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What we should and shouldn't be measuring

In this article by Tom, he addresses the fundamental question of why analytics is important and what sorts of activity we should and shouldn’t be measuring.


In 1989, Kevin Costner starred in a film called “Field of Dreams”. During the film Costner hears a voice saying “If you build it he will come”. Unfortunately the Internet, the web, your website, your mobile app, or your whole business for that matter - is not like that.

Many businesses take years of hard work to grow and to be successful and in many ways the web is no different. There are numerous articles in the news and if you search carefully many marketing jobs as well, that talk about the importance of understanding big data and the value of analysing it.

I openly admit that I am a fan of the principle of big data and accept that the amount of information available through these channels has changed the way many businesses interact with consumers and the way in which consumers interact with consumers.

Some basic questions

Before I ask you to consider the benefits of analytics or mention some of the tools that may be of interest consider the following questions:

  1. Why would you want a website or an app? If you can’t answer that question then the analytics or the amount of data available isn’t really the problem.

  2. If you are a consumer, a member of the public and don’t have a company or even work for a company and therefore you don’t have a website or want an app then ask yourself the question ‘what information am I giving up in order to receive this product or service through this device that I may be using?’

  3. Do you really read the terms and conditions of an application or service through my device before I click okay and agree? The chances are you don’t read the terms and conditions, so you don’t know what information is being passed to another party as a result of you using the device.

    As Rebecca discussed last week, the terms and conditions set before you are not necessarily there primarily to inform you, but to protect the organisation providing a service.


The problem with digital marketing, recognised fairly early in 2001 by Michael Porter, was that companies were trying to ignore some of the more traditional fundamentals of profitability and measurements of performance in favour of new metrics such as the number of hits or visitors to a website.

Returning to the paragraph we started with, if you build it they will not necessarily come.

  • Just because you have a website does not mean that people know it exists.

  • Just because you have a website that lists various products and services does not necessarily mean that people will want to buy them even if they do know it exists.

  • Even if people do visit because you are top of the list in a search engine, it does not mean they will stay and buy from you.

The bigger picture

The importance of analytics at this stage is to interpret as best you can the information available to improve the products and services that you offer, to maximise the value to your customer and therefore your profit.

It is no longer about the number of clicks you get; it is no longer purely about the number of visitors you get to your site. It is not about how many people download your app from iTunes or the Google play store.

The issue for large companies in terms of analytics can sometimes have a lot to do with those at the top of the organisation.

They can be so far removed from the changes in technology that their knowledge of things such as social media comes from their children, and as such they appoint the new intern or student to run their social media when actually it is they themselves that should be doing it.

The speed of change technologically, especially in relation to big data, has meant that there is a shortage of people with sufficient experience to command a position at a very high level within a large organisation and as such there is a premium to be paid for such people.

What analytical tools are available?

For large-scale organisations drawing data from various different sources, real-time and in volume there are services or software available such as SPLUNK and that can analyse data real-time.

For the small or medium sized company (SME) - unless there is a significant amount of data these types of software packages are less applicable and most companies will rely on cheaper alternatives that look at web or application logs from devices.

About the further reading

  • In the ‘Further Reading’ below I suggest a number of different software packages and websites that may assist in terms of analytics and digital marketing. In doing so I am treating analytics in its broadest sense e.g. facilitating insight of your own operations, the customer and competitors.

  • I have tried to provide information and sources that are relevant to those people that do not have large budgets as it is easy to spend lots of money if you have it; it is much harder to find relevant sources of information and insight when you don’t really have a budget.

  • Also be aware that my methodology for collating the sources is rather rudimentary. I have basically audited and listed some of the applications that are used on a day-to-day basis on my own computer, tablet or phone as well as considered websites I have bookmarked or regularly visit.

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Digital Marketing: Challenges and Insights

University of Southampton

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