Last October, Google announced a new set of analytics tools called “Universal Analytics.” These tools allow marketers to incorporate Web, mobile app, offline and other first- and third-party data into a single analytics framework for cross-channel/platform optimization. The goal is to help marketers better understand the full range of online and offline touch points that shape customer preference and lead to conversion.
In the wake of that original announcement, I wrote an article discussing both the announcement itself and my general excitement over what it represented. I noted that, to date, analytics technologies have been “decidedly visit-centric,” rather than customer-centric. The focus has always been on understanding how many visits the website received, how many page views were consumed, or how many visit sessions converted against the primary site objectives. These can be important metrics for sure, but none of them communicates any customer-specific insight.
Then last week, my excitement was renewed when Google announced that Universal Analytics had been made publicly available. Now, any business can integrate analytics data from a multitude of sources in pursuit of crafting the optimal customer experience.
Universal Analytics is one of several technologies on the market that are referred to as “data management platforms,” or DMPs. DMPs are still a relatively new concept to most, and in my experience only the largest and most sophisticated of marketing organizations have successfully installed one. “Data Management Platforms And Why You Need One” is a great introductory primer on this topic.
I believe that in time, the DMP will become a staple among marketing teams. The tools that are readily used today are showing their age: primarily, Web analytics that analyze session-level activity across a single .com entity. In reality, the “Web” today is a dynamic environment that transcends multiple websites, social networks, applications, and devices.
The Web is ubiquitous too. By focusing on the customer, rather than the destination or environment, DMPs can deliver insight and unlock opportunities enabled by that ubiquity.
Google’s public entry in this space marks an important milestone: It’s the day when DMPs went mainstream. Marketers that had never heard of this technology, or found that existing platforms were prohibitively expensive, now have access. Not to cast aside the difficulties in implementing such a system as trivial, but in terms of awareness of and access, Google has made a splash.
And as I thought about this announcement and some of the more likely scenarios to play out, I kept thinking of two interrelated outcomes. First, it could help end an era of analytics complacency. The enterprise vendors have long used this to their advantage, pointing out efficiency gains made by use of their platforms over Google’s. The flaw in that logic comes from the “set and forget” crowd, who place Google Analytics scripts on websites because it’s free and easy, but fail to spend time understanding the data. Now, simply knowing what’s possible may compel organizations, publishers and webmasters alike to rethink how they’re putting data to work.
Secondly, I thought of Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, who believes one of the sexiest jobs in the next ten years will be that of statistician. As DMP awareness goes mainstream, it will be met with an equally large, mainstream demand for data analytics talent.