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Black Friday Analytics

So it’s that time of year again when commercialism runs rampant, people spend with reckless abandon, and at any moment there could be fisticuffs at your local Wal-Mart. But alas, this is Holiday Season in America, so be joyous about it!

I’ve been watching online spending trends for the past decade and most recently tying to discern what impact mobile and social media plays in all that glitters online. All signs indicate that 2013 is door-busting records with all time highs for online sales, yet depending on which data you believe in, there’s different stories to be told.

Two analytics leaders, IBM and Adobe routinely benchmark holiday shopping. And while their methodologies differ, so too does their data. Here’s a snapshot of some of their published findings thus far:

Show me the Money

IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark reports a +18.9% increase from 2012 in Black Friday sales during this year’s holiday season. Average Order Value (AOV) was $135 with on average 3.8 items per order.

Adobe’s Digital Index reported slightly higher profits with a 39% increase from 2012 for a whopping $1.93 Billion in online sales. Adobe reported a similar AOV at $139 and also revealed that the peak shopping time on Black Friday was between 11AM and noon ET, when retailers accrued $150 Million during this single profitable hour.

While both companies reported lift on 2013 online sales during these two days of shopping, each indicates substantial lift in Thanksgiving Day sales, which may have cannibalized some of Friday’s profits. And while Cyber Monday numbers are still being tallied, all signs point to the biggest online shopping day yet, which likely has retailers grinning from ear to ear early on in this short 2013 holiday shopping season.

Mobile Madness

Both indices show mobile as a significant driver in online sales. Adobe reported that on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, nearly one out of every four sales was made via mobile device. IOS devices and in particular, iPads were the device of choice in both company’s findings. Adobe reported that a total of $417 Million was recognized in just two days (Thanksgiving and Black Friday) via iPad sales by businesses within their index.

This should come as no surprise to those of us following the data, but mobile now represents nearly 40% of all Black Friday traffic. That’s a trend that retailers just cannot ignore. And as a consumer, you probably can’t ignore it either. Tactics reported by IBM indicate that retailers sent 37% more push notifications via alerts and popup messages on installed apps during these two heavy online shopping days.

Where in the World?

The biggest discrepancy between the two online shopping benchmarks comes from the geographic perspective. Keep in mind here, that IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark is comprised of data from 800 US Retail websites; and the Adobe Digital Index data represents a wholly different set of US retailers that accrued 3 billion online visits during the Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday shopping spree. (Note that exact comparable data isn’t provided in publicly available information.)

Yet, Adobe’s data reflects the majority of online shopping on Black Friday coming from 1) Vermont, 2) Wyoming, 3) South Dakota, 4) North Dakota, and 5) Alaska. They cite weather and rural locations as rationale for these states topping the list. IBM on the other hand, indicates that on Black Friday 2013, the highest spending states from their benchmark include: 1) New York, California, Texas, Florida, and Georgia. It’s not atypical to see variances in data sets, yet keep in mind when interpreting results for yourself, it’s all about the data collection method. Results will vary based on who is in your benchmark and how you’re slicing the data.

Social Influence

While IBM’s early data cited in an article by All Things Digital made the outlook for social appear dreary,
Adobe weighed in with a contradictory and uplifting perspective on social. IBM did not report on social sales for Black Friday in 2013 apparently because the findings weren’t “interesting”, but their report from 2012 showed that directly attributable revenue from social media (last click) was a dismal .34% of Black Friday sales. By my math that equates to a paltry $3.5 Million total online dollars via social media sales for Black Friday. The AllThingsD reporter managed to eek out of Jay Henderson, IBM’s Strategy Director, that social sales were flat again this year. Moreover, the article quotes Henderson as saying “I don’t think the implication is that social isn’t important, but so far it hasn’t proven effective to driving traffic to the site or directly causing people to convert.” Hmm…

However, this year Adobe is telling a slightly different story. According to their Cyber Monday blog post, social media has referred a whopping $150 million in sales in just five days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday. While, it’s not clear if they’re tracking using a last- or first-click perspective, this data indicates that social is pulling its share of the holiday sled this 2013 season. Well, at least social is pulling about 2% of the sled based on a total of $7.4 billion in total online sales from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday.

Whichever metrics you choose to believe, counting dollars in social media ROI is never an easy task and it usually doesn’t lead to riches. I’m about to publish a white paper on this very topic, so if you’d like to learn more about quantifying the impact of social, email me for more info.

The Bottom Line

This holiday season is shaping up to be the biggest yet for retailers of all sizes. Remember when just a few years ago people were afraid to buy ***anything*** online? Well, it certainly appears that those days are gone. So, as the days before Christmas (or whichever holiday you celebrate) wind down, and the free shipping deals get sweeter, and the door-busters swing closed until next year, take a close look at your data to see what the digital data trends leave for you.

Published on December 9, 2013 under Events, General Web Analytics

eMetrics Chicago – Wrapup

Before too much time passes during these dog days of summer, I thought that I’d offer a recap of the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit that took place in Chicago recently. First of all, Chicago really digs analytics. Despite a smallish eMetrics crowd of around ~100 or so people, there was lots of energy, young talent and academic interest.

I had the privilege of sharing a few minutes of the opening keynote with Jim Sterne where I made a few announcements about the newly rebranded DAA (Digital Analytics Association). I proudly announced that we transitioned 25% of our Board of Directors by adding new members Eric Feinberg, Peter Fader and Terry Cohen to our diverse assembly of directors. I also took the stage in my new role as President of the DAA and shared my thoughts about the epic journey we’ve collectively embarked on in this industry that we call digital analytics. This is a theme that I reiterated during my closing presentation on The Evolution of Analytics, whereby I concluded, that the future state of evolution is up to each of us to determine.   
 
But speaking of future success, I commend the local DAA Chicago Chapter for the great strides they’ve made in not only organizing our open industry meeting, but also in championing the cause for digital analytics in the windy city. The DAA has much better brand recognition and awareness in Chicago than I thought. But I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised because after all, according to the DAA Compensation scan, Chicago is the second best place to live if your seeking a job in analytics.

Moving onto more details about the conference, Jim Sterne always encourages attendees to measure the value of eMetrics not just in the content, but also in the hallway conversations and the key tibits that you take back to your desk when all the sessions and lobby bar fun is over. In Chicago, for me the hallway conversations focused on several hot topics in analytics including: tag management, privacy and of course, the perennial analytics issues of people, process and technology.
 
On the privacy front, the controversial WSJ article about Orbitz’ targeting was a hot topic of conversation for me (and Scot Wheeler) during the conference. Despite the fact that the WSJ got the headline wrong…it reiterated the fact of how very little the average consumer knows about what we all do… 
 
I also learned (privately) that Amazon is doing some crazy brilliant stuff, but it’s so good that they can’t even talk about it. The senior brass at the really good companies are very protective, but web analysts can still be plied (at least a little) with alcohol at a Web Analytics Wednesday
 
And finally, people who do know what we do are struggling to pull together the pieces for making an analytics program work…finding staff, selecting tools, building process. These are perennial issues in digital analytics and why we’ve built our consulting practice here at Web Analytics Demystified to help solve these problems.

But as always at eMetrics, I was invigorated to speak with new entrants to digital analytics and the usual suspects as well. For me, I’ll be taking from this eMetrics something back to my desk and to my clients…and that is a fresh perspective.

Anyone who has been in this game for any length of time should recognize that it’s easy to become steeped in your own myopic view of digital analytics and continue to rehash the same perennial issues with the same examples over and over again. Yet, any good analysis – or method of teaching – needs to evolve to remain relevant. And thus, for me this eMetrics taught me that experience needs to be tempered with the fresh eyes of unbridled passion and enthusiasm. While we may hold the frameworks and fundamentals, it is they who hold the spark. I for one appreciate what the next generation of digital analyst is bringing to this industry and hope to learn as much from them as I can offer.

What do you think?

Published on July 12, 2012 under Events, General Web Analytics

ACCELERATE Chicago Debrief

I’m on the plane returning home from the second ever Web Analytics Demystified ACCELERATE Conference and I can’t help but smile as I think about what an incredible event this was. For starters, demand for this event maxed out the ~200 person capacity of our Chicago venue at the Gleacher Center, but we managed to comfortably squeeze in all of our registered guests as well as everyone who showed up on the waiting list into the room. Of course, Chicago was well represented but there was also a preponderance of Ohio Analysts in the house as well. The OHiO solidarity was reiterated with incessant demands for a Columbus, ACCELERATE sometime in the not too distant future…to which we say, Anything’s possible ;-)

Once we kicked off, the room was electrified by Eric Peterson’s inspiring opening comments and you could definitely feel the energy in the air. We promised our attendees a fire hose of content and delivered by honing our “10 Tips in 20 Minutes” format to keep things going at a frenetic but well managed pace. Based on comments and feedback we received, I think it’s safe to say that anyone who was there will tell you that we over-delivered. You can check out the recent Tweets on #ACCELERATE yourself, but I’ll offer up a few notable comments:


medmonds: Very impressed with the #ACCELERATE conference – insightful tips & strategies for optimizing digital channels from industry leaders #MEASURE

Jonghee: Completely satisfied with #ACCELERATE. It’s quality is better than some of the expensive ones. Great job @erictpeterson and the team!

Ableds2: Few industries/professions strive for excellence like this group. I am honored to be surrounded by amazing people #ACCELERATE #measure




#ACCELERATE by the Numbers (April 4, 2012)

One of my responsibilities during ACCELERATE, beyond delivering my 10 Tips on Using a Social Media Measurement Framework was to track the Twitter stream to see what was coming in throughout the day of the conference and who the BIG Tweeters were. I thank TweetReach for providing access to their monitoring tool, which allowed me to conduct my analysis in near-real time as Tweets tagged with #ACCELERATE were flying across the Interwebs.


***Note: My TweetReach Tracker is set up for East Coast time, so this reflects a -1hr Time Zone delay.***

Exposure: (measured in Top Contributors by impressions) We did a pretty good job overall of sharing the love emanating from ACCELERATE on Twitter with 3.23 million impressions reaching an estimated 240k people on April 4, 2012. The 6 top contributors delivered 69% of the total impressions and they included: @EricTPeterson, @EndressAnalytic, @johnlovett, @jennyweigle, @monishd, and @MicheleJKiss (who wasn’t even there!). If you’re looking for folks to get the word out on Twitter, consider this your shortlist.

Velocity: (measured in ReTweets and total impressions) Overall the most re-Tweeted tweet for the 24-hr period was by Erica Chain, who garnered 10 RT’s on her 140 character missive about Joan King’s Crate & Barrel presentation. Note to the velocity Tweeters: pictures get more RT’s! I had a chance to talk with Erica and learned of her amazing story which was an added bonus. But, Monish Datta won our cash money prize for the most Retweeted Tweet as of 3PM. He attained 7 RT’s and over 16k impressions. Monish and team from Victoria’s Secret were well represented at ACCELERATE and they all added great value and velocity to the Tweet stream.

Penetration: (measured as the percentage of #Measure Tweets containing the #ACCELERATE hashtag) Over the course of the day, #ACCELERATE occupied 71.2% of all Tweets on the #Measure. Since we were delivering a fire hose of information during ACCELERATE, we encouraged attendees to Tweet out over our hashtag as well as the #Measure hashtag throughout the day. Apparently they listened because we dominated #Measure by sharing the free content delivered at ACCELERATE with anyone who cared to listen in, one tip at a time. One UK onlooker even commented that either it was lunchtime or Twitter had crashed as our activity came to an abrupt slowdown during our noshing hour.

Impact: (measured as the perceived value generated by ACCELERATE) The true impact of this event is best measured by the actions that attendees will take when they arrive back at their desks and apply their newfound insights into their daily work. While this is a real tough one to quantify, measuring impact on these types of things always is. For me and my Partners at Demystified, we gauge our success by the speaker feedback we receive, the generous donations to our Analysis Exchange scholarship fund, and through the comments that we get from individual attendees. By all measures, this was a smashing success.

In closing, I’d like to issue one last word of thanks to our generous sponsors: Ensighten, ObservePoint, OpinionLab and Tealeaf who made this event possible. And if you missed ACCELERATE Chicago, try to make it to Boston. We’ll be doing it again on October 24th, and we hope to see you there.

Published on April 6, 2012 under Events

Google’s New Social Data Hub

Google’s Eric Schmidt appeared today at LeWeb 2011 and dropped some notable quotes during his interview with conference organizer Loic Le Meur (@loic), including this prescient perspective: “It’s reasonable to say that in the future, the majority of cars will be driverless or driving-assisted.” Foreshadowing perhaps? Could be…but closer to reality:

Google’s Executive Chairman also quipped, “It’s easier to start a revolution and more difficult to finish it.” Google should know. They’ve been revolutionizing the way in which consumers interact on the Web since their inception and news posted today following the LeWeb chat follows suit.

The news reveals a new initiative launching today called the Social Data Hub. What’s even more exciting is the Google Analytics Social Analytics reporting to appear sometime next year. While the details were somewhat vague, I got the inside scoop and what was published should be enough to incite a minor frenzy in the Social Analytics circles.

The “Social Data Hub” is a data platform that is based on open standards allowing Google to aggregate public social media posts, comments, tags, and a plethora of other activities using ActivityStream protocol and Pubsubhubbub hooks. (Yea, that’s a real thing…I had to look it up too.) Early partners in the initiative include social platforms such as Digg, Delicious, Reddit, Slashdot, TypePad, Vkontakte, and Gigya among others. Of course Google’s own social platforms, Google+, Blogger, and Google Groups are included as well. Noticeably absent from the list are social media moguls like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn who have yet to buy into the new Googley idea of a Social Data Hub.

So What…?

If you’re scratching your head wondering how this is different than Google just trying to get more of the world’s data, you’re not alone. At first glance this may seem like yet another big enterprise ploy to get more data (and oh yeah, Don’t be evil). Well, I see this as a huge win for marketers, bloggers, publishers and anyone else trying to discern the impact of social media marketing across the multitude of channels and platforms available today. Currently, most marketers are forced to evaluate their social media activities through the lens that the platform (or their social monitoring tool) offers. Typically this yields low-hanging counting metrics which can be of some value, but more often than not end up as isolated bits of information that don’t provide business value.

Getting at this all important business value in many cases requires wrangling the metrics into another system, processing data and just generally working hard to gain some incremental insight. This is laborious work for the average marketer, so it’s no wonder that eConsultancy just reported that 41% of marketers surveyed had no idea what their return on investment was for social media spending in 2011. Yikes!

Google’s new Social Data Hub – coupled with Google’s Social Analytics reporting – has the potential to knock the socks off these unknowing marketers. By aggregating data from multiple social platforms into the Social Data Hub, they have the ability to make comparisons across platforms to show which channels are driving referrals, which are generating the most interactions, and which are potentially not worth investing in. It’s not that big of a stretch to imagine Google linking this information to data within their Google Analytics product such as Adwords, Goal completion rates and cool new flow visualizations. If/when Google applies the lens of their analytics tool to this new aggregated data set, look out marketers — you just hit the jackpot! Of course, I’m speculating here, but the possibilities are intriguing for a Social Analytics geek like me. That is of course, if platforms open their APIs to the Social Data Hub. A big if…

So Why Would a Platform buy into the Social Data Hub?

Well, it’s questionable if Facebook ever will opt in for this system so I wouldn’t hold your breath on that one. However for other social platforms, being part of the hub has some distinct advantages. They get to prove their value by partnering up with one of the only solutions on the Web that is capable of providing real comparative data on the performance of social channels.

This is a no-brainer for fledgling platforms that want to increase their visibility and even for established players, opting into Google Social Hub could mean the difference in gaining advertising dollars from skeptical marketers. While the big dogs in social media may take a while to come around, I see this new Hub as a potentially great equalizer for understanding the impact of social media as it relates to referrals for on-site activities which can ultimately lead to conversions and bottom line impact.

While today’s announcement may be just a small ripple in the social media pond, I see big waves building for Marketers. But that’s just my take on the disruptive and revolutionary force that is Google…

If you want in on the action, here’s a link to request access to the private beta for Google’s Social Analytics Reporting: https://services.google.com/fb/forms/socialpilot/

And here’s one to for platforms to join the Social Data Hub: http://code.google.com/apis/analytics/docs/socialData/socialOverview.html

Published on December 7, 2011 under Events, Social Media Measurement

Thoughts On Our 1st G+ Foray

This week the Demystified Partners forfeited our weekly meeting to hang out with our fellow #measure peeps on Google+. We felt that the thread about web analytics technologies and where innovation would surface in our industry needed a deeper discussion. If you haven’t seen the original thread yet, make sure you go check it out. Also, if you need a G+ invite, let us know we’ve got plenty to share. But our exercise was as much about continuing the conversation as it was testing out a new social medium.

Before going live on G+, we practiced for about a half hour, where all of our browsers crashed and we experienced various video connection in’s and out’s as we tinkered with and tuned our machines. By showtime, we had a few stalwart veterans join, including Tim Wilson who was dialed in on a 4G connection while driving home with his wife from camping. As our discussion grew, We added up to nine people, which didn’t quite push the limits of G+ as we had hoped, but it was an all-star #measure cast including: @erictpeterson @adamgreco @mymo @Exxx @tgwilson @joestanhope @OMlee @keithburris and yours truly.

Our conversation began with quips from each of the participants about how we’re still grappling with digital measurement technologies. Despite most of us being in this web analytics industry for years, and in some cases decades. Time passed quickly as we debated from all sides of the vendor/consultant/practitioner perspective. After a brief privacy sidebar, we asked each other where innovation would emerge from in analytics and really why we were pursuing these digital data anyway? I think we edged the needle just a little bit by agreeing that what we do matters because we’re educating our employers and clients on the power of data; and just possibly making the Internet a slightly better place. Ok, when I chatted this in the G+ hangout mid discussion, I warned everyone not to throw up on their keyboards, so I’ll do the same for you. But as cheesy as that sounds, our quorum agreed that wasn’t such a bad goal. What do you think?

So, the technology of G+ did prove that it was up to the task of handling this type of group discussion. People could talk and share their ideas on video or contribute to the conversation using the chat functionality. But we’re curious to know if you’re interested in joining us for a future G+ hangout?

If you are and willing to hang out with us to discuss the hottest topics is digital analytics, let us know because we’ll plan another one soon. Heck, we’ll even make this a regular event if you’re interested. What do you all say?

Published on August 17, 2011 under Events

5 Social Media Secrets – M.Tech 2011

The folks over at Thoughtlead have put together what they’re calling a Digital Influence Collaborative. It’s innovative and exciting and a new way to consume content in microbursts. If you haven’t gotten wind of these events yet, you’re missing out.

They typically feature 60 influencers on 60 topics in 60 seconds. Topics vary from Social Media to Enterprise Marketing Management.

Here’s a mashed version of the one I delivered for Mtech 2011:

5 Secrets for LEARNING from Social Media

Published on June 7, 2011 under Events

Phew…!

Phew. It’s been crazy weeks for me lately. At the moment, we just put up the tree, kids are all quiet and I’m drinking a glass of red. It’s one of the rare moments these days that I have in solace…and it’s gone…the littlest one is squirmy with hiccups.

Okay, I’m back. Made a bottle and made the hand off to Mommy. I haven’t blogged in a long while and there so much to say but I just haven’t had time. So here’s the johnlovett highlight reel for Fall 2010:

  • We welcomed a new baby into our home. And that makes three. Three boys that is. I always thought the jump from one kid to two was really no problem. But, I can tell you that increasing the number of kids another 33% 50% is a big jump indeed. [The 33% designates the percentage of quantitative reasoning skills I've lost in the past month.] Our house is busier than ever with an 18-month old climbing the walls and an eldest brother at five running the show. Everybody is happy and healthy so I’m immensely grateful for the lack of sleep and craziness.
  • I’m writing a book for Wiley on Social Media Metrics. And it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’ve got the story in my head and know what I want to write, yet cranking out 40 page chapters every other week is really tough. I’m nearly half way through my manuscript and I love the way its coming together. Although, if you’ve got a social analytics story of smashing success, miserable failure or sheer brilliance, I’d love to talk with you. I could always use more.
  • My business is off-the-charts busy. Looking back on twelve months since joining Demystified and I couldn’t be happier. It’s been a great year and the work I’m doing is motivating me to maintain work-a-holic proportions. Since Labor Day I spent 8 weeks on the road visiting clients, working on changing our industry and speaking at events from coast to coast with a business trip to Italy as a big November finale. I made it home with four days to spare before the baby was born. Whew.
  • And I’m happier than I’ve ever been. Who knew that chaos could be so rewarding? I always knew this was the case, but I love my job and I truly love the #measure industry. As measurers of digital medium, our roles are about to become indispensable. We’re on the precipice of a big data explosion and we’ll have the skills to float to the top. Big data is going to rush like a flood over enterprises and marketers alike and we measurers will be ready to slice and dice our way to sensibility. I like our chances.

More to follow on all these topics as I’m working three concurrent projects, writing two white papers and working through book chapters at present… Oh, and it’s my turn to change diapers, so I’m out.

Talk to y’all soon.
John

Published on December 16, 2010 under Events

Thoughts on the WAA Certification Exam

I’ve been pondering this blog post for a couple of weeks now since I took the WAA Certification Exam along with eight others in the inaugural proctored exam at eMetrics in San Jose.

To be totally honest, I probably didn’t need to take this test. For starters, I’m not a traditional web analyst that’s down in the trenches doing the hard work of analysis, reporting and translating the massive amounts of data we’re all so fond of collecting into insights and recommendations. While these web analysts have something to prove to their organizations about the value of their jobs and the expertise they posses – frankly I have nothing to prove.

Additionally, I work for a well established consultancy with a great brand reputation and I’m not planning on looking for a new job anytime soon. Our clients are most likely going to work with us regardless of our certification status. Yet, I wanted to take this test because I do advise my clients on what they should be doing with web analytics from a strategic perspective. I speak frequently about analytics and how to interpret and deliver data in the most effective ways. So my vantage point cannot be void of practical knowledge that dictates what’s possible in a realistic world.

Thus, I took the test in part to illustrate to myself that I not only talk the talk, but am willing to put my practical skills to the test. And yes…I passed, so you’ll be seeing the CWA (Certified Web Analyst) designation show up on my credentials.

Further, many of you voted recently to elect me to the Web Analytics Association Board of Directors; and I thank you for that. I took the WAA Certification Exam, so that I could lead by example and educate others about what I genuinely believe to be a valuable test of digital measurement knowledge. I encouraged all of my fellow board members to take the test as well and several have done so and more are sure to follow.

But because I went through the experience of taking this exam, I am uniquely qualified to share my experiences that stretch way beyond the speculation of any detractors that criticize this exam. Thus, I give you the Good…the Bad…and the Ugly of the WAA Certification Exam.

The Good…

This exam is a true test of analytical knowledge that requires both business acumen and a deep understanding of applied web analytics. Like all things analytics – it’s not easy. In fact, it’s downright hard. The guidance offered by the WAA regarding a recommended 3 years of practical experience is sound advice. And even then, this exam will require web analysts to dig deep into their skill set to come up with not just acceptable answers, but the best answer. Out of the initial nine exam-takers, seven passed the test, which is good. Yet, the minimum passing grade for the exam is 60% and the mean scores for our inaugural group was 61.7% (maybe I should have saved that for the ugly). The high score among all test takers thus far was 70%. While this may open questions about whether or not this test is too hard, to me it shows that there is plenty of runway for analysts to showcase their superstar skills with high scores. And if it was easy, where everyone could pass, then what validation of knowledge would that really be?

As my fellow WAA Board member Vicky Brock Tweeted: “As an employer I’d hire folk who ace this, as it tests analytical skills not recall”. Vicky also shared thoughts on her experience here. Much like Vicky, I believe this exam is a good test of knowledge that requires prospective certified analysts to know their stuff, which in turn demonstrates that the credential holds distinction.

The format is a familiar multiple choice answer system with four possible answers. Like most diligent test takers, I relied on the process of eliminating the ones that I knew were incorrect and then sorting through the remaining choices. This typically left me with two answer choices that could work, but knowing that one was better than the other, I was largely going on instinct to make the right choice. There is also a word question section that offered business scenarios and data sets leaving you to solve problems within the context of a specific business. These questions were the real gems of the exam and guaranteed to make your head spin. I love these types of questions, but perhaps I’m a glutton for punishment.

The big elephant in the room is the price. Without question, taking this exam is a financial commitment. I shelled out the bucks from my own pocket to do it because I believe in the value of certification. We as an industry are gaining momentum so quickly that analytics and data-driven cultures are all the rage today. The use of data is permeating organizations from the tactical to the strategic and ending up on the boardroom table, and in some cases, in financial analyst reports that end up on Wall Street. Yet, despite these significant gains, we have no designation to acknowledge that our Web Analysts are qualified for the job. This certification exam is that designation that will identify the truly proficient practitioners. In my opinion, this exam is worth every penny and I strongly believe that as more and more professionals acquire the CWA accreditation it will become the gold standard by which job candidates, consultants and trusted advisors are selected. When we reach this critical mass, those who aren’t Certified Web Analysts will be questioned with just cause…So why aren’t you certified?

The Bad…

I’ll be the first to admit that their are still some kinks in the system so it’s not perfect. Yet, nobody is so I’m willing to offer some leniency. For me, just downloading the application to sign up for the test was a chore. I offered feedback, so hopefully a fix is in the works now [there is], but when I registered the editable PDF application only worked if you had Acrobat writer on your machine, which I don’t. So after filling out the entire form, I couldn’t save it. I ended up printing out the pages and then scanning them back in to submit my application. Now, that’s more than I’d expect from your average exam taker, but I was on a mission. Also, be prepared to dig out your resume because the application requires listing all of your previous employers, their addresses, manager names and phone numbers. I was toggling between the application and my LinkedIn profile just to complete the darn thing.

**UPDATE** There is now a web based form that serves as the application, so no more downloading the PDF.

Next, it was very challenging for me to prepare for this exam. I did utilize the documents offered by the WAA including the Knowledge Required for Certification and the practice questions. The practice questions were actually great. They helped me to decide whether I was going to take the test and did closely resemble the actual questions on the test. I just wished there were more of them. The Knowledge Required document also contained a great deal of useful information, but after pouring through the 37 pages of material, I was still left feeling unprepared. The document mirrors the UBC course material, so it is thorough in describing what will be offered in terms of knowledge, but the meat of the work isn’t included in this document. It was all menu and no entree. So essentially, the document tells you what you will be tested on, but doesn’t teach any of the concepts. While they clearly state that: “Taking these four courses is not required to sit for the certification test.” those that do will be much better prepared than I was. I know that these courses are incredibly valuable and students rave about their success, but most professionals like myself don’t have the time to endure them – despite their value.

The Ugly…

So, I already ranted about the preparation materials and the costs above, but the Ugly for me was determining if I would actually re-take this test if I failed. The feedback that I received from the WAA did contain results for the four sections that were included in the test (Analytical Business Culture, Case Studies, Marketing Campaigns, and Site Optimization) and my scores for each section. Yet, this was the extent of the feedback on my performance. It was up to me to decipher which questions may have been within each of the four categories and where I needed to focus my efforts to better prepare for a re-test. To the credit of the Association, most standardized tests are scored this way and offer similar amounts of feedback – but most tests of this magnitude also have test preparation courses that teach the skills of taking the test and offer extensive feedback on skills necessary to score well on the exam. Thus, it was ugly for me because I can sincerely admit that I wouldn’t have paid to retake this test because I do not know how I would have prepared for a second exam.

The bright spot in this potentially ugly situation is that the WAA Board is committed to endorsing organizations that choose to develop WAA Certification Exam training programs. Since this test is still very new, these programs have yet to emerge, but the opportunity is out there. I want the WAA Certification Program to succeed for the WAA and for our industry. If the test-takers are better prepared to take the test through the help of a training program, then that’s a win-win. This type of prep course would offer me the confidence I needed to take the test again if I had failed…or for those of you taking the exam for the first time. Stay tuned for more news on this front as it develops.

The Summary…

This post is already getting long in the tooth and I’ve said a lot. The bottom line for me is that this exam is a strong indication of the digital measurement skills that an individual brings to his or her organization. Passing the WAA Certification Exam means that an individual is an expert in the field of web analytics. It’s an accomplishment that anyone in our industry should be proud of, and one that should receive accolades on top of accolades.

But that’s enough of my rant…What do you think?

I look forward to starting a long-term dialog on this topic, so please comment, email me or otherwise shout your opinions from the rooftops.

Published on May 19, 2010 under Events, General Web Analytics

2010 Web Analytics Events & Conferences

I’ve seen a few inquiries recently about which events and conferences in the field of Web Analytics are worthy of attending. This tells me that the diligent among you are planning out budgets and travel requests for the year. Bravo to you! Since I’ve had the good fortune of attending a number of industry events, I’ll offer some insight to the conferences that I’m familiar with and open it up to the infinitely more knowledgeable collective (that’s you) to add your experiences. So here goes…

Web Analytics Conferences: After sorting through the list, there are decidedly few conferences dedicated to Web Analytics. I’ve listed ones I know about here and will go on to cite other events that offer analytics and optimization as tracks within their larger events.

    eMetrics – This is undoubtedly the Gran-Daddy of all #measure events. It started with humble beginnings circa 2002. I wasn’t there, but ask Jim or Bryan over a cocktail sometime and they’ll likely give you an earful. eMetrics has burgeoned into a global phenomenon with venues in Munich, Toronto, San Jose, London, Madrid, Sao Paulo, Stockholm, Washington D.C. and purportedly Sydney in 2010! The most widely attended eMetrics are in San Jose (spring) and D.C. (fall). If you’ve never attended one, I highly recommend it as this is the venue where you’ll learn the fundamentals of Web Analytics. And, there’s likely to be one in a city near you.

    X Change – This is affectionately known [by me] as the Web Analytics un-conference because it shatters the conventional listen only mode and forces participation by all attendees. It was a concept developed by Semphonic and is now sponsored by both Semphonic and Web Analytics Demystified. If you don’t appreciate the Socratic method of learning – stay home – because you will be called upon to share your experiences and opinions at X Change. This event features “huddles” led by experienced professionals on topics that they are passionate about. The small groups discuss issues, experiences and ideas around the topic and typically everyone walks away with something new. X Change is entering its 5th year of fall gatherings in California and promises to uphold its tradition of swanky venue and fine food in 2010. More on that to follow.

    MeasureUp – Here’s an event that I admittedly don’t know too much about. They’ve managed to secure one of the greatest Web Analytics rock stars of all time – Avinash Kaushik – as their keynote for 2010 so that’s a big plus in my book. At first glance, the topics all seem to revolve around measuring marketing performance. The event is scheduled in Chicago in March of 2010. If you’ve got more details or have attended this event, please comment and let us all know.

    IMC (Internet Marketing Conference) – Another event that I’ve not had the good fortune to attend, but one that does dedicate some time to Web Analytics and measurement topics. And of course they hold the claim of the “Original Internet Marketing Conference” dating back ten years. This conference boasts nine venues throughout the 2010 calendar with a focus on Canada. There’s not much info posted on their site now, but industry veterans Stephane Hamel and Christopher Berry have both attended so maybe they can comment on this event (hint, hint!).

    Shop.org and Internet Retailer – I’ve grouped these two together since they are both retail-centric and not dedicated to analytics. However, they both typically offer sessions on measurement, analytics and optimization so are worthy of note. If you’re a retailer, at least one of these (if not both) are must attend events. But if you’re a Web Analyst debating which conferences to make a plea for, send your boss to one of these and select a more measure-focused event for yourself.

**UPDATE**

    OMMA Metrics and Measurement Conference This MediaPost event will be held in NYC on February 24th. If you’re not familiar with MediaPost’s Metrics Insider columns…where’ve you been? Written by marketers about real marketing issues, these tasty articles are a must read for any aspiring metrics guru. The Metrics and Measurement conference is a gathering of these sharp marketers who discuss measurement across the entire online space – audience measurement through web analytics. Topics are a bit more broad than tactical – and more advertising focused. Regardless they’ve had a great showing from the WA community thus far in both attendees and presenters.

Vendor Sponsored Events: Nearly all of the major Web Analytics vendors offer user conferences for their clients and prospects. These events typically offer good foreshadowing for what’s to come from your vendor, while also providing substantial drill-down content on the mechanics of their existing capabilities. Oh yeah, they all usually offer great entertainment and networking as well.

    Omniture Summit – All I can say about the Omniture Summit is GO if you get the chance. Not only do they offer amazing keynote speakers like Lance Armstrong and Seth Godin, but the entertainment is A++. Year’s past featured Flight of the Conchords and Maroon 5 as evening activities and of course a visit to the Silicon Slopes on Friday is a must. Oh, did I mention that the content is deep and informative as well? You’ll walk away from Summit entertained and educated. The marketing gurus at Omniture also developed a clever “Justify the Travel” letter available for download and submittal to your boss. Check it out.

    Webtrends Engage – Without dipping quite as deep into their pockets as big green above, Webtrends throws a pretty darn good party too. If you’re a Webtrends client or considering them as a measurement solution, it’s definitely worth attending Engage2010. The content is informative and offers clear direction on where the company is headed and what they have to offer. The breakout sessions have something for everyone and this year’s event has a deep focus on social media measurement. They’ve also developed a community site for attendees to get the jump on the event by setting up meetings and asking questions of their peers prior to landing in New Orleans. But you’d better hurry because Engage 2010 begins on February 1st.

    Coremetrics – Coremetrics skipped their 2009 user conference, but it’s rumored that they will make a resurgence in 2010. Rumors no more because this gig is on! Coremetrics’ attention to their customers on a day-to-day basis is remarkable and their user conference is no different. This event gives clients a chance to interact with the talented Coremetrics staff – potentially meet some new faces – and network with fellow clients. Scheduled for Austin in April, put this event on your calendar if you’re a Coremetrics client or simply want to know what’s the latest in bleeding edge continuous optimization.

    Unica – Not one to be left out of the party, Unica also hosts an extremely valuable user conference. Fall of 2009 featured a Paris location and the spring of 2010 promises to be in sunny Florida in May. To be honest, I haven’t attended a Unica event, but here’s hoping that I get an invite to Disney this year! Word on the street has it that Unica’s events feature some of the brightest minds in online marketing that are sure to offer new insights. With a name like the Marketing Innovation Summit, how could they go wrong!?

Other notable conferences and events: So beyond those few named above and vendor sponsored gigs, the list gets pretty short. Of course, if you plan to go on tour with the conference circuit, there’s lots more to choose from that offer slices of analytics and optimization brilliance. Here’s a few other US and non-US events offered up by my partner Demystified Aurelie [Thanks Aurelie!]:

The Americas:
Predictive Analytics World – February 16, 2010
Search Engine Strategies
Conversion Conference West – May 3, 2010
AdTech

Belgium:
ThinkBig (IAB Congress) – February 9 2010
Marketing Foundation Congres

Germany:
Digital Innovator’s Summit 2010 – March 1, 2010

Netherlands:
Search Engine Marketing & Optimization Event (SES) – March 17, 2010
Web Analytics Congres – May 10, 2010.
Marcom10 – June 21, 2010

Spain / Portugal:
Web Analytics PractitionerMay 19, 2010
I-Com Global Summit – March 10, 2010

UK:
SES London – February 16, 2010
SocialMedia World Forum Europe – March 15, 2010
InternetWorld – April 27, 2010
AdTech London – September 21, 2010

Care to add to this list? Please let me know if I’ve forgotten anything and I’ll update.

Alternatively, I encourage you to comment on your favorite web analytics events and conferences. For me the value of these events is not just the content but more so the relationships I develop through networking. The people you meet and the inspirational conversations last well beyond the duration of the events.

Here’s hoping to see you at one of these events in 2010!
Cheers,
John

Published on January 11, 2010 under Events

 


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