You think you are customer-centric and data-driven. But are you really?

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.

The Rise and Fall of Web Analytics (and the rise of CX)

Back in the early 2000s when you went to industry conferences such as SES,, eTail, ad:tech, and of course the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, the common refrain was: “web analytics — everyone should really be using them.”

The Rise

This was the time of dawn for Web analytics in terms of its use for marketing and eCommerce optimization. Back then web analytics were still a nascent niche, understood by relatively few, and used productively by even fewer.

Early on, web analytics seemed like a wondrous opportunity to learn almost everything you might ever want to know about your anonymous website visitors. So practitioners and industry analysts were telling each other that they might become the most sought after people in their companies because they know the customer better than anybody else.

So it seemed in the heydays.

Over the years, companies learned how to invest in the right people, process, and technologies to take advantage of web analytics. Today they are mainstream and nobody would doubt that they are a must-have and must-master type of analytics.

The Fall

But meanwhile web analytics had to get off its high horse.

They are now only one of multiple digital intelligence sources needed in order to navigate an online business towards success.

Web analytics are and will always be a critical controlling and management tool, especially for top level numbers. But by themselves they leave so many gaps of insight about customer behavior and interests that other, newer, more nimble and more granular analytical solutions have sprung up to fill the blanks.

The Rise of CX Analytics Providing Customer Insights that Web Analytics Can’t Provide Anymore

One such example on the rise today — and in mission critical use with the early majority of adopters — are digital customer experience (CX) analytics. CX analytics show visitors’ actual behavior and experiences on your website including their in-page interactions.

They show a-ha insights that would be hard or impossible to answer with web analytics.

Today’s experience management platforms such as ClickTale do this by adding a range of visual layers to web analytics through many types of heatmaps, replays, form analytics, and other conversion optimization insights. They provide intuitive ways to gain insight from these in integration with the rest of your ecosystem of digital analytic solutions including web analytics but also VoC, A/B testing, etc.

You see everything from where the mouse is moving within pages to how specific visitor segments are interacting with drop-down menus, accordions, shopping carts and other dynamic content.

All stuff that you don’t see from traditional web analytics unless you invested a prohibitive amount of custom tagging.

Typical CX Analytics Use Cases Filling Gaps in Web Analytics

Here are a range of business use cases where CX Analytics are mission critical for customer insights and conversion rate optimization (CRO).


  • Are there common behavior patterns and issues that cause potential buyers / registrants to drop out?
  • Are there friction points or distractions in our checkout process that we can eliminate?


  • Which form fields or error messages are tripping potential customers up?
  • What is causing hesitation to enter text or submit the form?
  • Should we make our forms shorter? More clear? How?


  • Are buyers vs. non-buyers scrolling down on our long pages and engaging with our many content sections under the fold? For example, are buyers scrolling down our entire home page to review our offering in its entirety?
  • What content within pages is actually perceived as valuable by potential customers? For example, if we have a picture vs. a video at the top of a page, how or where does that focus customers’ attention?


  • How much information is the right amount?
    • Not too much to put customers into analysis paralysis when deciding to register or purchase something.
    • Not too little to prompt buyers to research elsewhere


  • How effective are our drop down menus for helping visitors find what they are looking for?
  • Are visitors engaging with the menus? Which ones do they browse vs. ignore?
  • Should we simplify or expand our menus?
  • Should we better highlight certain options that we want more visitors to notice?


With responsive design you essentially have three websites in one. Site layout and content can change dramatically requiring dedicated analysis and optimization for each responsive design and breakpoint.

  • What are our phone, tablet, and desktop visitors experiencing on our site?
  • How can we make their experiences better?
  • What’s the best placement for links, banners, offers depending on each device and responsive breakpoint?


  • How are visitors using site search for products, articles, or customer support tips?
  • Are they using the search refiners to narrow down their search results? Which ones?
  • How can we make searching a better and more successful experience in order to increase the middle of our conversion funnel?


Today’s ever more dynamic websites often include single page applications where all the interaction happens within a single URL yet you have all kinds of modal windows to interact with or quick product views etc. It’s like a desktop experience within the browser.

  • Which logical screens are being noticed vs. ignored?
  • How can we make it easier for visitors to navigate the application and its functionality?
  • How can we increase adoption and productivity by providing greatest ease of use?


The famous bounce metric in web analytics makes little sense anymore. For example think of two visitors who both had a single page view only in their session, ie a classic bounce.   But one scrolled down extensively and read the entire page in detail in effect viewing multiple logical pages, eg your entire elevator pitch on the home page. That wasn’t a bounce at all.

  • How many visitors from our marketing campaigns are engaging vs. bouncing?
  • What experiences work for which segments?
  • Why aren’t more campaign visitors converting?


  • Is there any difference between the genders how they browse and perceive our products, checkout process, or content, e.g. price conscious vs. brand focused?
  • Any difference by demographics?
  • Tenured vs. new customers?


  • How can we avoid unnecessary customer service calls by making our self-service portal easier to use?
  • Why are customers struggling (for example think of banking bill pay, account transactions, or ability to find self-service options)?


  • Which of our self-service functions are so complex that we would be better off pro-actively encouraging customers to get help via live chat or call center?


It’s easy to see how web analytics by itself is way outside its element for answering these questions because it is focused on page views and how visitors go from page to page. But it doesnt’t answer what’s happening within the pages.

In theory you could custom tag granular detail also with your web analytics solution but that would be a prohibitive effort. In contrast, CX analytics are designed to capture the granular behavior out of the box.

That’s why CX Analytics are used hand in glove with web analytics at many of the world’s leading companies today.

But for every house-hold name enterprise that is using CX Analytics religiously as part of its digital intelligence eco-system today, there are others like them that still remain ignorant.

In my view of the adoption phase of CX Analytics, we are just now crossing the chasm from early adopters to early majority.


Geoffrey Moore's Adoption Curve

As I wrote earlier in “the Fourth Digital Analytic revolution is on!“, my prediction is that we’ll reach full majority adoption in the next 2-3 years because the business case is obvious.

And the more dynamic and more mobile the web becomes the greater the gaps in web analytics and the greater the pressures.



The Fourth Digital Analytic Revolution is On!

eCommerce and Marketing Pros all take for granted today that for your business to succeed online your digital intelligence eco-system has to include 

1. Digital (web) analytics
2. Voice of the Customer (VoC)
3. A/B testing

But the leaders in the space also know that these three analytics are not enough for conversion rate and customer experience optimization because they leave significant gaps of insight. Gaps that make site optimization slow and challenging.

Enter the fourth digital analytic: Customer Experience 

That is why leading enterprises today employ a fourth analytic, namely customer experience (CX) analytics that show the actual behavior of site visitors within pages including mouse movements, scrolling, attention to content,  interaction with dynamic content, etc.

While today I would estimate that maybe a quarter to a third of enterprises practitioners understand CX analytics as a mission critical component of their digital intelligence eco-system, the rest of practitioners are not there yet.

I predict this gap will close quickly.

Parallels to the rise of web analytics

I still remember the days when the first three digital analytic types mentioned above used to be talked about in terms of “Hey, we really should be using/doing …X, Y, Z .. instead of tapping around in the dark.”

Back then it took a few years from that state to the complete adoption of the analytic types.  It also took a few years to close the gap between having an analytics solution vs staffing the necessary people and establishing the processes to go along for success with the analytics .

But since the business case and competitive pressures are so strong, common sense prevailed.

The Fourth Digital Analytic Revolution is on!

I predict that the fourth digital analytic — CX — will reach that same level of near ubiquitous awareness, adoption, and staffing within the next two to three years.


Granted, yes I work at ClickTale who provide the leading cloud based customer experience management platform for enterprises.

But there is more. Namely …

It’s the customer, stupid!

If you can’t see your customer and their actual experience on your increasingly dynamic website, how can you help them succeed with your offering?

Or why would you want to compete with your eyes tied so that you can’t see your customer?

So I am calling it here. The fourth digital analytic revolution is on!

ClickTale Review 2015

If like me you were part of the birth generation of Web analytics for marketing and eCommcerce purposes in the 2000s then what you know about ClickTale is probably based on the startup years of the company.  Yet since those pioneer years when ClickTale first brought cloud based customer experience analytics to the market the company and its solution have come a long way. 

Today, ClickTale serves a very demanding enterprise customer base including  Wal-Mart Stores, Home Depot, Vodafone, Metlife, Adobe, and many more like them.

A lot goes into that.

When software companies cater to the needs of users such as these their solutions necessarily evolve to keep up with their enterprise-caliber requirements.  Customers demand it and exposure to their users both informs and pushes product, support, and consulting teams to scale to their needs.

The result is a level of solution maturity that wouldn’t be easy to create in a vacuum.

In my mind this explains why ClickTale’s solution is an order of magnitude further ahead today than in the past.

So, if your knowledge of ClickTale is a few years old, it’s time to get an update on how ClickTale works today.

How ClickTale works today

Here are many typical examples of enterprise level requirements.

Having joined ClickTale only earlier this summer I cannot take credit for any of these innovations.  But with my 15 years in the space I know to appreciate the work that has gone into these.

“We need to see what our customers are seeing including their full and actual marketing experience on our site. “

Yep,  that requires capturing and replaying not just HTML that the website’s own servers are sending to the Web browser but also third party marketing/eCommerce solutions that are used on the site, e.g. for product recommendations, testing, and targeting. After all, the whole point of those latter solutions is to influence the behavior of visitors. So, server-side data and technology that are blind to those details wouldn’t cut it today. ClickTale solves this by visualizing the full client-side experience.

“Our most important Web pages are secure (https) and have user specific HTML”

It’s a standard need today so ClickTale captures that content through its client-side data collection approach without need for ClickTale to go against the server for that content. As a result, no reauthentication to the server is needed. No need for any funny business with cookies for this to work either.

“We want to be 100% privacy compliant and we definitely don’t want to record sensitive details such as customers’ payment info etc.”

But of course!  By default no PII whatsoever is recorded. Such details are simply excluded and they don’t ever leave the visitor’s browser in the direction of ClickTale. That additionally eliminates any risk or questions.

“Even our anonymous data needs to be safe and secure in ClickTale’s cloud solution.”

Absolutely. Clicktale doesn’t just rely on certified data centers but Clicktale’s app itself is ISO27001 certified. Without the latter, any security that the data center provides would not be enough. Anyone who knows their salt on security will tell you that. ClİckTale is invested in a team of security professionals on staff to actively manage security. Few tech giants can match the everyday focus on securing customers’ data that ClickTale is focused on here.

“Our website HTML incorporates a lot of dynamic interactions and messages that visitors see driven by JavaScript, Ajax. etc. We need to make sure that both replays and heatmaps reflect these experiences.”

Very true for virtually all websites today. So ClickTale today has specialized technology under the hood to record customers’ interactions and exposure to all that dynamic content. It doesn’t stop at recording.  There is even more special functionality built into ClickTale’s heatmaps to make sense of today’s dynamic websites.

“We are already swimming in data. What we need is answers. “

Agreed. Many of the largest enterprises online are partnering with ClickTale for site optimization. It’s not just that seeing the actual customer experiences in ClickTale helps them turn web analytics,  VoC, and A/B testing data into intelligence by answering the why behind the what.  But ClickTale’s experienced CX consultants also work hand in glove with their customers to augment their staff with additional capacity for analyzing the customer experience.

“Sampling is not enough,  we want to capture 100% of the sessions that matter for analysis. “

Of course you do!  So ClickTale provides 100% recording for all sessions that are important to capture for analysis.

“We want to use ClickTale and our other digital intelligence solutions as one integrated platform.”

Almost all enterprises use ClickTale integrated with their Web analytics,  A/B testing,  and VoC solutions. No wonder. The synergy is huge.

  • Analyze & optimize your segments that you have defined in your Web analytics solution by adding ClickTale’s visual layer of insights that show the actual customer behavior behind the numbers.
  • Understand what to test and why certain experiences win vs fail.
  • Understand what happened on the site leading up to the feedback that customers submit.

While you hear software vendors talk about 1+1=3 value propositions all the time, I have rarely seen it to be as obviously true and clear as with the integration between ClickTale and the above type of solutions.

The sum of these and many other innovations are what make ClickTale an enterprise-class solution. 

And I know the best is yet to come.

As the web (especially mobile!) evolve further every day, there is so much more that the ClickTale team is working towards for our customers.

In the Age of Mobile – Marketing Moves from Static to Dynamic

Have you adapted your marketing automation and email messaging programs for the Age of Mobile yet? If not, it’s time to catch up with the times.

But just what steps should you take to adapt your programs?

Read my recommendations on the CMS Wire website.


What Keeps Digital Publishing Execs Up at Night? Part 2: Over-Relying on Advertising

Having discussed monetizing the mobile channel the series of blogs on conversations from the Digiday Publishers Summit continues with another challenge that publishing execs are grappling with:

Over-relying on Advertising as the Sole Revenue Model

What’s the most common revenue model in digital publishing? It’s advertising, of course.

Why is that problematic?

It’s not just that, as discussed in a previous blog,  display ad CPMs on mobile are very low (compared to desktop). But it appears that display ad CPMs in general are under downward pressure, supported by this quote from The Economist’s Tom Standage:

“The Economist has taken the view that advertising is nice, and we’ll certainly take money where we can get it, but we’re pretty much expecting it to go away.”


When something is commoditized, its perceived value goes down. So, given how much the Internet is flush with content, it is no surprise that CPMs are falling because the perceived value of content is lower.

So, what do publishers say they must do?

At The Economist, Tom says it is selling subscriptions to busy readers who don’t have time to scour the whole Internet to learn what they need to know. Instead, The Economist’s value is that the reader learns what they need to know in a compact format, whether that is in the print edition or mobile app.

It is also banking on thought leadership, i.e. organizing conferences and papers that can be sponsored. At Lyris, we would call this a niche publishing approach – getting the right, compact information to the right targeted audiences. Our CEO John Philpin talks about this in an article for Adotas, writing,

Any business that wants to pursue ‘true differentiation’ needs to establish a product that, in the mind of the consumer, is markedly and undeniably different.”

At The New York Time Digital, it is called “Services.” At the Digiday Summit, Paul Smurl, general manager of core digital products for The Times also emphasized his conviction that publishers must reinvent their revenue channels and go beyond advertising to secure their future. He shared his excitement about the new “Services” that save their audiences time and effort, for example:

  • A new cooking site that offers a one-click option to purchase all of the recipe’s ingredients and have them shipped to you.
  • Or a travel channel that publishes curated, high-value travel vacations and makes it easy to book them.

Bottom-line, there is so much content on the Internet already that publishers must reinvent themselves to go beyond advertising.

Here’s our team’s take.

Very similar to the examples from The Times and The Economist, Lyris and the clients we serve in the publishing industry are big believers that value is produced by bringing the right content to the right recipient at the right time through the right channel.

It’s about taking a page out of the playbooks of Facebook and Google, who are masters in content distribution and creating relevant experiences.

And, it doesn’t take an army of programmers to do this. Thanks to machine learning intelligence and with the help of the Lyris Audience Messaging platform, publishers large and small are able to let automation work for them.

The key is that we’re living in the age of data and analytics-driven intelligence. An interesting glimmer of just how key data is to the future was shared by the speaker from ABC at the Digiday Summit. Namely, Disney is working on consolidating its audience data into a common DMP platform so that it could perhaps be shared between Disney brands one day in the future in order to drive more targeted display advertising. The better the data, the more fine-grained a sponsor or advertiser can target an audience.

Likewise, there are publishers that talk about banding their data together in a data co-op to achieve similar scale across multiple publishing empires. While all this is still focused on advertising, the more powerful data can help these publishers defend themselves against the looming future where the Facebook and Google IDs could become the only relevant display ad targeting IDs that matter, as the speaker from ABC hinted.

Lyris’ Strategic DOs and DON’Ts:

  • DO look for ways to reinvent your publishing model and how you provide value to your audience.
  • DO drive your niche publishing and distribution strategy based on the richest audience data you can gather.
  • DON’T neglect audience messaging automation to the ‘Channel of One’ as part of your strategy – it would only be at your own peril.
  • DO appoint a Chief Audience Data Officer to work tightly with the monetization team to design value-based programs for your audience.
Cross-posted from the Lyris connections blog.

What Keeps Digital Publishing Execs up at Night? Conversations from the Digiday Publishers Summit, Part 1

Was it night-time skiing? Or partaking of certain vision-enhancing activities that happen to be legal in Colorado?

No! That’s not what’s keeping publishers up at night – it’s the  top business challenges that they grapple with, and that the executives attending the Digiday Publishers Summit 2015 in Vail, Colorado almost unanimously lamented:

  • Monetizing mobile
  • Fighting or friending Facebook, Google, and other platforms
  • Over-relying on advertising
  • Content is not king
  • Maximizing existing investment in technology partners

The Lyris team including myself were at the Summit listening, sharing, and learning alongside the larger numbers of digital publishing execs there. We’ll explore each of their top challenges in a five-part blog series, starting with this one:

Challenge #1: How to better monetize the mobile channel

By far the biggest challenge that came to light is how to better monetize publishers’ mobile channels (e.g. apps) since display advertising CPM fees are just one third that of the fees that publishers can charge for their regular website.

Brian Morrissey, editor-in-chief at Digiday, dubbed it, “Mobile is eating the world.” Just about every publisher listed it as one of their top two challenges.

No wonder. For most publishers, the majority of their audience has shifted to using mobile devices. So the low CPMs threaten to decimate publishers’ incomes. Yet, the call for how to get the CPMs raised remained unanswered.

How Lyris helps publishers address the challenge

Publishers, you are looking in the wrong places! Guess what is the number one activity that consumers engage in on their smartphones? It’s checking email!

Marketing Land: Email is Top Activity on Smartphones, Ahead of Web Browsing & Facebook

Publishers in-the-know take advantage of email to engage their audiences while they are on their mobile devices. These publishers drive additional advertising revenue both within the emails and on their regular, mobile-first websites when more readers click through from the emails.

Lyris recommended DOs and DONTs:

  • DO take advantage of email – the channel that marketers every year consistently rate as the top channel for driving marketing ROI, far above social media.
  • DON’T merely blast email newsletters at your audience – nobody likes to read static newsletters.
  • DO partner with your email marketing provider and request their assistance to optimize audience engagement for you with the help of best practice audience messaging programs, e.g. welcome programs, preference centers, triggered updates, retention offers, and win-back.
  • DO maximize the relevancy of messages to each individual recipient by taking advantage of automated content personalization that intelligently assembles and delivers the exact content for each recipient that he or she is most likely to engage with.



Cross posted from the Lyris Connections Blog

Final Spec for Digital Data Collection published by W3C CG — Plug & Play is here

As I was setting up holiday lights around my house this weekend I was plugging one string of lights into the next to go around the length of the roof. That made me think: how complicated would this be if every cable had a different kind of power plug, i.e. if there wasn’t a standard socket/plug for connecting cables from different vendors. You would have needed to run a separate power cable from the main socket to each set of lights instead of simply connecting the various cable strings with each other.

Bringing to digital data what standard power plugs/socket brought to electricity

Sounds crazy?

But that is exactly just as much unnecessary overhead and friction there has been in digital until today.  Namely, each digital marketing solution has had its own data collection JavaScript tag language and defines terms differently as to what constitutes a visitor, a page, an event, a conversion, shopping cart activity, or transactions. So, marketers and digital channel managers have had to implement a new set of tags on their site from scratch every single time they wanted to add another technology service. Plus they needed to translate events on their site into a new tag language every time.

Wouldn’t it be much more sensible if all of the digital marketing solutions could plug into a common set of data elements?

Final spec of Digital Data Layer now published at the W3C

IBM, in collaboration with 50+ other digital leaders such as Google, Adobe, tag management vendors, etc, has chaired an initiative to establish a new digital marketing industry standard for streamlined digital data management within a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) community group.  This community of industry leaders has now approved the final Customer Experience Digital Data Layer specification which rallies the industry around a single data model for tag data collection.

The value to marketers is accelerated on-boarding of new, relevant services, reduced IT burden in managing existing services, and superior and consistent site performance.

As vendors in the industry adopt this new standard, marketers will be able to take advantage of a single tag language used across all participating digital marketing services, saving time and money during implementation.


Voices in the industry commenting on the uniform data layer and its value


Sri Viswanath, IBM’s chair of the W3C Customer Experience Community Group

As the chair of the W3C Community Group, IBM’s Sri Viswanath had posted his perspective on this blog earlier in the year. Therefore, let me share below voices from other digital thought leaders and practitioners.

Eric Peterson, Web Analytics Demystified

Eric Peterson reviews the practical value of the W3C final specification on the Web Analytics Demystified blog in the light of a “coming of age” of tag management vendors. Meaning, in my opinion, that instead of competing on the commodity aspects of tag management data, vendors will now compete on the merits of what they enable businesses to do with that data. For example, how are the solutions helping their customers exchange digital data with a network of Digital Marketing solution providers in order to infuse these with real time intelligence on customer behavior?

“At Web Analytics Demystified we are excited to start leveraging this document in our client work and are looking forward to years of growth in the TMS sector.” and “those companies leveraging the W3C work will essentially enable a ‘plug and play’ environment”


Oliver Schiffers, Head of Marketing Strategy & Analysis for Continental Europe at SapientNitro

Let’s go across the pond next, literally, and hear from one of the captains of web analytics that has guided and shepherded use of intelligence towards better digital marketing decisions over the past decade.  Oliver Schiffers has been known for his web analytics leadership at SapientNitro for many years. Way back in 2001 he has been one of the NetGenesis crowd, so he has experienced the issues from both vendor and consulting perspectives.

“I see tremendous value in the data layer on top of the value Tag Management Systems (TMS) already provide. What was missing was still a consistent way of providing custom and dynamics values to the TMS.

Also, to be able to set a clear standard and orientation for agencies and site producers how to catch events is beneficial to both the developers as well as the analyst responsible for tagging.

When mentioning the standard, I was able to immediately gain trust within clients I am working for, because this is a W3C standard, the value is easily digestible, and it is still open for custom amendments. “

I love that endorsement that a common language helps each of the constituents in the process.


Todd Belcher, Digital Analytics Manager (Consultant) at Putnam Investments

Let’s ask a practitioner on the digital analytics side of things next. Todd Belcher is a veteran in the analytics industry with many years under his belt and working with many websites. Today, he is Digital Analytics Manager (Consultant) at Putnam Investments and shares his perspective:

“I believe organizations working with multiple digital marketing and analytics technologies, and the digital analytics community as a whole will benefit as a result of migrations toward this standard.  By adopting this standard, organizations’ web, application, and marketing/analytics teams are adopting a common language and process for surfacing data to digital marketing/analytics technologies. Ownership of creating this common language and process does not fall on the organization. It has already been done. “

Similar to Oliver maybe, Todd also stresses another benefit, namely helping organizations communicate unambiguously internally and with their digital marketing or analytics technology vendors:

“That internal communications efficiency must not be overlooked: when interfacing with digital marketing / analytics technology vendors, having a data layer in place promises potential ‘turn key’ implementations. It provides a common language and process… but not only for use by the organization, also for the organization to communicate with its vendors”.

Lee Isensee, Director Solutions Engineering and Product Strategy at Localytics

Let’s move to mobile next and ask Lee Isensee at Localytics. Lee has been a pillar of this industry for more than a decade and worked through countless implementations of digital data collection tags with customers. That direct hands-on experience informs the value he sees in removing spaghetti coding pains, i.e. not needing to translate multiple languages into each other!

“I would stress the ease of leveraging the data in a format that is universally understood without having to create extensive, and potentially convoluted, custom parsing solutions that have weighed the market down. The uniformity of the data also provides transparency to how each vendor works with the customer’s information.”

Aurelie Pols, Mind Your Privacy

Aurelie focused more on that last point. Specializing with her firm in the area of data and consumer privacy, Aurelie reviews the potentials of the new data collection specification from that specific angle.  Here, the potential of the new data layer specification is that a commonly agreed standard of what each data element means, can also lead to more precise opt-in or opt-out mechanisms.

“I hope it will gain traction. Yet it remains a technology perspective of the Privacy problem. .  As with anything in our industry, this is related to tools but certainly there is more to it, e.g. people and processes.

Therefore, when it comes to Privacy, this should clearly be part of a larger thought process, hopefully inducing Privacy by Design ways of thinking. Hopefully it will not be seen as the only solution to adopt when tackling this evolving issue.

My second stance is one related to adoption for privacy related goals, e.g. in the light of the earlier privacy project at the W3C: Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P) that was suspended back in 2007. Through my career, I’ve had requests related to P3P but with no real drive to take into consideration these guidelines. Adoption remained low and was merely seen as a hassle, imposed by General Council if not just some enlightened Privacy defender(s).  The question of adoption of the new standard for privacy purposes remains therefore open.

From the angle of data privacy, the final specification is helpful but not enough by itself, as Aurelie points out. More remains to be done for that angle.

Next steps for the adoption of the W3C Digital Data Layer Final Specification

IBM and many of the participating vendors are eager to adopt the final specification into our digital marketing and analytics solutions and implementations have already begun in some cases.

For example, David Henderson at Triggered Messaging Ltd has been implementing against the final report at his firm and is sharing his experience on the W3C Wiki. Meanwhile, users of IBM Digital Data Exchange can already today map to the uniform Digital Data Layer in order to have it feed IBM’s solutions for digital Marketing, analytics, customer experience management, and omni channel marketing.

What’s your next step?

How are you going to adopt the standard for your site, products, or customers? Download and read the final specification for the Customer Experience Digital Data Layer today!


This was cross posted from

Today’s Marketers – More Like Imagineers?

In some ways, marketing hasn’t changed at all. It’s still about knowing consumers and connecting your company’s value to that audience in order to create customers.

In other ways, marketing has changed completely. A “day in the life” of marketers past might have been like Madmen, driven mainly by artists and creative types. In those bygone days, you might have evoked with great creativity in an ad how your customer would feel if they held that cigarette in their hand or offered that drink to the hottie across the bar.

Compare that to a “day in the life” of today’s marketer. While still as creative and artistic as ever, modern marketers are also like imagineers automating their creation with the most cutting edge data science and software technology in the background.

Here is a snapshot of what the day of a marketing imagineer might look like.

Day in the life of a marketing imagineer

Day in the life of a marketing imagineer

1. Your day might begin by readying a new microsite to support a promotional campaign you want to test. But, if it took weeks to develop your site you’d never do it. So …

  • Instead of leaving visitors to a “one size fits all” experience on your new site, you might deploy automated self-learning recommendations for additional content each visitor is also likely to be interested in reading based on the behavior of others like them. Or, you might recommend additional products others like them found interesting.

2. If you are in eCommerce, you are now considering the right prices to offer your digital target segments in order to increase profits, not just revenue. To calculate the right answer, you turn to your pricing, promotion, and product mix software solution rather than pulling a number out of thin air.

3. Since the spray and pray days of marketing are over, you now need to capture the moments when your customers exhibit behavior that qualifies them for these discounts. And, of course, this needs to be automatic. So, you configure yourreal time digital marketing system to extend the discount codes to site visitors while they are on the site and via retargeting emails after visitors have dropped off.

4. Sometimes discount codes don’t work like they should. Rather than shrugging and accepting that as unavoidable, you’d like to be the first to find out when customers struggle. So you configure your customer experience management systemto alert you instantly when there is a spike of promo codes that aren’t going through. Using replay, you put yourself in the shoes of the customer, see what they saw, and identify and remedy the issues.

5. But, by now those customers have dropped off the site and are probably pretty annoyed. How to win them back? You connect the list from your customer experience management system into your cross-channel marketing application. You send them an email with an offer to help. Or, you let the CRM system prompt call center agents to offer help proactively when these customers call in.

6. Since nobody is perfect, you are always measuring and experimenting to see where you can improve your marketing performance. Yet, this isn’t your grandmother’s marketing reporting either. Today, statistical marketing attribution algorithms automatically tease out which marketing touch points deserve credit for truly creating incremental revenue when customers are touched by multiple campaigns in the run up to a transaction or purchase.

All that data, science, and business machinery is humming intact in the background so that you can imagineer a great customer experience and your customers can go about hunting for discounts and have fun browsing.

In the IBM Enterprise Marketing Management product team, our job is to make yours easier. For example, we just released an update to our digital marketing, customer experience management, and pricing management SaaS solutions. The new capabilities are some of the enabling capabilities in the “day of the marketer” above. See the release launch page for all the new capabilities enabling our users to engage their customers with one voice.

To hear from a real marketer that is setting the pace and outperforming their peers, tune in on October 24 when Ewald Hoppen from explains how his team uses cutting-edge technology as well as innovative marketing techniques. Their results speak for themselves, e.g. a 273% higher ratio of sales per email sent, a 63% lower email opt-out rate, and a 15x increase in ROI for their display ads.


Note: This was cross-posted from the original on the Smarter Commerce blog.

The central role of digital channels in the Omni-channel world

The original version of the chart below was created by Kevin Cavanaugh back in Unica days (Kevin’s now CTO at Allant Group). Still to date it’s one of the most popular pieces of thought leadership content I carry around with me on my USB drive everywhere I go. Folks in the audience often take pictures of this during presentations.

What it shows is that customers engage with our companies through so many channels and that some of these channels are more likely to be used during certain times in the customer lifecycle. For example, after learning about a brand via mass media commercials a prospect might grab their tablet to learn more about the product and then ultimately call the call center to ask further questions and sign up or purchase.

Channels of interaction over course of the Lifecycle

Channels of interaction over course of customer life cycle

Yet, over the years there has been a dramatic change. Kevin originally created this chart to visualize how critical it is to integrate online and offline channels for successful customer strategies. That is also how the chart was introduced in my book in 2008.

But today when you look at the chart you see an expanded number of digital channels at the heart of it. Digital is slowly taking over the chart. And the #1 take away from the chart today isn’t the online-offline integration anymore.

Rather, it’s that digital channels in themselves are an Omni-channel world ranging from website to tablet, phone, email, ad networks, social media networks, etc. Many of the most successful digital marketers today tie these digital channels together for continuous customer engagement. When a customer drops off from one channel, they continue the dialog with the customer on the next channel that he or she comes back on. That is assuming that the customer has at some point authenticated on each channel or device so he or she can be identified again.

Optimizing each of the channels and devices is bread & butter. But optimizing how they play together — that’s the Nutella on top.

One fun anecdote is that back when Kevin first created this chart we had question marks for the role of mobile in the customer lifecycle because the smartest phone around was still the Blackberry back then. It wasn’t clear at all back then how mobile would be used in the customer life cycle. Boy have we come a long way since then. Mobile is everywhere now.