How brands go wrong with digital marketing metrics
Does your digital marketing data actually provide insights to power customer experiences? Certainly not if you are busy with these tactics.
The numbers might not lie, but they certainly mislead and regularly withhold the whole truth, if you’re not careful. And in today’s digital marketing world, it’s easier than ever to be fooled by data masquerading as information.
It is because the end of third-party cookies, the introduction of Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) by Apple, the rise of omnichannel shopping, and other developments have made it harder to see what information is hidden in your data. All of these changes highlight gaps in how digital marketers currently use their metrics.
Let’s talk about four of these shortcomings.
1. Brands place too much weight on area metrics
In email marketing, for example, opens have been the easy-to-see metric that has been abused, misused as the win metric for subject line A/B testing, and given far too many weight in reports. It took MPP to shift marketers’ attention to better metrics like clicks. And in the world of the web, traffic is the abundant and easily accessible metric that is overused.
The problem with metrics like opens and web traffic is that they are surface metrics. They are at the top of the interaction funnel. And for most brands, bottom-of-funnel activity is the real business goal.
The prevailing myth is that if you maximize the number of people coming in at the top of your funnel, it will naturally trickle down and maximize the number of people at the bottom of the funnel. This myth is responsible for openbait subject lines, clickbait titles, and other misguided games that ignore the fact that getting the right people – not just anyone – to engage is the key to success. .
In contrast, optimizing top-of-funnel elements based on how they drive mid-funnel and bottom-of-funnel activities helps marketers avoid tactics that sacrifice trust and retain customers and drive real business growth.
Related article: Eliminate vanity metrics from the analytics portfolio
2. Brands underestimate the results of indirect campaigns
It’s so much easier to measure audience behavior when they follow the Golden Path we give them, where they receive a campaign, click on it, and then convert. However, in today’s omnichannel world, consumers are doing this less and less.
Instead of clicking on an email, for example, some subscribers will open their browser and type in the brand’s URL, then buy. Others will see this email, then get in their car and drive to the brand’s store to buy. Still others will tell their partner about the email and they will buy. And that without getting into call centers, social shopping and other fulfillment channels and influencing behaviors.
Admittedly, connecting all these dots can be difficult, especially if you don’t have a customer data platform (CDP) that unifies customer information and activity across all channels. However, the need has arisen over the past two years. For example, after the huge jump in e-commerce sales in 2020 led to a massive increase in revenue from email marketing, the rebound in in-store shopping caused declines during the 2021 holiday season.
However, this decline was only a symptom of poor visibility into customer behavior across all channels. It wasn’t that email marketing was suddenly less effective, but rather that it drove more subscribers to stores, which is unequivocally a great result. This was evident in the fact that 2021 holiday retail sales increased by more than 14%, according to the National Trade Federation.
3. Brands give too much credit to single touchpoints
In the early 2000s, the average customer purchase involved two touchpoints. However, consumers today use almost six touchpoints on average, according to research by Aberdeen, Oracle and Relationship One.
So while using a one-touch attribution model was entirely reasonable and appropriate two decades ago, it rarely is today. Yet many brands still use last-click or first-click attribution models to give credit to their channels and marketing efforts, when they should be using a multi-touch attribution model, such as a decline-shaped or U-shaped model.
Of course, switching attribution models is easier said than done. Not only are there data availability issues, but also intense internal political issues. Channels and touchpoints that have benefited from using a one-touch attribution model will likely be hesitant to switch models. There are likely to be fierce debates about the right model to use and how representative your audience’s real behavior is.
I encourage brands to do analysis and talk to all stakeholders in the chain…and then make the best decision for today. Recognize that there is no perfect model and you can always make changes later. Also, recognize that the multi-touch model you choose wisely will be considerably more accurate than any single-touch model you’ve been using before.
Related article: 10 most common email marketing mistakes – and solutions
4. Brands focus too much on campaign statistics
In far too many companies, marketers are tasked with managing campaigns instead of managing their audiences. So they spend their days creating the next campaign and maximizing its results, instead of creating customer experiences that maximize customer lifetime value.
Similar to the focus on surface metrics, the underlying problem with this approach is the mistaken belief that maximizing campaign results naturally maximizes audience results. This is not the case. This focus on campaigns rather than customer experiences creates a variety of issues, including:
- Overuse of promotional calls to action, especially hard-sell CTAs, which can alienate audience members who aren’t in the market to buy, causing them to tune out or opt out.
- An underuse of segmentation and suppression as ways to deliver fewer campaigns to subscribers who are less engaged right now.
- Underinvestment in automated campaigns that address critical moments in the subscriber and customer lifecycle.
- Inadequate focus on integration, which can make future campaigns much more effective when done well.
- Insufficient emphasis on transition stage components, such as preference centers and unsubscribe pages, as means of retaining subscribers.
All of this tends to lead to higher list turnover and shorter list durations, which increases subscriber and customer acquisition costs and lowers customer lifetime value. At its core, campaign-centric thinking is short-term thinking, while subscriber-centric thinking is long-term thinking.
Extracting insights from digital marketing metrics is harder than ever. But it is also more vital than ever. Find insights in your data by focusing on in-depth metrics, cross-channel behaviors, multi-touch attribution, and customer-centric metrics like customer lifetime value.