eMetrics Boston 2012 Highlights

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend eMetrics in Boston. (I actually started this blog post on the plane home but am only now finishing… I blame on-boarding a new job for taking up all my free time ;))

No surprise, it was a great time. I learned a lot, met some great industry people, and had a fun time. Given that there was 3 full days of content, I’ll give a recap of the major takeaways and some notes from a few of my favorite sessions but I won’t break down each session individually. Let me know what you think!

Big Takeaways:

1. Tag Management!
With the announcement of Google Tag Management, the acceptance and proliferation of tag management across the board will see a sharp increase. Google is bringing a free solution to the table, and just like the launch of Google Analytics, expect this to be a game changer. Besides GTM, many of the sponsors were were also Tag Management companies. Each has a few of their own special features and a loyal user base. I look forward to seeing how the GTM announcement shapes the industry over the next 12-18 months. I’m also looking forward to playing around with GTM and seeing how I can utilize it to sharpen other areas of my analytics/testing strategy.

2. Multi-Channel, Multi-Touch
This isn’t necessarily a new topic (mobile phones and tablets have been around for a while now) but as mobile commerce and the maturity of the business model continue to grow the industry is seeing more of a focus on tracking a customer/user throughout his or her lifecycle. Tracking across channels isn’t limited to online behavior – offline marketing influences online interactions.

Jim Sterne (@JimSterne) made several great points about Omni-channel marketing and the necessity to provide incentive (personalization, deals, etc via geo-targeting and learned behavior) to encourage opt-in behavior from users (the exchange of information must be mutually beneficial). Following this trend, Eric Feinberg from Foresee noted that user information can be collected both quantitatively (measurement) and qualitatively (feedback). Eric noted that web visitors who were highly satisfied with their experience were 68% more likely to buy from a retailer again, and highly satisfied mobile visitors followed closely at 54% more likely to purchase.

3. Testing is the new sexy
Ok, it’s not new. But Brian Hawkins (@brianthawkins) made testing look sexy. He talked about testing best practices and some of his favorite tools. This was hands down one of my favorite sessions of the conference. A few notes:

If you don’t use segmentation in testing you are missing possible big wins/gaps/mis-service to visitors from particular segments. A few key segments:

* all traffic
* email traffic
* organic & paid traffic

Test driven best practices for visitor propensities

* standardize segments to be included for ALL tests
* examine including previous test data as a segment
* iterate on segments (Geo, behavior, etc)
* Talk to SEM, email, display teams to see what they’ve learned from segmentation

4. Talent is our greatest tool
Again, this topic isn’t new – but I think that it is more important than ever. With the continued growth of the analytics industry, the maturation of the various analytics toolsets, and the wider acceptance of analytics as a foresight (rather than reactionary), sharp talent is the single area of influence that can make or break your business.

A few of my own thoughts on this topic:
I see more and more people across the business who are interested in and using analytics. This is fantastic! It’s also scary and can be detrimental to your business if your users are not properly trained on how to implement and/or analyze what’s coming out of your tools. This makes specialized talent all the more important. Many people are saying that analytics is moving away from being a specialized function and will instead be just another skill set their digital marketers will need in the future. While I agree, and think this is a good direction, I am cautious of quickly calling everyone an expert – there is a huge difference between reading a report and really understanding how to set up proper tracking, what the metrics mean, and conveying that data back to the business in an actionable and persuasive way. So what’s the middle ground here? In my own opinion, it’s having one or more highly skilled analytics professionals on your team for the more technical/deep dive analytics while at the same time doing a good job of teaching the rest of your org what to do and how to do it (and being available to troubleshoot or point the way).

I loved Michele Kiss (@MicheleJKiss), Elizabeth ‘Smalls’ (@SmallsMeasures) and Anne Cable’s (@Annealytics) session ‘From Grasshopper to Digital Analytics Master’ – they gave great personal recommendations on how to break into the industry and grow your career. They were also quite candid about when it’s time to move on – when you have nothing left to learn – which I think is an often overlooked topic in these types of discussions. One of my favorite sound bites of wisdom from their session was this: Drive toward a passion, don’t just progress through a title if it’s not what your passionate about.

5. Network at the Lobby Bar!
Jim Sterne’s favorite pastime – the Lobby Bar. Not just for the drinks though, time spent outside of sessions (whether at the actual Lobby Bar, in the vendor expo, at dinner, or where ever else other conference goers may be) is where many of the most important, revealing, and informative discussions will take place. Take advantage of the massive amount of knowledge surrounding you when you are at a conference and network!

eMetrics Boston was a great time. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to attend, and I look forward to San Francisco when I’ll get to see all my nerdy friends again.

Special thanks to Rene (@rdo) for the delicious chocolate that accompanied the drinks at the Lobby Bar and to @EricFeinberg‘s hair for providing such fun entertainment.

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