Predict the Future

Pro Tip: Use Onsite Search Data to Predict the Future

Did you know you have the power to predict the future?

It’s true. You can … if you know where to look. You can even manipulate it.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. There’s a place in your analytics you can use to determine what is likely to happen next – and that’s in your on-site search data.

A lot of the focus on analytics looks at traffic trends and attribution analysis, but in my experience those are useful for showing you what has happened – not what will happen. Yes, you can use predictive analytics on top of your platform to get some better forecasts and predictions, but you also have a treasure trove of information that can give you amazing insight into shifting customer trends and interest already at your disposal.
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Watch Out for Big Data Quicksand

Don’t Get Swallowed by Big Data and Analytics

This past Wednesday I took part in an Adobe chat on Twitter focused on attribution modeling. As usual, members brought a lot of value to the discussion and some great ideas were shared – but one thing in particular stood out to me.

Our need to quantify everything threatens to overwhelm us.

Amidst all the discussion it became clear that even those companies who are data-driven are still struggling to make sense of all the data. This shouldn’t come as a surprise though, as data collection and analysis can easily become a very deep rabbit hole for companies to jump into.

The thing about data is, there’s always more of it. More data points to collect, and more granularity to filter down to. So what we see happening is this: no one ever seems to have enough data. And with that, there’s never enough analysis done. Or at least, that’s the thinking.

But is it maybe possible that we focus too much on the minutiae at the expense of the bigger picture? Even more important, are we really seeing the kinds of returns on data capture and analysis that justify the expense?
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A Tip to Make Your Analytics More Actionable

Every month, my team dives into our various analytics tools to put together a bunch of reports to show how the previous month went. This includes marketing channel reports, traffic, conversion rates, social media, app engagement, A/B test findings and a bunch of other data.

Up until recently, that report went into a marketing folder, as well as out via email to the marketing team for everyone to go over on their own to get an idea of how things are working.

This month I made a big change to that approach, and so far it seems to be having great results. So great, in fact, that I want to share them here with you.
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Never Underestimate the Power of a Simple Survey (+ a Few Survey Tips)

As digital marketers, we spend a lot of time digging through analytics. And if you’re anything like me, a good portion of that time is spent trying to better understand the customer, their intent, hang-ups on site, or if you’re offering them the right kind of content/product/experience. Of course, analytics can tell you a LOT, especially once you start learning how to die different data sources together to get a more holistic view of the customer.

The one thing they won’t tell you though, is exactly what the customer is thinking. Yes, you can extrapolate and build hypotheses and test for correlations, but in my view the one true way to find out what a customer is really thinking is to just ask them.

Yes, it is true that customers don’t always know what they want, but by asking questions you’ll at least find out what they think they want. And that’s pretty valuable, especially when it comes to determining how customers are making decisions in the conscious part of their brains. But to ask them questions, you need to actually get out there and ASK.

The simplest, and in my opinion, most effective of these is the basic anonymous poll. Put together a question or two and trigger it to display for the people you are trying to understand. Make it as easy to answer as possible, with a limited amount of answer fields so it’s easy for them to make a decision. I also recommend including a free text form for those who don’t fall into the specific categories. You’ll find that some people didn’t quite understand the response options and typed in a variant of one of the existing responses, and you’ll also find additional answers that you never even considered to begin with.

Most importantly though, try to make the answer options as unbiased as you can. Include options that you don’t want to hear (i.e. “I don’t trust your company” or “your prices are too high.”)  Remember, the point of asking questions is to get as honest of feedback as you can so that you have actionable insights you can take back to your team to continue to iterate and improve.

A few tips:

  • For online surveys, try – they have a great system that’s easy to set up, has great insight and analysis tools, and is cost-effective.
  • You can also do surveys/polls directly on Facebook or Twitter, but remember that the only people who will be answering there are the users who actually use those services, which does lead to some potential bias.
  • Use your surveys to build better surveys. As you do a few, you’ll start to understand better how to word questions and responses so they make sense to the customer (as well as avoid leading them to answer with the option you prefer).
  • Your customer support can be a survey. Don’t be afraid to ask your support staff to ask customers questions. Just remember again that you will only be having responses from people who are contacting support, which is not indicative of your overall userbase (unless you have a really bad product and everyone calls support!). Also remember that people are less likely to give honest answers when they are talking to a real person than they are in an anonymous survey.
  • Don’t survey too often. Like anything else that’s not key to the experience, the survey does get in the way of the customer’s goals. Be mindful of this and respect the user.
  • A survey shows you care. Make it clear that you’re asking questions to make things get better. Customers do care that you care about them.

Have you had any positive or negative experiences with surveying? What other ways have you found effective to get direct customer feedback?