Fear and Value in Web Analytics

These are some of my thoughts related to Avinash’s recent post about how to make HiPPOs hungry for more web site analysis and optimization.

I think this goes deeper than employing this or that tactic or strategy to advance web analytics. It is fundamentally how to get business decisions to be made in your favor and for the good of the company. The keys to getting buy-in from management in any area are proving value and overcoming fear. In the mean time, managers are saying, “I bought you Omniture, and now you want me to buy Offermatica, Comscore, and/or ForeSee?”

The Truth That We Need to Face
For web analytics specifically, I think we need to be honest about where we really are. For most companies there is a pretty big gap between intent and reality. The intent is to spend more on analytics while the reality is that 76% of retailers don’t do any kind of testing. That tells you:
A. Now is a great time to be a testing vendor.
B. The majority of companies are possibly still only doing squat-grunt-report for web analytics. And if they are doing something meaningful, it is probably compressed into one acquisition channel like search marketing (not that there is anything wrong with that).
Anyway, this post isn’t meant to depress you so let’s move on.

Proving Value is Comparatively Easy
At what point do you stop spending when you have a 3:1 ROI? That is a trick question. In most cases, you don’t. The internet is full of great ROI whitepapers for whatever web analytics tactic you want to employ. In fact there are even a few handy dandy ROI calculators out there. This is all Business Case 101. Here is my favorite template.

Overcoming Fear is Hard
Getting past people’s fears is a lot more difficult than proving value. Fear in a lot of instances is irrational. You can’t overcome irrational fear with a good plan. What you will get instead is a very strange and irrational negative response to your very well thought out idea. The only way to overcome fear is with trust.

Fear Factors
These are areas where I have noticed a lot of fear in the area of web analytics. You could also substitute FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt):

  • Fear of the data. You cannot do more and better web analysis when there is a fundamental distrust of the underlying data in your tool. As web analysts we do a lot of damage to our own cause by introducing a lot of uncertainty/fear in the data.
  • Fear of failure. Many organizations punish failure, but as iterative testers/optimizers of the corporate web site we are supposed to fail in small ways to gain great truths about our site. The fear of failure, especially if this is something the organization has not attempted, or worse yet never done successfully will make any good plan go nowhere.
  • Fear of the unknown. There is a fear of the new and the unknown. Eventually leading edge ideas become mainstream, and there is a pretty well established technology adoption curve. Some day your company is going to get their act together and do some of this cool stuff. Remember when Google Analytics came out? That was the crest of the broad adoption wave in web analytics, just so you know.

Don’t Give Up
Think hard about which fear is in action when you get a negative reactionRocky after proving the business value. Alter your approach, and start attacking the fear by building trust. Sometimes you have to approach obliquely. Sometimes the thing they don’t trust is you. So find out who they do trust and use them as a vehicle to get buy-in. This has nothing to do with web analytics, and everything to do with building trust. Most importantly don’t give up. Being part of the solution in improving web site analysis and optimization is preferable to giving up and embracing your own fears.

Thanks for reading this long post. I am really curious about your thoughts on this.

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