If you plan on getting your digital analytics done the way you've done it in the past, you may want to scrap those plans and start fresh.
Because in 2013, an entirely new approach to digital marketing and analytics is taking hold. Some have called it multi-channel analytics; some have called it business intelligence for marketers; some have called it (somewhat one-dimensionally) big data. I have called it convergence analytics.
Whatever you or your advisors want to call it, the facts about these important changes remain the same, and here are the four most important:
1. Everybody is measuring everything. And putting the reports in a dashboard. By everything, I meaneverything. Begin with the desktop (this now means " web"); add "mobile" (which means several things not very well-defined); add what is euphemistically referred to as "unstructured data" or social media; then add census or other data; CRM (like Salesforce); CDNs; predictive models; ad network data; geographic data; add in revenue data; add any data from any tool that has an API or SDK (and that includes about everyone). And you begin to get a sense of what "everything" is.
From the vendor side, the level of activity is nothing short of spectacular. To say that every company that ever measured a digital property now says they can connect to any data and visualize it for you might be an overstatement, but not by much.
From the marketer side, it's going to suggest a need for re-architecting your entire approach to data. And possibly an entire new round of tool selections and skill enhancements.
2. Digital is getting married to television. We thought we were done with TV, right? Wrong.
All television is now digital (pretty much by government mandate). Which means TV really is just another IP address-driven content container.
Here's why it's important: people still love television. It's engaging and compelling in ways that websites and apps never will be. It's the movies. Except on a big flat screen (or a small flat screen) in your own home or office. And we haven't yet figured out how much it will distort or even destroy the rest of the digital content universe. No matter what, we will have to figure out how to market there (again). Because it will be more like YouTube or perhaps Netflix than like "primetime." And we will have to measure usership in more sophisticated ways than ever before.
3. Privacy may be dead, but nobody likes surveillance. I'm a digital analyst. So I'm not going to climb on a holy soapbox and complain about how corporations are tracking your every move online. They are. But then again, they're not charging you any money for most of the stuff you use online. That's the price users pay for "free stuff." They pay with information about the way they interact with the content.
While Europe has gone buggy about privacy, in the U.S., only a few people really care about it. And even fewer ever do anything about it (like, for instance, reject or delete cookies at intervals).
But now that we're starting to see so-called "surveillance scandals" at the government level, especially as regards the news media and beyond, the subject of privacy may well come into focus for the American consumer. The government can get records of almost anything it wants (and the recent advances in digital tracking make this a more important factor than ever). Most people try not to think about this. And they shouldn't, as long as the government respects the individual's right to due process. But we are one or two scandals away from folks deciding they don't want to be tracked anymore because they've become paranoid of the Feds.
We don't want that. So we should try to make sure the government understands that there is a huge difference between the shopkeeper knowing what frock you looked at while you were in the store, versus Big Brother knowing where you were the night of September 17.
4. Marketers are losing control of the data. To be fair, the concepts of "marketing" and "data," while not quite an oxymoronic pairing, have never been a comfortable fit. Marketers aren't typically wired for data. Measurement has landed on them and they have embraced it; and some of the most agile and forward-thinking have made big wins with data-driven decision-making.
But that was when we were talking about web analytics and a dash of campaign attribution. Now we are talking about an enormous new push by vendors and senior management to squeeze the marketer on measurement of ROI. Vendors have created powerful new technologies that need selling. Management has gotten the sense they can somehow know successful marketing through measurement; and thereby save tons of money. Both vendors and management are more or less correct. And marketers, caught in between, will again be forced to adapt to rapidly advancing technology.
It's an open question whether they will, as a group, be able to do it. Or whether the entire task of digital measurement, having grown far more complex than it was even a couple of years ago, gets yanked from marketing and put back in the hands of data people who don't report to marketers.
Marketers will need to get out in front and lead on this - or they will find themselves roasting in a rather hot sweatbox, penned in by data scientists using sophisticated tools that until recently were far too difficult to build and too expensive to buy except for the very largest and most data-intensive organizations.
Digital analytics is changing forever. Some might say it's about time.