Data and analytics have opened the door on a wide range of consumer information for businesses. Analytics provides a view of your business through the eyes of your customer – they help you understand how your website is perceived, what areas of your marketing campaigns are doing well and what is driving customer retention.
Analytics places immense power in the hands of a company's marketing department. A lot of the concepts – from conversion funnels to A/B testing to understanding data lakes – have been obfuscated by terminology and reserved for specialists who can understand and interpret information. But all business owners can view analytics by using different marketing tools. There are hundreds of analytic tools available for your business. Before adding any new tools to your arsenal, strategize on how you plan to use the data to better your business.
The cost of each tool may vary, but understanding how to use these tools, why they're important for your business and what kinds of data are worth tracking can help you develop your own marketing strategies, or at least work with consultants in a more productive way. This is a crucial step in deciding how to grow your business through analytics.
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Overview of marketing analytics
The goal of using analytics is to understand how customers digitally interact with your business and determine ways you can improve your business's success through marketing. This includes establishing sales patterns, segmenting users and building deep data sets that reveal important details about customers' buying habits. With the right information, you can build effective, targeted marketing campaigns.
Nectar, an ecommerce mattress platform, is a growing company making waves in the online retail mattress space. Craig Schmeizer, co-founder of Nectar, said that tracking data provides an opportunity for a business to better connect with its customers.
"What our analytics allow us to do is understand [the] path of different types of consumers, track them, focus on them at different phases of their decision process," Schmeizer said. "The datasets get richer, and there also are more patterns with historical data we can reference."
Understand, interpret, optimize
The first step in using marketing analytics is to understand how customers are interacting with your business. This means prioritizing data that offers insight into how many customers are viewing your website, how long they are spending on certain pages of your site, what products are selling the most and to whom, how customers are being directed to your site and whether different campaigns like email marketing are successful. Once you have a baseline understanding of how your business is doing, then you can start strategizing. It also allows you to better determine how effective marketing campaigns and tools are.
"Marketing analytics are absolutely essential to my team," said Sebastian Bryers, co-founder and chief technology officer for supplement company Ora Organic. "We have gone out of our way to build a suite of tools that give us the best possible view of what's working and what's not, in terms of conversions, clicks and customer acquisition cost."
When trying to determine which analytic tools to use, you want to add tools that offer insight into how customers are interacting with your business from both an online and marketing standpoint.
Once you've gathered all of the pertinent information, think critically about what each category means. Try to understand why certain marketing campaigns are succeeding and why others may be faltering. You can test this concept through A/B testing, a feature included in some marketing analytics tools. By adjusting one aspect of your conversion funnel and testing the two versions in comparison, you can gain a better understanding of what works best for your business. Interpreting data and running tests to reveal more insight can be a challenge. Depending on your needs as a business owner, it may be a good idea to hire a marketing consultant or bring someone onto your marketing team who has experience with interpreting data and building marketing campaigns.
Once you've recorded and interpreted data, you can adjust your marketing approach to increase conversions. A common practice associated with this stage is segmentation. By segmenting customers based on purchase history, you can build targeted marketing campaigns aimed at converting the same type of user. Through research, you could even determine that a new strategy will tap into an entirely new pool of customers who may not have been aware of your business.
Guide to marketing analytics tools
The biggest thing to keep in mind when researching and deciding on marketing analytics tools is to be conservative with what you invest in. It's easy to fall victim to an overly eager salesperson or get caught up in the multitude of features some services offer. If you're a small business with a modest online operation, it's better to start small and add more tools to your arsenal over time. Ryder Meehan, founder of Meehan Digital, is a marketing consultant who works with small businesses. He said that small business owners should avoid overbearing enterprise-level software packages.
"The biggest pitfall I see is investing in an overpriced and overly robust enterprise analytics tool that's too complicated to use effectively," Meehan said in an email. "And [it's] expensive."
Meehan said small business owners should focus on tracking website visitors – how they reached your site in addition to sales and leads. Meehan added that small business owners may also want to invest in a program that acts like a curator of all this content. He said he's used RavenTools for the past several years, which functions as a dashboard where multiple different metrics from programs like Google Analytics can be added.
"I find it to be a great investment as it pulls in not just website data from Google Analytics but also integrates with Facebook, Twitter, Adwords, Email, SEO and other digital marketing sources into the single dashboard," he said. "I can also dynamically update it manually with my notes added or schedule it to update regularly so clients can always see fresh data."
There are free analytics tools – like Google Analytics – but some tools can get expensive. What kind of tools you use depends largely on the type of data your business needs. RavenTools, for example, is around $99 per month. If you're a business owner looking to get started with analytics, start with some free tools and build up from there. Once you have a handle on how to track data and optimize a marketing strategy, you will naturally need to ramp up to bigger and more intensive tools. Nectar started as a small company and now operates its own analytics programs.
"We built our tech stack from scratch, ground up. Our tech team is in Tel Aviv, so we staff out all of our developers and engineers there," Schmeizer said. "And we use some third-party applications, but I'd say that the core knitting is stuff that is homegrown."
Tools to start with
If you're starting an ecommerce company or you're a small business owner who is looking to track data and establish new, modern marketing strategies, there are a few programs that some business owners have found useful.
This tool allows business owners to track web data and analyze sales. You can also link Analytics with Google AdWords and Google Data Studio, making it a fully integrated data option for small businesses. This program is free, but there is a paid version so your use of Analytics can grow as your business does.
"The number one tool that every company should take the time to set up correctly is Google Analytics," Bryers said. "Although a lot of companies and websites use it, not many actually spend time enabling some of the more impressive features of the platform, like Enhanced Ecommerce." This feature tracks customer behavior on your site and is one of many advanced features for your business. Bryers said Remarketing Audiences is another feature that can be used to send display ads to Google Adwords.
Business owners also said they use Grow to integrate and view their all their business's metrics in one single dashboard. Bryers said this program has also proven vital to his business. "[Grow.com is] a dashboard software that is infinitely customizable, and integrates with hundreds of sales, marketing, and advertising platforms," he said. "It's been absolutely essential for the management team in keeping track of sales, inventory, marketing, spend efficiency and other key metrics like customer acquisition cost and customer lifetime value."
As a business owner, you should incorporate metrics into your marketing strategies. Whether this be through Google Analytics or another type of marketing tool, gathering data on your costumers can allow you to deliver more of what they want (and less of what they don't). Be sure to start small and build into your marketing software as your business grows. Keep in mind that it might be a good idea to hire a marketing consultant to interpret data and build new campaigns.