The practice of online analytics is most often discussed in the context of marketing. Analytics pinpoints the highest performing marketing and advertising campaigns. Analytics assists in identifying and helping to nurture leads. Analytics informs marketers of audience attributes and behavior, so that the best and most appropriate messages can be targeted to them. Analytics must be used to optimize search. While all of these statements are true, and I agree that analytics for marketing is among the highest and best use for the data, it is not the only use for data by far. Several other business functions can benefit from having access to data provided by online measurement systems, such as:
Product development. Data is crucial to the successful development and ongoing extension of the feature set for online products. Data-driven decision-making helps inform product managers of how to enhance a product to meet core user needs. From tracking and testing elements of user experience for measuring and optimizing conversion, the data captured and reported by analytics can help product developers more quickly determine and extend what is working and eliminate what isn't.
Sales. Arming the sales staff with data that identifies the attributes of an audience and their demographics, psychographics, and firmagraphics provides the underpinning for sales presentations, for informing potential customers about the reach and frequency of audiences, and for demonstrating success of a site compared to competitors.
Finance. Specific actions taken by customers or users of a site generate value that can be quantified in hard currency -- from product purchases to advertising revenue to real or proxy values for certain actions, such as registrations or clickthroughs. The beancounters can analyze trends and deviations in this data to realize, estimate, and predict business cycles and their material effect on corporate finance.
Customer Service. Data about trends and absolute numbers in customer attrition or account cancellations, surges in new registrations, increases in the purchases of certain products, and the volume of customer transactions, can help inform staffing levels in customer service and pinpoint areas of concerns for customer service specialists.
User Experience. Designers should look at the (often maligned) browser overlay and heat mapping visualizations, click tracking reports, and form completion and abandonment reports to understand how their designs are (or are not) working to fulfill goals.
Other business functions can benefit from Web data as well. Business planners may look at data representing seasonal traffic trends and purchasing cycles. Strategists may use the data to generate recommendations for extending the business at its edges. Business line managers can segment data related to the performance of certain products or customers.
Data has value way beyond just the marketing discipline in which it is so often referenced. It can be the lifeblood of a business when made available in easy-to-use systems, with enough resources dedicated to capturing, analyzing, and communicating it across the business. How do you use data beyond the scope of marketing?