Everybody knows data is the lifeblood of major decisions. Understanding your audience and how your business works is made clear when you analyse the data.
But there's many ways to do it, and getting started can be daunting. Or maybe you've been plugging away at it and still not feeling like you're not making the right decisions. Or maybe you're swimming in data and don’t know what to look at next! This is especially true for a startup or company moving to the next level, where you have many hats to wear and can’t devote all your time to working on data. It can make you feel data-dumb.
Take a breath, and have a read through these tips to help you feel data smart again.
1 - Analyse the right things
If you're in the business of making money and strapped for resources, only concentrate on metrics that have a currency symbol. Can't tie it back to money? Forget it.
2 - Measure what matters
You can measure pretty much anything now, especially in digital. That doesn't mean you should. Focus on collecting data that inform a metric you can influence.
3 - Stop filling up inboxes
If you currently send out a bunch of canned reports, stop. If no one notices in two weeks then you can use the resource to do more intelligent things than regurgitating sheets that hardly change.
4 - Keep it simple
Sending data to someone important (boss / board / investors)? They don't need to know how hard you worked, just drill down to the one or two numbers that will influence the decision you want them to take (this doesn't mean you don't do the work. Have that stashed somewhere ready for questions. The Very Important Person just needs to see the number at the bottom of the spreadsheet that informs what you recommend they do)
5 - Embrace automation
If you can automate, do it. If you can set alerts for odd results, do it. Spend time doing smart thinking on the results rather than extracting and transforming to get to the results.
6- Use the tools you have
Don't be afraid of just using Excel. There's always shiny new toys and visualisers and trendy languages, but Excel isn't going anywhere. With tactical Googling you can do pretty much any analysis you want (this mostly applies to Google Sheets too).
7 - Give your reporting credibility
Make money from your website? Get your tagging validated. There are lots of tools and agencies that can help, and what you'll get is renewed confidence and robustness from your data.
8 - Take a pinch of salt
...At the same time, digital analytics is less accurate than you would think. Browsers crash, users dump cookies, shoppers switch devices mid-transaction, hitting F5 at the wrong time can cause tracking weirdness, phones switch from mobile data to WiFi, people suddenly stop and call your helpline instead, bots do weird things, etc. You should always think of digital analytics as indicators of trends rather than having the same rigour as your financial accounts. Doesn't mean you should ignore them, just don't stress over small variances.
9 - Track conversions
Sales funnels in digital is easy with you analytics platform. But bricks and mortar businesses should think about sales funnels too. I'm going to assume you already track sales through the till (or sign ups, or new accounts, or whatever), but how much of your footfall is converting to purchase? Get someone to tally how many people walk through the door. Take this reading a few times a day, a few times a week. Take an average snapshot. Divide the number of sales by the customers crossing the threshold, and you have a conversation rate. Now, what can you do to turn more casual tyre-kickers into purchasers? Make a change, and track it again.
10 - Personalise
Not everyone needs to see the same data. Don't make dashboards to please everyone, you'll satisfy no-one. Tailor to your audience, just like you would a presentation.
That’s just ten quick ways you can upgrade your data IQ and stop feeling so data-dumb.
Gary Fenn is analyst and has worked across digital and bricks-and-mortar properties, with experience in many categories including publishing, recruitment and retail. Find him at https://www.linkedin.com/in/garyfenn/