Data Driven Business

11 years ago
Why Your Web Analytics KPIs Are Wrong (And Getting Worse) And How To Fix Them

You’ve heard the refrain time and time again: Multi-platform media consumption is the new normal. Given this reality, businesses need to adapt their strategies – along with how and what they measure – in order to grow and remain competitive in this increasingly digital world. Yet it’s ironic that, despite the ever-changing device landscape, so many companies still cling to legacy web analytics systems.

Jodi McDermott

Traditional metrics used in web analytics today are becoming unreliable due to the proliferation of devices that are coming online. The number of smartphone owners is still growing rapidly, by about 31 percent in the past year. And in Q4 of 2012, the number of tablets shipped surpassed PC shipments. With the numerous devices we each use every single day – and more devices being introduced at every turn – these analytics are not only misleading, but often flat out wrong. It isn’t that the measurement practices of the digital world are flawed, it’s that the inputs themselves are technologically evolving at a pace that is difficult to measure. The traditional siloed web analytics view is no longer sufficient for extracting the insights needed to optimize business plans, product development and customer journeys.

What’s a business leader to do? Before attempting to fix the problem, it’s critical to understand which core metrics are misrepresented in legacy analytics systems:

Unique Browsers, also referred to as Unique Visitors in many analytics solutions, measure Internet browsers and devices. This is not a good proxy for the number of people who are actually engaging with your business’ properties. With 54 percent of U.S. Internet users today using multiple devices to connect to the Internet, we aren’t just being counted once when we visit a site, we are being counted every time we connect with a new device: a phone, tablet, PC, Kindle, you name it. “Device proliferation” is distorting the way we measure our audiences.

  • Engagement metrics – such as time spent and pages viewed – are severely undercounted in today’s world where our attention and actions are distributed across the multiple electronic devices that accompany us throughout the day. If you access a brand through your PC and smartphone, a legacy web analytics system thinks you are two users with a lower rate of engagement as opposed to a single user who engaged via multiple devices. Research shows that consumers who engage with a brand using multiple devices are often more valuable consumers of that brand. If your analytics platform cannot capture these multi-device users, then you’re likely missing out on an extremely important segment of your customer base.
  • Conversion rates, often the most important KPIs for digital businesses, are severely undercounted unless your analytics system accounts for consumers using multiple devices. Many web users start a search for products or content on one device and finish on another. You might start browsing for a product while at work and then continue your “customer journey” by finishing a purchase later that evening on your tablet. In traditional web analytics, those two visits or sessions would be counted separately and reported out against two different browsers, one with a conversion rate of 0 percent and another at 100 percent.

Fragmentation of usage across devices is plaguing many businesses, yet they don’t even realize it. Multi-platform analytics and the ability to tie users to their multiple devices in a synthesized, privacy-compliant way is the evolution of digital analytics. The metrics must follow the user, not the device. Your customer isn’t a phone or a tablet – she is a human being.

Now is the time to re-orient your strategies and digital content to align with today’s multi-platform consumer, but to also take another look at the systems and metrics currently used to evaluate business performance. Find an analytics partner who enables you to look at consumer behavior across devices, and start developing product and marketing strategies that align with how your customers are actually visiting, engaging and converting.

Jodi McDermott is the Vice President of Digital Analytix Product Management at comScore. Prior to comScore, she held various data strategy and analytics positions at companies such as Clearspring, InPhonic, Visual Sciences and Gannett. She’s a Board Member for the Digital Analytics Association. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

By: Jodi McDermott, a vice president at comScore

Originally published at forbes.

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