There is so much data available in analytics that it's easy for enterprise users to get sidetracked by some interesting numbers. It's even easier to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data available, which threatens the value of analytics to the business. The solution for enterprise analytics experts is to have the intended audience for a report create a profile of the targets.
Using free applications like Google Analytics, we could learn things about our users like their loyalty, the frequency and timing of their visits, the products they purchased, where they come from, the devices and browers they use, how they found the site -- the list goes on and on. Each piece of data that is added to a report takes time to collect and time to interpret in a meaningful way. It also increases the complexity of the report and makes it less likely to be read by executives. Less is more, and with all the data available, the right information can seem like a needle in a haystack.
Creating profiles allows the intended audience, or enterprise clients, to dictate what parts of a report they'd actually read, so resources (primarily time) aren't wasted.
This isn't always a straightforward process. Sometimes enterprise clients are so unfamiliar with or bewildered by analytics that they don't even know what they want. A good data analyst has to walk them through profile creation by asking them about the target market. Keep the questions in plain business language, so the client understands what's being asked. Focus on what needs to happen from the client’s viewpoint, so you can identify the data you need to find.
When possible, request that clients show instead of tell. Have them walk you through the site and the process they view as conversion. For e-commerce sites, the converted will be those who made a transaction. For ad-driven sites, it will depend on who's clicking the banners. Interest-based sites need to know who's more than a casual or one-shot visitor.
Profiles narrow the scope of what is important and what isn't. This ensures that the audience doesn't balk at too much information, and it simplifies life for the analyst. Additionally, comparing profiles provides a lot more context than data on its own.
In the example below, we are dealing with a client looking for visitors who have made a purchase via e-commerce. This allows us to create two very simple profiles -- one for visitors who never made a purchase, and one for those who have. This chart shows some very simple data we might pull based on these two profiles.
Table 1: Two Profiles Provide Context
||Visitors Who Made a Purchase
||Visitors Who Have Never Purchased
|Average Pages Browsed/Visit
|Average Time per Visit
||35 min 20 sec
||5 min 43 sec
|Percentage of Site Total Traffic
If the buyer profile were presented alone, the client might focus on page views or the percentage of site traffic. When this information is presented together with the profile of those who did not buy, the client can clearly see the significance of the number of pages browsed and the time spent on site. The client can then ask, "Is the fact that our buying visitors are spending more time on the site than other visitors a good or a bad thing? Are they engaged, or are they having a hard time finding things?"
Profiling before looking at the data limits the report's scope and offers comparative data for context that's understood faster, making life easier for everyone.
— Scott Kinoshita is a computer programmer turned online marketer.