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13 Trends Shaping Digital Analytics in 2013

Lucky 2013This past year was a big one for digital analytics, as they all seem to be recently. As data has become essential to all types of businesses, analytics is increasingly ingrained into the fabric of companies across a wide range of industries. At many companies, digital and online operations are no longer seen as a separate part of the business. That integration will only continue to gather momentum in the next year.

In fact, 2013 will be very lucky for those chief marketing officers and other digital marketers who can devise the right analytics strategies, processes and tactics (not to mention harness powerful tools and technologies) in support of their core business goals.

Here are 13 major trends and ideas we expect to shape the analytics landscape to come.

1. Multi-channel or cross-channel tracking becomes the new Holy Grail: Consumers routinely digest information and interact with content on multiple screens today. Tweeting about TV shows and taking to social media to talk sports are just two popular examples of the trend toward multi-screen marketing.

For analytics pros and digital marketing executives, effective analytics is critical to getting the full return on these investments. They must master the tools and processes to identify and follow consumers as they jump across multiple channels and devices.

2. Debate rages on about online privacy, consumer data and “do not track”: Ad networks and data brokers will continue to amass huge amounts of consumer information (the huge value of which will only become clearer). Consumers may begin to show greater concern about ownership of their data, but probably not enough to start paying for content en masse.

And regulators will continue to pay close attention, while news media will continue to write big scary stories about it. Microsoft may stand firm in its default setting on IE 10, or it may not, given ongoing feedback from advertising.

The bottom line is that “do not track” and other consumer privacy issues will be a very hot topic in 2013.

3. Big data gets even bigger: And we don’t just mean for people organizing conferences or assessing the hype cycle. Data volumes will only get bigger in 2013, though it’s safe to say that will be true for many years to come.

While many companies may start with tools and technology, or obsess over the sheer size of their data streams, we expect big data winners will be those businesses that embrace a few big ideas about big data, like leveraging skilled resources and embracing data governance best practices.

4. Big data gets smaller: Another important big idea is that thinking small is the way to get big value from big data. Right-sizing data may be the best way for companies to find small, but strategically significant insights that lead to specific cost and operational improvements.

This is one of those things that highlight how everything old is new again with big data, as it is with so much in digital analytics.

5. Governance gets hot: As data gets bigger, quality becomes more important, which is the primary reason why forward-looking companies will invest more effort and resources in data governance.

It gets very few headlines especially when compared to hot, new “flavor of the month” technologies, but in our experience data governance is a real difference maker and a secret weapon for generating breakthrough value from analytics programs.

6. Social trends: Social media has become part of the oxygen of the Internet, and a powerful transformative force for businesses, especially in marketing. In 2013, the privacy issues will be a big part of the conversation. Mobility will too, as all the big players seek the social-mobile sweet spot.

But with all the social chatter, it’s also important to step back and remember that we are in very early days and that social media remains an “undiscovered country” for many companies. That means overall strategic assessments and course-setting are important, especially as companies set off for future social media exploration in search of deeper engagement with customers.

7. SEO should get smarter: While social and mobile get loads of attention and headlines, search engine optimization remains critical for connecting with curious consumers. One of the keys is to leverage existing toolsets for smart SEO.

One of the true enablers of smart SEO will be the recognition of how users search differently across multiple devices, and how those preferences are changing the game both in content and SEO.

8. Creative destruction continues in publishing: You know times are tough when even iPad newspapers close up shop. But publishers will continue to fight on, provided they figure out what’s important in their digital future.

Those that adopt robust analytics programs, get creative and embrace ideas like those described here will give themselves a chance to survive and even thrive in the digital era. The trusted brands have the best shot with long-form journalism and evolving payment systems.

9. Expect more turbulence in advertising: Despite significant growth, especially in mobile, digital advertising will continue to change rapidly, with major technology and process disruptions, like real-time bidding and auction-based buying.

Some consumers will be creeped out by ads that stalk them. There will be more attempts to standardize ad formats and metrics but standardization may not be as prevalent as advertisers would like.

In fact, when it comes to the many forms of digital advertising, it seems that the more things change, the more they change.

10. Testing and learning only get more important: Testing and learning may be our favorite analytics best practice of all time. If it can help win a Presidential campaign, it can certainly help your company. To study up for the test, check out our refresher course here.

11. Metrics mania will continue: As much as technology and content has changed in the last few years, it’s no surprise that the metrics by which we measure the digital world have changed, too.

From the new “Twitter TV” metric to attempts to track social engagement and the single numbers to measure online reputations, you can expect more mix, matching and mashing up when it comes the metrics that inform digital analytics.

Of course, one best practice remains eternal when it comes to metrics – ensuring you choose the right metrics that most clearly, directly and accurately track your business strategies. It’s an oft-overlooked but critical part of analytics success.

12. Content still rules: It’s not just because there was a royal wedding not too long ago that we got to thinking about content’s position on the throne. Even if content gets downsized to 140-character chunks, it’s still critical for engaging consumers of all types.

And to find the right content for the right consumer at the right time, you need effective analytics. That’s the only way to understand what users want, personalize your offers and customize your content so that it can live long and help you prosper.

13. Predictive analytics remains the point: If we had to sum up all the drivers and megatrends coming in 2013 and suggest one way for analytics teams to harness them in support of business goals, it would be to look forward and think ahead.

To put it another way, don’t think of your metrics and analytical capabilities in terms of a rearview mirror but rather as a powerful predictive tool that can help you make decisions that drive the business forward.

The whole point of investments in analytics and BI is to identify emerging opportunities, gain advance insights and make decisions that will enable you to shape the future in such a way a that business performance is enhanced.  That’s the heart and soul of predictive analytics, as well as a very optimistic thought on which to end the year.

Happy New Year!

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