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Richard Agnew
Richard Agnew 13 March 2019

Free Analytics: Time for an Upgrade

Is it time for a re-think on Google Analytics? Now in its 14th year of operation, the offering has helped tens of millions of websites – including close to one million in the UK alone, according to BuiltWith – to better understand demand for what they offer on the internet, and how to serve users better.

It’s long been a cliché to describe Google Analytics as having ‘democratised’ digital analytics, helping bring data insight into the hands of smaller businesses and individual website owners, and thus supporting the proliferation of digital commerce.

Even in the case of larger organisations that use it (or other free tools) to back up and validate data from heavier-duty, paid analytics solutions, the service has played a significant enabler role within the marketing technology stack.

It is clear, nonetheless, that there is a groundswell of negativity around Google Analytics, part-incited by the privacy and transparency scandals that have faced Google, Facebook and other online media giants in recent times, and growing consumer wariness around tracking.

As detailed recently by Fast Company, a range of more privacy-focused alternatives such as Fathom, Matomo, and Simple Analytics have been springing up, pitching themselves as ‘friendly’ analytics tools that strike a better balance between the website owner’s desire for information and users’ preferences regarding use of their data.

Simple Analytics stresses that “we just show you the essentials: page views, referrers, top pages, and screen sizes” – i.e. not the huge range of data on offer from Google Analytics, and certainly not the kind of personal information that can get people’s hackles up.

This issue of ‘data control’ is a clear concern not just for consumers but for businesses too, especially with the introduction of GDPR in 2018. Commercially, also, companies’ digital marketing efforts increasingly rely on their being proficient at managing the flow of data within their organisations, and not allowing data to become stuck (or worse, head into the ether), via either a weak internal system or only loosely governed external one.

Research published recently by London Research and Adobe backs up this trend, showing how companies using paid analytics tools see themselves as better equipped to tackle digital marketing and customer experience challenges than their peers who use only free software.

Among the key reasons it found for this are:

# Going beyond insight

Successful analytics isn’t simply about data collection and reporting. Using their analytics platforms, businesses need to come up with insight about their customers that they can actually do something with. Companies using paid analytics are 48% more likely to say they get actionable insights from their analytics.

# Automation

Best-of-breed analytics solutions let you automate marketing actions through integration with other tools such as email, marketing automation, personalisation, ecommerce, and content management systems. As such, companies using paid analytics are 77% more likely to say they have a technology platform that automates actions from digital analytics insights.

# Enabling customer experience

CX sophistication is all about customer intelligence. Brands must nowadays deliver top-level experiences to retain customers, and to achieve that necessitates an innate understanding of their preferences and requirements. Companies using paid analytics are 31% more likely to say digital analytics provide a strong foundation for their CX initiatives.

# Paid media RoI

Although there have been signs that times are changing, many brands are still squandering budget on advertising campaigns that are not adequately backed up by customer analytics, to ensure and validate they are delivering a return. Companies using paid analytics are 94% more likely to fully leverage customer intelligence to get maximum value from their paid media investment.

# Data enrichment

Best-of-breed analytics tools enable marketers to use both proprietary and externally sourced data to gain a deeper understanding of customer behaviour and attributes. Companies using paid analytics are 40% more likely to enrich their customer data using second- and third-party data.

Customer Analytics – The 20 Attributes that Lead to Business Success, produced by Digital Doughnut sister company London Research in partnership with Adobe, is based on a survey of more than 1,800 global business professionals in 2018. Get the full report (registration required).

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