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February 21, 2019 |

What is the purpose of digital analytics in business? Should you use it to simply pat yourself on the back for an upward trend in website sessions? Perhaps there is something deeper. Let’s dig in.

Data-Driven Decisions

If business analytics does not change how we do business, then it is worthless. A waste of time and money.

However, when analytics becomes rooted in a business’ core processes, everything changes. No longer do you create an ad for a trade show or magazine and use URLs pointing to your normal website pages. Instead, discussions take place about what URL that ad needs to point to–a unique URL for that campaign so that data can be collected to determine its effectiveness. In addition, each medium used (e.g. postcard, email, text, etc.) will include an altered URL parameter so that individual mediums can be separated out for reporting later.

The idea espoused in the title of this article came from discussions with Dr. Jeffrey Haymond, Dean of the School of Business Administration at Cedarville University. He asked me to give a short talk to the SBA students on how analytics has changed what we do. The request was timely given that in 2018 my department transitioned a staff member to work on analytics full time. Analytics is that important. We had been good at collecting some data, but not always the right data or the complete set of data. We were decent at reviewing some analysis of that data–such as determining which pages are getting the most traffic on our website. In some cases, we even used that analysis to to make decisions, such as determining what stays and goes during a department website overhaul. But that use of analytics was very secondary. Mostly an afterthought and very reactive.

Reshaping Processes

When analytics begins to reshape processes and gets plugged in during business process reviews–how we do business changes. At that point we begin to understand the significant value of analyzing data and converting it into something actionable. Data points become charts, graphs, and trends, which lead to executive summaries. When executive summaries become resources in the hands of decision-makers, the data analytic has done his or her job.

“Without a unique URL, we will never know how effective that ad is.”

After my recent discussions with Dr. Haymond and a meeting shortly thereafter with the Vice-President of Marketing and Communications, I realized how ingrained the data analytic processes had become in our day-to-day work. As I worked with Dr. Janice Supplee in that meeting, we began evaluating a series of processes currently in place for how we create ads—from initiation to completion. As we talked, we discussed how some “one-off” print ads were being created without any thought to the web address used in the ad. Then my boss dropped the bombshell—”Without a unique URL, we will never know how effective that ad is.” Our ad creation process was missing a step that prevented us from tracking its effectiveness.

The trajectory of the meeting changed. We discussed how to change our processes to not miss creating a unique URL in the future. The change in process will allow us to make informed decisions for future ads. Data analytics has changed how we do business.

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