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!

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This was cross posted from smartercommerceblog.com/digitalmarketing/

Announced today: IBM Marketing Center

IBM today announced the new IBM Marketing Center — an all-in-one solution that combines digital analytics data with real-time marketing execution. Marketing Center provides A/B testing, website personalization, email marketing, and more.

For more information and to download the data sheet see the product’s web page at ibm.com/marketing-solutions.

What I find most exciting here is that digital analytics and marketing are glued together in a single application: i.e. there is no room for a chasm between analytics and action anymore!

10 Signs Your Company is Stuck in the Old Web Analytics World Instead of Embracing Today’s Digital Analytics

Continuing the question what digital analytics are vs. web analytics, here are 10 things that hopefully don’t describe you or your company.

  1. You think improving business success with mobile and social channels is not part of the digital/web analyst’s job
  2. You think visitors are trying to accomplish the same thing with your site regardless of whether they are visiting by using their PC, their tablet, or their Smartphone
  3. You operate without benchmarks and competitive intelligence that would tell you where you are vs. your peers so you know where you could be
  4. You operate without voice of customer surveys that would show why customers did what they did
  5. You think your job is just to measure, test, and improve content and ad spend using data … when you could also be thinking about decisions and actions that digital data can drive (e.g. by identifying changes in demand, willingness to pay, or individual customer intent)
  6. You think the value with analytics is just in KPIs, reports and tables … not in the underlying data warehouse of customer insight
  7. You think you are just one silo’d channel that your company is running … when digital is increasingly intertwined with every next move customers are thinking about taking with your company’s offerings
  8. You think visitors’ behavior in one session says much of anything … when today the number of sessions between transactions are becoming more frequent (6.8x on average) and shorter and more surgical. The real beef is in identifying what experiences increase customers’ future looking lifetime value
  9. You think of your website as your only digital home and see the rest of the Internet as incoming channels of traffic. Yet, digital marketers increasingly orchestrate off-site interactions as continuations of previous on-site experiences, e.g. via targeted advertising and email that is not only targeted but dynamic (e.g. displays coupons or recommendations that are current at time of opening)
  10. You think customers’ interactions with your digital channels are unrelated to the customer context, i.e. where they are (e.g. using their Smartphone in your store), who they are (e.g. at risk of leaving), and your past history  of interactions (e.g. an email or call center interaction during which customer was pitched a particular cross-sell product)

Bonus: You walk into your office like a shy report squirrel… when you deserve to walk with the might of the 800 pound gorilla that owns the most real time insight into customers in all your company.

So, what is Digital Analytics then?

The WAA renamed itself to DAA (which was announced at eMetrics in San Francisco last Monday) to reflect the reality of how the profession/industry has grown since its website centric origins. That brings up the question what Digital Analytics should stand for?

No doubt,  every vendor (including me) and consultant will bellow now that digital analytics are exactly what he/she said all along that companies should be doing with analytics. And it is of course exactly what his/her/my company happens to be offering. 😎

We’ll also see the more mundane proposition that Digital Analytics is the combination of web, mobile, and social analytics and also includes VOC, benchmarking, email analytics, search analytics, performance, replay, etc.

Nothing wrong with the above.

It’s just that I think Digital Analytics has greater potential than all that.

Namely, as the digital and physical worlds are increasingly intertwined, digital analytics are becoming a key intelligence for business decisions and CRM, not just channel optimization or making page content/layout better.

For example, already in 2009 Macy’s CEO went on record saying that every dollar spent on Macys.com led to $5.77 influenced in stores within the next 10 days. This reflects the well known “research shopper” phenomenon. Since then, Smartphone ownership in the US has crossed 30% of cell phone users and 4 out of 10 have said in surveys they used their phone to get more information on items while in a store.

Likewise, 33% of retailers said in a survey that equipping their store staff with mobile POS capabilities is a key investment coming now. So both buyers and sellers are going to be even more digitally intertwined than they have been in past years.

As a result we should see that an increasing portion of data used in data warehouses, business intelligence, and CRM is digital data.

To be more specific, we are talking about behavioral data and customer , not just transactional data because the latter has been integrated some time ago already.

New cycle of continuous improvement

To bring this to the point, until here the profession of web analytics has often been identified with a continuous cycle of improvement as seen below. We set goals, measure where we stand, test/experiment with alternative content, pick the best design, rinse and repeat.

As all interactions with a business are becoming increasingly intertwined with digital, it is time to embrace the more strategic potential of digital analytics by moving to the cycle below. Here the insights are used either for business decisions or to identify the next most relevant content or product/service/promo offer for each customer based on their current interests.

For example, at emetrics Steve Petitpas from Microsoft shared their analysis that led to the decision to discontinue the Cash incentives program for Bing. Or in Eric Peterson’s whitepaper Dashboards are not a Strategy, the work of The North Face’s Mike Mayfield is described where Mike identified demand for certain products via digital behavioral data and worked with their merchandise buyers to match supply to that demand. Or Freshdirect is using analytics to identify customers’ willingness to pay for different kinds of their 4-minute meals so that they can provide the right price for the market.

Additional analytics skills

More analytical skills are needed than page and ad and conversion optimizers will have employed in our daily work. Good examples would be:

Yay, lots to do and learn.

Analytics is fun again!

 

Guiding Digital Marketing Spend: by Tom Manning, Ninah Consulting

Our mini series at Digital Marketing One on marketing performance measurement and accountability continues with a contribution by Tom Manning on management techniques.

Very noteworthy is the following take on measuring returns with new media:

“progressive marketers rely on ROI directed funding for traditional channels and media, and they rely on return on objectives (ROO) for non-traditional, “new territory” funding (ex. parity in search ad exposure)”, from Tom Manning’s article

I think what we have here is another reminder that returns in the short term aren’t always financial but can be strategic. Eventually, though the financial returns have to start shaping up (assuming a for-profit business) so that the initiative can be called successful.

 

Tom is a partner with Ninah Consulting, who specialize in quantifying and helping increase marketing effectiveness and profitable business growth. They do this with analytical rigor and by producing models that lead to actionable recommendations.

This concludes our mini series on accountability and performance measurement from following authors:

 

Should you Measure Brand Awareness?

 

“I often describe the value of brand awareness as the equivalent of half of a $100 bill. Unless you know where to find the other half, there really is no value.”, Jim Lenskold on CustomerThink

What’s the ROI on ROI Measurement? – by Jim Lenskold

Something rarely seen appears in Jim’s article on five key principles for improving marketing ROI within the Digital Marketing One series for CMOs.

Namely, an ROI calculator for ROI measurement. Click the image and see the “Measurement ROI” tab on this calculator by the Lenskold Group.

ROI calculator for ROI measurement

I have been loving how the authors in our Digital Marketing One series have packed pearls of wisdom from long years of front lines experience into tight paragraphs. Almost taking for granted the hard work that has to happen in order to follow the best practice recommendation.

Nothing comes easy.

Two gems in Jim’s article I’d like to quote. Here comes the first:

“measurements must be prioritized based on the expected improvement to effectiveness, the strategic benefit of gaining insights that can influence many marketing initiatives, and the cost.”

In other words a metrics based approach to metrics!

Here one more gem:

“Key measurements to improve digital marketing include: … Capturing incremental sales conversions and customer value to optimize the digital marketing spend. …”

Advice like this tends to be written out in long, long blog posts or entire books when us web analytics people try to write about it.

Notice the little word “incremental”. Don’t care whether you use first touch or last touch or hold out groups. But the key to useful measurement is to get to that incremental contribution. Otherwise we are just wasting time on numbers games.

Easier said than done, of course.

So Jim article’s hsa advice on five best practices.

Jim is the author of Marketing ROI and an international speaker on the topic. At his firm, Lenskold Group,  his team produces and publishes many articles and research on the topics of marketing ROI, marketing strategies and business growth strategies.

 

Marketing ROI

 

See Lenksold.com for additional free ROI measurement resources.

5 Steps for better Marketing Accountability – from Laura Patterson, VisionEdge Marketing

Marketing budgets have a chance to grow in 2011, writes Laura Patterson in her article in our Digital Marketing One series for the CMO.

But – not  to steal Laura’s punchline – but there is a catch:

Accountability!

I.e. marketers’ ability to prove the returns on the moneys spent.

So, what is meant by accountability?

Laura’s article is a great to read executive summary on that and includes 5 recommendations for getting it right.

Something that I liked especially well in her article is that Laura doesn’t equate accountability with just short term financial ROI. Instead, read how she emphasizes accountability “to the financial and strategic initiatives of the organization”.

Very well taken even if the strategic initiatives must of course in the long term also lead to financial ROI, unless we are talking about a socially oriented organization.

Laura’s article kicks of a mini series on articles about accountability in digital marketing. Her company, VisionEdge Marketing, specializes in enabling organizations to leverage data and analytics towards accountability and operations, and better marketing performance. You may have seen Laura speak at various conferences. She is also the author of three books including Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance Driven Marketing Organization (Racom, 29).


(click to see on Amazon)

See also VisionEdgeMarketing.com for free resources.

Spiders vs. Bars for Maturity Models

Sharp, as always, Jacques Warren commented on my previous post why maturity model people always gravitate to Spider graphs?

Wouldn’t it be easier to read bar charts?

Worth a try!

So, belowe are the three examples from the digital marketing maturity model as bar charts instead of spider diagrams.

Which to prefer, Spider or Bars?

Comparing to the spider charts from the previous post, I’d say Jacques is right on. The Spider charts look more sophisticated and interesting. But the bar charts are much easier to read.

Graph masters

Dress your charts to impress. That may sometimes mean making them look fancy, but usually probably means making them meaningful and easy to interpret.

There is nothing that “sells” analytics like good visuals.

To that point, some people are just so genius that I feel hopelessly behind to their masterminds. Case in point, see for example the following Halloween costume chart by “MB“.

Halloween costume guide

Happy Halloween!

Digital-Marketing Framework (now revised and improved)

Here is a revised framework for digital marketing strategy.

Digital-marketing-strategy-framework

 

Why the revision?

This fixes a number of shortcomings in the first version that I had proposed 10 days ago.

  • For example, David Raab and Laura Patterson, members of the Founders Council of DigitalMarketingOne, caught a critical flaw in the earlier version. Namely, my placement of channels (e.g. Search, display, etc.) in the framework diagram was flawed. I placed them in specific locations of the customer lifecycle whereas they can play a role in many stages of the lifecycle.
  • Additionally, I was in round table discussions at the eConsultancy peer summit in NYC, and it was a good reminder that many companies still haven’t made explicit what mission their digital channel has, i.e. how it should be contributing to the business.

Elements of the new strategic framework for digital marketing

Informed by overall marketing strategy

First of all, before CMOs think about using this framework they still ought to start with a higher level framework such as Doug Goldstein’s briliant work at MindOfMarketing.net. That global strategy needs to be in place so that the CMO can now drill-down to define the contribution of digital within the bigger setting.

Define Digital’s mission

Job one is to define how digital is to contribute to the business and to the customer life cycle across multiple channels.

Select your overall digital strategy

Based on your digital mission your CMO can now derive the overall approach in terms of presences that you should prioritize (e.g. mobile, Facebook, website, etc.) and their related “site types” or business models, i.e.

  1. eCommerce,
  2. lead gen,
  3. customer service,
  4. content/publishing,
  5. or brand marketing.

Based on these decisions you can then derive the top five KPIs and targets that you should work towards. You can also form an initial opinion on the ad channels that suggest themselves for the audience that you wish to reach.

Interactivity

As pointed out in the last post, interactivity is what digital is really good at. So the new framework retains the prominent role for interactive marketing across the customer lifecycle. I removed the reference to channels (e.g. search, etc.) however since each channel can play a role in multiple lifecycle stages.

ROI measurement and optimization

The other strengths of digital are measurability and testing. This needs to be put to use towards continuous improvement. Using the insights marketers change their investments in the familiar cycle of continuous optimization.

Unlike the original web analytics cycle of continuous improvement however, the emphasis here is that the continuous improvement applies not just to web pages and advertising. But you want to apply it to your entire digital and interaction strategy.

Technology strategy and selection

Finally, your use of digital marketing technology should of course be determined by the digital and interactive marketing strategies that you are going after.