technologies like artificial intelligence to complete that vision and stay ahead of competitors.

We know that companies are making big investments in AI in order to harness the capability to learn from a customer’s past interactions and deliver personalized experiences. Now more than ever, marketers are embracing AI to determine how, when and with what information to best engage with consumers to power real-time engagement at scale, something that was almost unthinkable just a few years ago. What’s more, companies can move beyond reacting to customer inputs and predict customer needs, such as the types of content that resonates and the best send time for every interaction. With AI, marketers can automate decisions and take the guesswork out of marketing.

Michelle Souster, Head of Data & Analytics, RBBi

Michelle Souster, the Head of Data & Analytics at RBBi (Dubai, UAE)
Michelle, head of Data and Analytics at RBBi Dubai, is passionate about all things data and analytics when it comes to digital marketing. Starting her career in marketing seven years ago with an eclectic background in behavioral psychology and engineering, Michelle specializes in how proper data collection and insight generation can drive better customer experiences and commercial outcomes. Tweet to Michelle

Analytics plays such a crucial role. Initially analytics was used as the commentator of the digital game, providing insight and reporting for business, now we see analytics driving every aspect as the coach. From how we create content based on user research to getting ads in front of the right people on social media, every digital touch point is analytically supported.

And there’s a reason for this. Ironically, good digital analytics practices seek to achieve the same customer experience as a human one by getting to know the user, the person. Before the days of online car markets, you’d visit a local car yard to compare what’s on offer — say the sales person is getting to know you and you’re looking for a practical car for the family with good fuel economy. Next time you walk into the showroom, it would be absurd to offer a fuel-guzzling supercar when you’re in the market for an affordable people-mover. Analytics seeks to avoid these fractures in digital experiences by learning and recalling what the user needs and adapting accordingly.

While digital has had a bad rap for being overly complex, analytics is helping get us back to basics.

The real trick is knowing what you need before you even know you need it yourself. As analysis of user behavior becomes more advanced, digital experiences can preempt the needs of the user and present a tailor-made message straight away. Creepy when used improperly but when used with genuine intent and empathy, personalization can be a force for good. Just as a bank may be able to anticipate your need for home lending, they can also interpret times of financial hardship and proactively suppress unnecessary communications.

Phil Kemelor, Partner and Vice President Client Services, MaassMedia

Phil Kemelor, MaassMedia
Phil Kemelor
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. Before MaassMedia, Phil was senior manager of enterprise intelligence digital analytics at EY. Prior to EY, Phil was a vice president at Semphonic, where he led the company’s Washington, D.C. practice with a focus on strategic, government and nonprofit analytics. Tweet to Phil 

Digital analytics is the foundation for building effective customer experiences. Without the insights gained from analytics, you’ll miss opportunities to build your brand, increase share of voice, gain new customers, and retain (and increase revenue from) existing customers.

If your organization uses digital channels for ecommerce or to support offline sales, assessing the impact of digital experience on lead generation is a top priority. To measure the impact of digital experience on lead generation, take a methodical and targeted approach. That way, you can generate the right data for insights that enable you to create discrete behavioral segments that align to use cases based on your digital marketing initiatives, such as content marketing or web design.

For example, if you were to look at the impact of content on lead generation, you can examine the relationship between content pages viewed and lead gen task completions. With web design and navigation, you might look at any number of things ... for example, does internal search facilitate to lead generation task completion? Or does a high bounce rate indicate your navigation isn’t helpful?

Once you’ve started to analyze the customer journey through any one of these different use case scenarios, you can test new content and features, and conduct a post launch analysis to direct a program of ongoing improvement. Your use case scenarios for measuring digital experience should be the foundation of a “wash, rinse, and repeat” cycle that you can use over and over again for any number of digital channel initiatives.

Sharon Mostyn, Chief Marketing Officer, Creativation Marketing

Sharon Mostyn, Chief Marketing Officer for Creativation Marketing
Sharon is chief marketing officer for Creativation Marketing. She is a Google-certified marketing management professional with direct response and ecommerce experience, achieving increasingly responsible positions over a 25 year period. Responsible for annual marketing budgets more than $40 million, she manages a team of eight and exceeds sales projections by nearly 25 percent. Tweet to Sharon.

You can’t improve an experience unless you know what the actual experience is in the first place. And you can’t judge the experience without analytics. They are absolutely necessary.

With analytics properly installed on a website or app, marketers and developers can see how people use their online products. Do users leave the site at a specific point in a checkout process? Are users routinely tapping a specific button for more information? Where are the users even located? The key to knowing and understanding this type of information can be found in analytics.

Once this type of information is collected, it can be used to improve digital experiences. Maybe users drop out of the checkout process because the page layout is confusing. Redesigning the page may help. Users may be tapping that “more information” button, when a short sentence may answer their questions. And perhaps website users are concentrated in a particular country or region. Marketers can then cater to that area through their design and writing.

The first step in improving any digital experience is to have the proper analytics installed. After all, if you can’t measure something, how do you know if you improved it?

Thom Gruhler, Founder, Fjuri

Thom Gruhler, founder of Fjuri and former Microsoft Windows CMO
Thom is the CEO and founder of Fjuri, a marketing consultancy focused on helping clients to imagine the future of business, enhance marketing strategy and execution by tapping into big data in a more powerful way. Prior to founding Fjuri, Thom acted as the global CMO of the apps and services group at Microsoft, including Office, Office 365, Skype, Outlook, OneDrive and OneNote. Tweet to Thom

The brands that are the most successful today obsess over product and customer experience. They’re also tapping into predictive analytics in a big way. Netflix is a great example. They’re using data science to run predictive models around what first and third-party content customers are likely to want to watch that night and sending emails within the hour to remind customers about the content that’s available.

The impact of data intelligence and analytics to hyper-personalize the experience today is becoming more important than SEM and SEO optimization, especially when you consider how saturated search has become.

CMOs and marketers today need to have both right brain and left-brain skills to succeed … to not only engage audiences with content, but also leverage data to impact the customer experience. This starts with data analytics, looking for ways to personalize and optimize campaigns, while also showing ROI for highly-targeted activities that are led by digital.

In short, CMOs need to be able to walk into a CEO’s office with a forecast that shows how revenue generated and attributed to marketing is repeatable, predictable and scalable.

The fact is that companies that strategically use predictive data and analytics outperform other brands. Wireless carrier T-Mobile is a great example. As a result of its data-driven approach to customer and campaign management, T-Mobile saw a 50 percent reduction in churn rate.