“It is taking advantage of the digital medium, but then the next step is actively paying attention to it and seeing how something performs. Now there's a lot of reasons to do that. There's millions and millions of dollars worth of reasons to do that.” -Jeff Sauer

Data analysis is always on Jeff Sauer’s mind. As the founder of Data Driven U and Jeffalytics, plus he created a world-class marketing analytics curriculum taught in numerous universities. 

In his many years working with digital marketers, Jeff has seen major shifts in how data analysis is handled. Below, Jeff shares his insights on the Banking on Digital Growth Podcast.

A Proactive Approach to Analytics

Jeff is one of the world’s foremost experts on optimizing widely-available tools like Google Analytics. Through his university courses, articles, speeches, and business consultations, he’s helped millions of marketers understand how to skillfully wield the power of analytics.

Over the years, he’s often encountered the “set it and forget it” attitude about website data analysis. This is understandable because when Google introduced Google Analytics in 2005, the key benefit was setting it free to work quietly in the background.

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However, things have changed dramatically in the digital landscape since 2005. Today’s digital world is almost frighteningly competitive. Data analysis is often what separates success from failure. Now, analytics should be an active and iterative process of gathering, examining, and refining website data to ensure you’re always getting the most out of your digital resources. 

Jeff’s new motto is, “set it and configure it” or “set it and optimize it.” First, ensure your site structure and metrics make sense, then have deeper discussions about what your data means, then continue to upgrade your marketing strategy over time to ensure it has maximum impact.

Jeff sees numerous benefits to letting go of the old “set it and forget it” attitude and taking a more proactive approach instead. 

  • Better insights into how campaigns are performing
  • More efficient marketing campaigns
  • Spending less money on all ad platforms
  • Preserving resources for high-value marketing activities
  • Ending time-wasters for marketers and digital developers
  • Aligning the web strategy with business and strategic goals

A Million Missed Opportunities in Data Analysis 

James Robert points out that website data analysis presents the classic, “we don’t know what we don’t know until we know it” situation. Until you’re actively gathering site data, you have no idea what kinds of opportunities you’ve been missing. 

When companies take the most basic step of dabbling in Google Analytics, marketers are often astounded at the data they discover. Putting all the data to good use? That’s not so easy.

Jeff brings up the issue of regulation and tight control in an industry like banking. At financial brands, marketers have to be excruciatingly careful to play within the rules. It’s difficult to get new campaigns out the door.

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In this climate, it’s hard to know what success even looks like. Banking marketers can’t necessarily measure a financial brand’s site analytics against any other industry because they don’t face the same regulatory control. It’s even hard to measure against their own industry, considering how different a fintech brand usually is from a traditional banking brand.

Plus, financial brands face an array of challenges that all companies face in the digital world: 

  • Poor communication between digital and sales
  • Tracking the wrong things
  • Lack of site lead generation
  • Unclear sales cycle
  • Unrealistic expectations

Human Problems vs. Tech Problems

When it comes to setting realistic expectations and standards, remember that sometimes you have a human problem rather than a tech problem. It’s easy to blame upsetting data on technology, but human behavior is often the real culprit.

In banking, about 90% to 95% of online loan applications are abandoned. About 60% to 65% of depository transactions are abandoned. Those numbers seem high, but are they worrisome?

Not necessarily. Cart abandonment is a natural part of human behavior as people weigh their options and make educated buying choices. Human psychology research shows that many digitally-browsing consumers never intend to make online purchases. They’re often using websites as a precursor to other behavior, like understanding a brand’s reputation, seeing if a website is easy to use, or shopping in person.

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“These are real human beings who are using our website,” Jeff says. “How do we get a complete picture of what's happening here? How do we tell a story of what's happening? And then, does each step fit into a logical reason why that person would've left?”

This is where analytics dovetails with other realms like the user experience (UX) and site architecture. For example, when someone arrives at one of your landing pages, are they hitting a forced form from a third-party vendor? Do they leave or stay? Are you tracking what happens next?

Metrics don’t always deliver absolute clarity, but they do provide some illumination. As Jeff says, metrics show “the gap of the darkness between the beginning and the end.” 

Should You Automate Site Analytics?

Jeff has found that marketers often wonder whether automation could free them from some of the tasks associated with Google Analytics. The answer depends somewhat on whether you’re using third parties and what their restrictions and capabilities are.

Generally speaking, automation is an easy way to handle many types of data analytics. Google Ads has built-in features and functions that make analytics easier, like setting up reports that automatically generate helpful information.

For financial brands that have a set of ongoing annual campaigns, automation can be a great way to simplify creating the campaigns and gathering their associated metrics. Set up a campaign ID, add in the information, and make small adjustments each year as you roll out the new version of the campaign.

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Jeff points out that one of the major benefits of this approach is that someone who’s not sophisticated or skilled in digital media can accomplish it. Looking at the dashboard and creating filters isn’t difficult. Following a checklist to launch a new campaign is easy.

Plus, the balance between configuration and analysis is changing. When Jeff first joined the world of data analytics years ago, he was still spending 75% to 80% of his time tinkering with the technical configuration. Only about 20% to 25% of his time was spent on the analysis phase.

Today, those figures are flip-flopped. New tech tools are making it possible to maximize the time spent on data analysis and get so much more out of every campaign.

Why the Small Stuff is a Big Deal

When it comes to tracking and analyzing site analytics, details matter. Jeff recommends checking the basics, like whether your traffic is properly tagged for Google Analytics using UTMs. Check the campaign codes and their sources. Use a strong URL protocol.

You don’t have to build anything from scratch to handle these technical details. There are templates widely available online, plus Google offers them for free.

After a while, building the basics into your digital content and marketing campaigns will begin to feel like second nature. Every new page or piece of content will be properly formatted with the details that ultimately lead to useful data analytics.

Setting Site Analysis Priorities

As you can see, there’s a lot to learn and digest about site analytics. Before you get bogged down with the technical details, Jeff has some tips for setting your priorities early on.

First, think “SMALL data” where SMALL is an acronym for solo, micro, agile, leveraged, and leading-edge. A solo operation, like a sole proprietorship or solo entrepreneur, is the smallest and can probably only handle the lowest level of site data gathering and analysis.

Growing companies in the micro and agile stages can expand the level of data collection and reporting they can handle. It’s worth noting that the typical community bank or fintech company might be able to move into the micro or agile stage fairly easily, if they have the resources. Reaching the agile stage means you have a growing team and are consistently reaching the awareness stage in the marketing funnel.

A leveraged company has become quite skilled at using site analytics and is consistently using them to create a competitive advantage. Only when you reach the largest stage, or leading edge, are you likely to have the personnel and resources to live at the leading edge of site analytics, along with the biggest companies in the world.

To put it another way, you don’t have to start out trying to be Amazon. Amazon is a leading-edge company. Instead, start at the S, M, or A stage in SMALL. Set incremental but achievable goals for your site analytics.

Another tip from Jeff is to beware of interpersonal conflicts that can hamper the process. Sometimes, acting on the information from site analytics can put departments and people at odds with one another.

For example, marketing might see a conversion problem and make an adjustment that has a ripple effect that crashes into the sales department. Now salespeople are upset and collaboration is starting to break down. Notice these issues when they happen and maintain a back-and-forth flow of communication that clarifies the vision and clears up misunderstandings.

Beware of a loop where marketers tend to listen only to other marketers instead of listening to what the company needs. The company’s strategic vision and plan should always stay at the core of your decision-making.

Set realistic expectations and work together to accomplish achievable goals. Site analytics can be the secret sauce that energizes your team. When they see the benefits and victories arising from site analytics, they’ll thrive on those wins.