An interview with Stéphane Hamel.
Earlier this year, I had a chance to interview one of the most distinguished thought leaders in the field of digital analytics: Stéphane Hamel. You know him from his many innovations such as his Digital Analytics Maturity Model (DAMM) (2009) and Web Analytics Solution Profiler (WASP) (2006). Stéphane was also recognized as Most Influential Industry Contributor by the Digital Analytics Association (2013) among many other awards.
“We did big data – and didn’t complain”
Q: Stéphane, you’ve been on the job since the Web first got started and even before. Tell our readers about your journey to the forefront of digital-analytics thought leadership
A: I have been in the digital analytics space fulltime for well over 10 years, but really have been working in data-driven business for a good 30 years now. Back in the day at companies such as the Montreal Stock Exchange and many others we essentially did big data working with huge amounts of real-time data – but I don’t remember that we ever complained. It was difficult, it was complex, but we didn’t complain. It’s just what you had to do.
Then in the early 90s when the first web servers came about I remember having to convince my employer that they needed a website. And then again during the years of the Internet bubble I had to convince companies that doing analytics made sense, i.e. that a website wasn’t enough. You have to constantly measure & improve.
“Digital analytics was hijacked by marketing”
Q: How have you seen digital analytics evolve over these years?
A: Coming from the IT background I saw the time when in the late 2000s analytics was eagerly taken over by marketing and ecommerce in order to measure and optimize campaigns. But I wrote an article back then already that “web analytics has been hijacked by marketing”. Marketers saw the web as mostly a marketing channel back then as opposed to a business channel. So analytics was used narrowly for measuring campaign and shopping cart conversion rates, yet ignoring so much of what analytics should be contributing to the business.
Today, the use of analytics is much broader than just marketing and ecommerce optimization. It’s also about CRM, sales, customer support and self-service, business processes, and ultimately it should be about the customer.
“You think you are customer-centric and data-driven. Are you really?”
Q: How far along are companies with putting the customer at the heart of their analytics and their business?
A: When I speak with companies, often the conversation starts because they may have a technical concern or specific optimization in mind that they want help with. I usually then say that I know a lot about analytics but I don’t know their business, so please help me understand: “Are you customer-centric? and “Are you data-driven?”. And invariably companies will say “yeah, yeah, yeah, we are very customer and data oriented.”
But when I then ask “what are your goals and KPIs?”, or “how do you do it in order to be customer centric and data driven?” … often they don’t know what it is that they are doing. Sometimes it’s more like they heard about the notion … but there is not much more behind it unfortunately.
“Beware of blanket statements “
Q: After decades of customer-centric thinking, what’s still holding companies back?
A: Beware of those blanket statements that the Internet is awash with. For example, the “Top X things you must do for mobile immediately or you will perish.” kind of statements. What should your company’s mobile experiences be optimized for? It very much depends on your customers and your business. Analyze what your users are trying to accomplish using mobile devices and take it into account in your design and optimization.
I also see a lot of marketers chasing the next big thing. They have heard about growth hacking and now they are for example gung ho to create a viral video. But they don’t even have the basics down of what it is that they are marketing and what their business goals are.
Then people have the expectation that they can just call in a consultant and they are going to come in and magically identify the problem and the solution. It doesn’t work that way.
“The tide of expectations in analytics is rising”
Q: And why are marketers still struggling with analytics?
A: Complexity has gone up dramatically. Today’s marketers and eCommerce pros have over 2,000 MarTech solutions to choose from, all bringing different ideas and pitching to help increase their business. So the expectation in analytics have risen as a result too. Not to mention that customers now interact with you across these different MarTech solutions and on top of that also via their multiple devices.
“You can’t improve one thing by 1000% but you can improve a 1000 things by 1% and ultimately the impact will be exponential”
Q: What are the customer-centric analytics components you recommend?
A: A lot goes into being customer centric. For example, most fundamentally can customers actually reach you e.g. by email and do you reply? On Facebook do you just broadcast and brag or do you actually listen and reply?
But part of that eco-system is also to include Clicktale and understand and solve issues one experience at a time. The saying goes, “You can’t improve a single thing by 1000% but you can improve a 1000 things by 1%”. and at the end of the day the impact will be exponential.
Something like Clicktale is interesting because you can find that little thing that interferes with a customer’s experience and fix it and the effort of fixing it might be very low and fast. You can uncover opportunities for enhancement bit by bit, find glitches and improve them. You find out what it is that drives conversions by learning one customer experience at a time. You can quantify the impact via aggregated heatmaps and conversion analytics across your customers and segments.
This makes much more sense vs. throwing dollars after every supposed next big marketing thing without optimizing the experiences you have.
Many thanks to Stéphane for your continued contribution and leadership in the analytics industry.
About Stéphane’s work today:
Stéphane Hamel is a seasoned consultant and distinguished thought leader in the field of digital analytics. He works with companies to help them assess their digital analytics maturity and take it to the next level. Stéphane also coaches agencies to help them build their own analytics centers of excellence, i.e. to “train the trainer”. Stéphane is an experienced teacher and speaker who shares his passion for digital analytics – be it technical ‘how to’ or assessing organizations’ digital capabilities and maturity.
This interview first appeared on the Clicktale blog.