Big data measurement best practice: Interview with eMetrics

By Chris Lee

“Big data” presents a sizeable challenge for marketers and sales operatives. Big data refers to the complex information accrued from customers and how to capture, store and make sense of this information for better business.

One of the key challenges has been what to measure with big data. Jim Sterne is founder of The eMetrics Summit, a global conference which held its two-day London event in late November 2012. For Sterne, the first thing to overcome is with so much to be measured, what exactly should brands measure?

Goal keepers

For Sterne, it all starts with business objectives and making sure the right ones take precedence.

“With so many measurement options, the more difficult question is no longer about standards or technologies, but about goals. What are you trying to accomplish?” he said. “You can answer that question as a business: raise revenue, lower costs, increase shareholder value, etc. You can also answer that question as a profit centre: increase profit, grow market share, increase customer satisfaction. But the real attention-getting question to ask about goals is personal.”

According to Sterne, once goals are clarified, the proper metrics will become apparent, as will the systems to capture the data necessary to track those metrics.

“Analysing more and more detailed metrics can be a great help right up until they reach that mystical point of diminished returns,” he told NMK. “If my goal is to increase online sales, then only measuring sales won’t give me any visibility into the selling process. I’ll want to drill down and measure traffic source and click-streams – the various ways people arrive at and meander around my website – in order to improve usability and speed the sales process. I can measure the effects of altering the words I use to describe my offerings. I can track the types of questions the call centre fields and try to answer those questions in an FAQ before people have to ask.”

Behaviour analytics are key

With the right customer behaviour analytics tools, Sterne argues that organisations can measure every keystroke and the X-Y coordinates of each and every mouse movement in order to assess customer behaviour within every page on their site. This is where the return on investment issue comes into the picture for Sterne.

“If I collect too much data, if I produce too many reports, if I have too much information to consider, then the cost of collecting, storing, analysing, and reporting that information is, by definition, more expensive than the benefits I can derive from its use as a decision-making tool,” he said.

So what’s the right balance?

“Align your metrics with your organisation’s goals and you give everybody the power to track their own success and do their best to meet their (and your) goals,” he concluded. “Just don’t let them get bogged down in the details. Metrics should be useful, rather than merely interesting.”

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