EMetrics: It's About The Customer, Dummy

April 25, 2006

Everyone in analytics has moved on to the WebSideStory conference but I’m still finishing up on eMetrics in Santa Barbara…

One of the speakers I enjoyed the most at the eMetrics Summit in Santa Barbara was Avinash Kaushik, Sr. Manager of Web Research & analytics for Intuit. He succeeded in putting a lot of web analytic issues into perspective. I should also point out that Intuit uses ClickTracks because, in Avinash’s words, “it doesn’t puke out data.” He loves clickTracks so much that the next day, at the vendor roundtable, he jokingly asked, “could everyone tell me in what ways they are better than clickTracks?”

One of Avinash’s first “Intuit Insights” is that data quality sucks. Here are the major reasons data quality is so lousy, and I have added to his list.

  • People delete cookies
  • Robots and spiders do weird stuff to your data
  • Tagging has limitations – not everyone accepts javascript
  • Weblog analytics have limitations – lots of them
  • People behave strangely
  • Unique visits are never all unique

So just get over it.

  • Assume a level of comfort with the data and its limitations.
  • Make decisions that you are comfortable with
  • Over time, drill deeper in micro specific areas and learn more (this was a continual theme of the Summit: Don’t try to boil the ocean.)
  • Keep your calculations consistent and look for trends. Here’s my example: there’s a debate about how to calculate conversion – should it be actions/visits or actions/unique visitors? Following Avinash’s logic, don’t change from one metric to the other. It won’t necessarily be more accurate, and it will certainly obfuscate any trends you had in your historical data.

In addition to his Intuit Insight #1, which was of his most insightful, he added some other nuggets of wisdom:

  • Spend 10% of your money on your tools/services and 90% on your people. (Or, “Working part time, your admin can’t extract enough value from the greatest tool on earth, but she can publish tons of reports.”)
  • 80% of the time you are wrong about what a customer wants/expects from a site experience. Don’t let your experiments hurt your feelings.
  • Bosses always think they represent site users and they want to do site design. Listen to your customer, not your boss. (Comment: Easier said than done…)
  • The most phenomenal website is stale tomorrow (or as one of the designers I work with says, a website is like a plant. You have to water it every day.)

Robbin Steif