5 mistakes that can kill analytics projects

Published
  • September 29 2016, 4:00am EDT

5 missteps that can kill analytics projects

Launching an effective digital analytics strategy is a must-do to understand organizational challenges. But many organizations are still trying to figure out how to get business values from expensive analytics programs. Here are five common analytics mistakes that can kill any predictive analytics effort.

Why predictive analytics projects fail

Predictive Analytics is the next big buzzword in the industry. But according to Mike Le, co-founder and chief operating officer at CB/I Digital in New York, implementing an effective digital analytics strategy has proven to be very challenging for many organizations. “First, the knowledge and expertise required to setup and analyze digital analytics programs is complicated,” Le notes. “Second, the investment for the tools and such required expertise could be high. "Third, many clients see unclear returns from such analytics programs. Learning to avoid common analytics mistakes will help you save a lot of resources to focus on core metrics and factors that can drive your business ahead.”

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Mistake 1: Starting digital analytics without a goal

“The first challenge of digital analytics is knowing what metrics to track, and what value to get out of them,” Le says. “As a result, we see too many web businesses that don’t have basic conversion tracking setup, or can’t link the business results with the factors that drive those results. This problem happens because these companies don’t set a specific goal for their analytics.

"When you do not know what to ask, you cannot know what you'll get. The purpose of analytics is to understand and to optimize. Every analytics program should answer specific business questions and concerns. If your goal is to maximize online sales, naturally you’ll want to track the order volume, cost-per-order, conversion rate and average order value. If you want to optimize your digital product, you’ll want to track how users are interact with your product, the usage frequency and the churn rate of people leaving the site. When you know your goal, the path becomes clear.”

Mistake 2: Ignoring core metrics to chase noise

“When you have advanced analytics tools and strong computational power, it’s tempting to capture every data point possible to ‘get a better understanding’ and ‘make the most of the tool,’” Le explains. “However, following too many metrics may dilute your focus on the core metrics that reveal the pressing needs of the business. I've seen digital campaigns that fail to convert new users, but the managers still setup advanced tracking programs to understand user behaviors in order to serve them better.

"When you cannot acquire new users, your targeting could be wrong, your messaging could be wrong or there is even no market for your product - those problems are much bigger to solve than trying to understand your user engagement. Therefore, it would be a waste of time and resources to chase fancy data and insights while the fundamental metrics are overlooked. Make sure you always stay focus on the most important business metrics before looking broader.”

Mistake 3: Choosing overkill analytics tools

“When selecting analytics tools, many clients tend to believe that more advanced and expensive tools can give deeper insights and solve their problems better,” Le says. “Advanced analytics tools may offer more sophisticated analytic capabilities over some fundamental tracking tools. But whether your business needs all those capabilities is a different story. That's why the decision to select an analytics tool should be based on your analytics goals and business needs, not by how advanced the tools are. There’s no need to invest a lot of money on big analytics tools and a team of experts for an analytics program while some advanced features of free tools like Google Analytics can already give you the answers you need.”

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Mistake 4: Creating beautiful reports with little business value

“Many times you see reports that simply present a bunch of numbers exported from tools, or state some ‘insights’ that has little relevance to the business goal,” Le notes. “This problem is so common in the analytics world because a lot of people create reports for the sake of reporting. They don’t think about why those reports should exist, what questions they answer and how those reports can add value to the business. Any report must be created to answer a business concern. Any metrics that do not help answer business questions should be left out. Making sense of data is hard. Asking right questions early will help.”

Mistake 5: Failing to detect tracking errors

“Tracking errors can be devastating to businesses, because they produce unreliable data and misleading analysis,” Le cautions. “But many companies do not have the skills to setup tracking properly, and worse, to detect tracking issues when they happen. There are many things that can go wrong, such as a developer mistakenly removing the tracking pixels, transferring incorrect values, the tracking code firing unstably or multiple times, wrong tracking rule's logic, etc.

"The difference could be so subtle that the reports look normal, or are only wrong in certain scenarios. Tracking errors easily go undetected because it takes a mix of marketing and tech skills. Marketing teams usually don’t understand how tracking works, and development teams often don’t know what ‘correct’ means. To tackle this problem, you should frequently check your data accuracy and look for unusual signs in reports. Analysts should take an extra step to learn the technical aspect of tracking, so they can better sense the problems and raise smart questions for the technical team when the data looks suspicious.”