One of the more obvious criticisms of Google Analytics, or any web analytics tool for that matter, is that it has always been a decidedly visit-centric tool. How many visits did the website receive? How many pageviews were consumed during those visits? How many visit sessions converted against our primary objectives? All are important questions to have answers to, but all are focused on a singular audience type: the website visitor.
Measuring visitor interactions with website content has to date been sufficient to extrapolate audience likes and dislikes, but it’s becoming a more imperfect view of brand performance across today’s complex digital landscape. We’ve known that for a while, but have been forced to make do with the data at hand.
Then in 2010 Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff underscored this data imperfection when he referred to a “splinternet” effect occurring across the Web. Bernoff described the significant shifts in digital technologies and consumer behavior patterns as causing a “splintering” effect for brands. Fueled primarily by the explosion in mobile and social technology platforms, consumers have unprecedented control over the ways they receive, share and discuss brand-related information.
Bottom line, the corporate .com is no longer the singular destination for brands and consumers to interact with one another, and visitor-focused website analytics certainly aren’t sufficient to address this complexity.
This “splintered” Web reality makes it more important than ever to embrace multiplicity in analytics tools sets, as I described in a previous column. The synthesis of that piece is: In order to glean whole customer understanding, multiple technologies are required to provide individual data points. The whole then becomes greater than the sum of the parts when analyzing these data points in concert with one another.
So it was encouraging to see Google announce last week that it was introducing what it calls “universal analytics,” which incorporates third-party analytics data, mobile applications data, and cross-channel data into the core Google Analytics data hub. Done right, it promises the ability to stitch together disparate data points into a singular view of complete audience activity. According to the Google announcement, “Measurement today is evolving from technology that counts site traffic into a broader system that measures your effectiveness in advertising, sales, product usage, support, and retention. Ultimately, this sort of integrated measurement can help you deliver the best service, products, and experiences for your customers.”
Enterprise analytics platforms like Adobe Marketing Cloud (formerly Omniture) and Webtrends have similar data integration capabilities, but Google’s entry into this space elevates the overall awareness of the benefits of holistic customer analytics. This move will also make whole customer analytics more accessible to lay practitioners across the industry.
“What an amazing time to be in our industry!!” I sent that email message to a colleague shortly after reading Google’s announcement. For digital marketers, it’s amazing to imagine the level of insight and understanding we’ll soon have through a more consistent use of this type of analytics suite. And at the risk of overstating its significance, I think this will help fuel the next generation of online organizations – ones built around whole customer intelligence.