OPINION24 September 2012

The hidden value of performance analytics

Media agency group Initiative is making a big investment in performance analytics, including several recent senior hires. Here, Sue Moseley explains the approach and what it means for brand owners and agencies.

Today, the combination of traditional media together with online, social media and mobile usage, is resulting in an array of new data sources for customer, brand, media and sales data. The value in these new data sources lies in our ability to make sense of it and transform it into actionable and meaningful insight. That takes considerable talent in the form of highly skilled and experienced analysts who have the ability to not only be brilliant econometricians and statisticians but who are also able to apply those skills to reveal the full story behind marketing success and failure. The process is known as performance analytics.

Performance analytics is defined as the continuous tracking and evaluation of the impact that brand communications are having in delivering successful business results. For agencies it means that if you don’t achieve the agreed business goals then you don’t get paid. It might sound harsh but this sentiment is completely aligned with a focus on continuous measurement and improvement through data, analytics and brilliant ideas.

The premise that a brand or agency should be thinking about is simple. For every communications plan being worked on, data and analytics should be linked from the outset, reflecting the key performance indicators that are critical to measuring success. Part of the skill in performance analytics is making sense of the data we have and knowing what to include and what not to include, as well as what is missing. This can only be made possible by having access to the best systems, technologies and infrastructure.

For example, Initiative has connections with 250,000 consumers across the world whose profile data feeds our optimisation engine, Matrix, and through re-connections we fill information gaps, test and evaluate ideas and more. Having toolsets like this, as well as dashboards that can merge and track multiple datasets, means you will have a viable econometric modelling engine using multiple analytics methods and are able to ensure that all learning is fully integrated into future activity.

This process of continuous learning and optimisation provides a huge competitive advantage – with the focus on client profitability, not media outcomes. There are significant benefits here to clients, particularly at a time when profitability and effectiveness are more highly sought after than ever before. The beauty of the new digital data streams is that they are always on. The launch of a new paid-for media activity can be instantly followed by customers searching for more information, commenting online, sharing the TV ad on YouTube, requesting more information and so on. All of which can be valuable response metrics.

Take the automotive sector, for example. Cars were once one of the hardest categories to track due to the long purchase cycle from initial intent to actually making the purchase. We are now presented with a robust set of behavioural digital metrics that provide early indicators of future business success and can track the customer purchase journey online from vehicle comparison, building a car, requesting a brochure, calculating finance, locating a dealer and requesting a quote. Performance analytics forecasts sales, tracks progress along the way and identifies which elements of the communications strategy are working hardest and where course correction can further accelerate success.

Sue Moseley is worldwide director of research and futures at Initiative