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

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.

Strategic Roadmap for Digital Marketing in 2011: eBook for Marketing Execs

15 authors, 15 articles. Free, yet with priceless insights.

Learn from marketing thought leaders how to engage with customers and create value for stakeholders in a complex digital world. Covers digital channels, marketing techniques, accountability and technology. Truly a must-read resource for every CMO!

One-click Download from (no registration required)

With many thanks to our producer, publisher, and my co-editor, Bob Thompson at and

And, of course, all my gratitude to our 15 authors, bloggers, consultants whose insights into digital marketing strategy make up this ebook.

Together, we set out to puzzle together the silo’d niches of digital marketing into one coherent strategic roadmap. The resulting strategy advice could maybe be summarized as follows (and I hope I am doing justice to all my co-authors):

  1. Derive digital strategy from your overall marketing mission and the role that you want digital to play in it
  2. Pay attention to the special nuances of each digital channel but also fuse the channels together into a cross-channel approach
  3. Do the opportunity with digital marketing justice by making appropriate use of its biggest strength: intelligent interactivity
  4. Consider the additional contribution that digital channels and analytics can have on your online-offline customer sales and marketing programs
  5. Get more of what you want (e.g. revenue, budget, etc.) by investing in marketing accountability and ROI optimization
  6. Derive technology strategy from your overall digital strategy



Social Media: Four Metrics for Success – by Jim Sterne

“The key to improving your returns on social media marketing is combining a firm belief in this brave, new method of contact with a committed course of experimentation and discovery, and a resolute dedication to measuring results in order to determine value as you learn.” – from Jim Sterne’s article

Or, as my colleague Jay Henderson at Unica / IBM puts it: “Don’t just dabble in new media but adopt a continuous process of experimentation and measurement”

Jim’s article is next up in the Digital Marketing One CMO series for digital marketing. Read key advice by the author whose seven books include Social Media Metrics. Jim also produces the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit and is the founding president of the Web Analytics Association.

Jim’s article completes the Channel Insight’s section in our Digital Marketing One short series. In summary, the following authors contributed Channel specific know how into this series.

Next, we will look into advice on marketing techniques. Email marketing is obviously missing in the list above and will be addressed in the context of demand generation.

In Search of a Strategic Framework for Digital Marketing

At the new DigitalMarketingOne, our Founders Council is seeking to design and explore a strategic framework for digital marketing.  

Marketing does so many things though and does them so differently at different companies. How do we put all that into a framework that makes sense to CMOs – our target audience?

Luckily, many clever people have thought about that before.

Starting from a Strategic Framework for Marketing in General

The Strategic Marketing Framework presented on (see below) was one of many frameworks that seemed especially appropriate for a CMO audience. It should serve as a great starting point.

Mind of Marketing's Strategic marketing framework

Strategic marketing framework,

It’s just beautiful how this framework:

  1. Emphasizes that the job of Marketing is much more than just to be the “Hey, make this pretty and send us the leads!” department.
  2. Is also easy on the eye

Evolving this Marketing Framework for Digital

There are a number of things, however, that are so strategic to digital marketing that they should be better emphasized in our framework. Namely:

1. Interactivity

While digital can’t beat traditional advertising media on reach, its unique strength is interactivity.  So, let’s expand the traditional marketing mix’s classic 4 Ps: Product, price, placement, and promotion. Namely, let’s drill open promotion to show just how much is possible within that one P in digital. Let’s add the Ps that are so key to digital marketing: persuasion, permission, personalization, multiple web presences, net-promoters, etc.

2. Ad channels

Rumors of the death of advertising in the digital age are greatly exaggerated: ads are everywhere on the net.  But there is an immense amount of unique know-how within each of the digital ad channels. We should call out the most important channels in the framework to do that justice.

3. ROI measurement and optimization

Digital media are fantastically measurable. Optimization within a channel can sometimes even be automated. That creates the illusion that it should be almost automatic to measure overall ROI / returns across digital and allocate your investments appropriately. Not so easy! Therefore let’s add ROI measurement and optimization to the framework explicitly.

The Resulting Strategic Marketing Framework for Digital

Below is the resulting strategic marketing framework with the modifications for Digital.

Click to expand

What do you think?

Does this framework do a good enough job to encapsulate all that goes into measuring and increasing ROI (with marketing initiatives and customer relationships) in digital?

Once we have the framework down, we can proceed to the next step and explore the details with the help of DigitalMarketingOne’ers from all corners of Digital.



A number of folks deserve credit for their inspiring works that went into this framework. Namely:

  •, provided the Strategic Marketing Framework starting point
  • The idea of the extended Ps for the marketing mix came from Unica’s Yuchun Lee in his keynote at the 2008 Unica customer conference, MIS
  • Jim Sterne, eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, coined the “windows into the hearts & minds of the market place”
  • The Eisenberg brothers while at Future Now Inc. developed Persuasion Architecture
  • I credit Digitas for the idea of the hour glass shaped funnel since I saw it on a slide of theirs

Q&A with Radian6’s Lauren Vargas from our Recent Webinar

Social CRM has just gone from being a buzz word to being an official software solutions category: Gartner has released their Magic Quadrant for Social CRM!

On that occasion, let me post the Q&A from our recent webinar with Radian6’s Lauren Vargas below. The replay of the webinar is available to Web Analytics Association members from the webcast archive.


Which kind of organizations are ready for social CRM?

Lauren: Any organization willing to listen and participate in a two-way dialog are ready for social media engagement.

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Thursday June 10th: Radian6 and Unica webcast at WAA

The title of this joint webcast with Radian6 might as well have been: “Bringing order to the wild west of social media through analytics”.  Or “The sherriffs are riding into social media marketing high noon”.

All kidding aside, neither web analytics nor social media monitoring alone can do today’s social web justice. So, we are very lucky to have Lauren from Radian6 as our featured presenter in this Thursday’s WAA, educational webcast series (sponsored by Unica).

Thursday, June 10, 2010 at noon Eastern.
Combine social media monitoring with web analytics to
improve your chance at social media success.

  Lauren Vargas
Community Relations
Manager, Radian6
Lauren Vargas, Radian6  Radian6

Measuring social media success is a coin with two faces:

  1. What participants say about you outside of your website/sphere of influence.
  2. How your social media presence – through your website, Facebook, Twitter, ad campaigns, etc. – influences behavior.

This unique event brings together leaders from social media monitoring and web analytics. Tune in to learn:

  1. A practical framework for social media measurement that helps you avoid analysis paralysis.
  2. The why and how of combining social media monitoring with web analytics.
  3. How to go beyond social media analytics to increasing viral reach and social relationship success.

The webcast has been recorded and Web Analytics Association members can watch it from the WAA’s website.

5 Multichannel Gems from eMetrics San Jose

Like most vendors at the eMetrics marketing optimization conference this year, I only had a chance to attend very few of the sessions. But each of the ones I did attend was awesome.

Even more awesome than I remember from past years.

Here are five track sessions that were real gems:

[

Analytics for Tweets and Twitter API with Unica

Earlier this week, Unica announced the addition of innovative social media marketing capabilities for users of our online marketing solutions. Among these capabilities are Social Media Analytics for Unica’s web analytics solution, NetInsight. And one component of these capabilities is the integration of Twitter analytics into website stats.

More specifically, Unica’s Solutions Pack released today enables customers of Unica NetInsight, NetInsight OnDemand, and Interactive Marketing OnDemand to:

  1. Automatically download Tweets on selected subjects from the Twitter API
  2. Collect and store the data indefinitely for historical analysis (whereas Twitter discards older tweets eventually)
  3. Submit the data to NetInsight for extending web analytics reports with reporting elements for Twitter topics, Twitterer IDs, and complete texts of tweets

Tweets are included within a regular website profile in Unica NetInsight which makes it possible to view website visitation statistics within the same charts as the trend of Tweets obtained from the Twitter API.

Unica NetInsight report on trend of Tweets vs. site visits and conversions

Unica NetInsight report on trend of Tweets vs. site visits and conversions

Tweet trends for the keywords that you specified can also be broken out separately as seen in the above screenshot. For example, Unica is monitoring tweets on hash tags such as #measure, #SEM, #CRM, #emailmarketing, #interactive, etc.

As seen in the next screenshots, tweets can of course also be monitored intra-day. Alerts can be set up that send an email to responsible social media managers when the volume of tweets on a certain topics exceeds thresholds.

Unica NetInsight report on Tweets by hour by Tweet topic

Unica NetInsight report on Tweets by hour by Tweet topic

As mentioned earlier, Tweets can also be tied to individual Twitterers and reported that way to identify top influencers for your brand or targeted topical keywords.

Unica NetInsight report on top Twitterers by Twitter hash tag

Unica NetInsight report on top Twitterers by Twitter hash tag

You can also drill to individual Tweets and read their content to understand context. Unica NetInsight’s limitless flexibiliy is showcased nicely by the fact that a simple click on any individual Twitter’s comment will hyperlink the analyst directly to that individual’s Twitter page to see all their updates or to respond to them directly.

Unica NetInsight drill down to individual Tweets

Unica NetInsight drill down to individual Tweets

With the full text available, it is possible to set up metrics in NetInsight such as “Re-tweets”. Now, you can measure for example how viral your own tweets are, i.e. how often you get re-tweeted.

How does it work? You simply set up a metric that starts with “RT” and contains the text pattern from your original update.

The latter also works for Twitter’s newly announced Promoted Tweets. This way you can identify engagement with your promoted Tweets even if they did not click-through to your site.

Going from Twitter Analytics to Action

As always with Unica, the story doesn’t stop with reporting but extends into action. For Twitterers where CRM records contains both the Twitter ID and customer registration, or website cookie information, Unica Interactive Marketing can turn analysis into action.

For example, provided that permission to market exists

  • Social media influencers and opinion leaders can be identified and targeted with campaigns designed to motivate and encourage them to promote the company’s brand.
  • A company’s most loyal clients whose engagement with the brand is waning can be prioritized for retention campaigns.
  • Users that click through on a tweet relating to a particular topic can be profiled accordingly so that future communications are made relevant to their topics of interest.

The latter bullet point also applies to click-throughs from Promoted Tweets. In your promoted tweets, just as with any other tweets, simply make sure that hyperlinks back to your site include tracking codes. That way your web analytics can attribute the source of the click-through for the session.

For more information

For more information about the Solutions Pack for Social Media Analytcis, Unica customers can contact their account managers.

As a final note, Unica absolutely also recommends that customers use social media monitoring solutions such as Radian6, Scoutlabs, and Viral Heat for more complete monitoring. Some of these solutions also provide APIs. It is the plan to provide similar integrations for these APIs.

Analytics for Facebook Applications with Unica

Unica announced the addition of innovative social media marketing capabilities this week. Among these capabilities are Social Media Analytics for Unica’s web analytics solution, NetInsight. Specifically, one of the components of the Solutions Pack released today encompasses analytics for Facebook applications. This enables marketers to gain insights on application usage and users including details from the Facebook API.

More specifically as a customer of Unica NetInsight, NetInsight OnDemand, and Interactive Marketing OnDemand you can:

  • Instrument all aspects of your Facebook application for granular behavior analysis and optimization
  • Rely on the highest degree of accuracy in their analytics by basing your sessionization and unique user insights on the Facebook ID and employing cache busting mechanisms to avoid the loss of click data due to caching (e.g. in the browser cache).
Report in Unica NetInsight on Facebook application usage trends by visit duration

Report in Unica NetInsight on Facebook application usage trends by visit duration

You can also include any desired detail from the Facebook API along with the click-stream analysis as long as you comply with Facebook’s platform policies. The API data will help you understand usage trends, success, and user preferences based on available insights about users’

  • Social graph, e.g. how do key influencers use the application vs. the average user?
  • Demographics, e.g. how do people at various age ranges use the application?
  • Geographic location, e.g. how to users from different parts of the country or world prefer to use the application?
  • Relationships or affiliations, e.g. how to married folks vs. bachelors differ in their preferences for using the application?
Unica NetInsight on current locations of today's Facebook application users (based on API data on users)

Unica NetInsight on current locations of today's Facebook application users (based on API data on users)

Privacy and Facebook’s Platform Policies (Note: I updated this section on April 27th)

Key to including any insights from the Facebook API in analytics is not only marketers’ good stewardship of this data. This is also expressed in the Facebook platform’s developer principles and policies.

The policies previously used to limit the kind of API data that can be stored, including by web analytics solutions, for longer than 24 hours. However, with the launch of the Facebook open social graph on April 21st 2010 the policies were revised to remove that limit. Instead there is

  1. A greater emphasis on the principles of using data towards a good experience for users which expressly excludes spam.
  2. A greater emphasis on gaining user consent for access to API data beyond the basic elements which are user ID, name, email, gender, birthday, current city, profile picture URL, and the user IDs of the user’s friends who have also connected with your application
  3. A greater emphasis on gaining user consent for using that data beyond the Facebook application.

I think that is a great move by Facebook but clearly means that marketers must act responsibly. It may only take a few violations to create a backlash by Facebook users. All marketers would suffer a set back as a result.

    Unica NetInsight report on today's Facebook application users by gender and age range

    Unica NetInsight report on today's Facebook application users by gender and age range

    Going Beyond Analytics to Interactive Marketing

    As always with Unica NetInsight, the built in data warehouse stores the granular and complete interaction history of each individual Facebook application user keyed in their Facebook ID.

    Unica NetInsight, granular data drill down to individual Facebook app users

    Unica NetInsight, granular data drill down to individual Facebook app users

    Not only can the Facebook application remember its user’s preferences. But by going from analysis to action, Unica customers can also use the profiles of Facebook application users to personalize future emails or website sessions. This assumes, of course, that the Facebook user is identified with their email address or website cookie and that permission to market has been earned.

    What data is available from the Facebook API?

    As Facebook application developers can glean from the documentation of the Facebook API, rich access to details about app users is available through API functions such as Users.GetInfo.

    It is however key to point out that not all data fields from API functions such as the one above are available for all users. Rather, only the fields for which the user’s privacy settings permit access are available to applications. Additionally, some particularly sensitive fields require explicit user permissions.

    • For example the email address (even the proxy’d version) requires extended user permissions.
    • For example, the gender info is only available if the user clicked the checkbox on their profile to include gender as part of their profile page

    For more information

    Unica customers can contact their account mangers for more details on the Solutions Pack for Social Media Analytics.