How Brands Go Wrong With Digital Marketing Metrics

Is your digital marketing data actually providing insights to fuel customer experiences? Definitely not if you’re busy with these tactics.

Numbers may not lie, but they certainly mislead and withhold the whole truth on a regular basis, if you’re not careful. And in today’s digital marketing world, it’s easier than ever to be fooled by data that’s masquerading as insights. 

That’s because the end of third-party cookies, the introduction of Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) by Apple, the rise of omnichannel shopping, and other developments have made it harder to see the insights hiding in your data. All of those changes are highlighting the deficiencies in how digital marketers are currently using their metrics.

Let’s talk about four such deficiencies.

1. Brands Give Too Much Weight to Surface Metrics

In email marketing, for instance, opens have been the easy-to-see metric that’s been abused, wrongly used as a victory metric for subject line A/B testing and given way too much weight in reporting. It took MPP to shift marketers’ focus to better metrics like clicks. And in the web world, traffic is the plentiful, easily accessible metric that’s overused.

The problem with metrics like opens and web traffic is that they’re surface metrics. They’re at the top of the interaction funnel. And for most brands, driving bottom-of-the-funnel activity is the true business goal.

The prevailing myth has been that if you maximize the number of people entering the top of your funnel, then that will naturally trickle down and maximize the number of people at the bottom of the funnel. That myth is responsible for openbait subject lines, clickbait headlines and other misguided gamesmanship that ignore the fact that getting the right people — not just any person — to engage is the key to success.

In contrast, optimizing top-of-the-funnel elements by how they drive mid-funnel and bottom-of-the-funnel activities, helps marketers steer clear of trust-sacrificing tactics and drive customer loyalty and real business growth.

Related Article: Eliminating Vanity Metrics From the Analytics Portfolio

2. Brands Under-Measure Indirect Campaign Outcomes

Measuring audience behavior is so much easier when they follow the Golden Path we lay out for them, where they receive a campaign and click through it and then convert. However, in today’s omnichannel world, consumers do that less and less.

Instead of clicking through an email, for example, some subscribers will open their browser and type in the brand’s URL and then buy. Others will see that email and then hop in their car and drive to the brand’s store and buy. Still others will tell their partner about the email, and they’ll buy. And that’s without getting into call centers, social buying and other fulfillment channels and influencing behaviors.

Admittedly, connecting all of those dots can be hard, especially if you don’t have a customer data platform (CDP) that unifies customer information and activity across channels. However, the need has been made clear over the past couple of years. For example, after the huge jump in ecommerce sales in 2020 led to a massive jump in email marketing revenue, the rebound in in-store shopping caused declines during the 2021 holiday season.

However, that decline was purely a symptom of poor visibility into customer behavior across channels. It wasn’t that email marketing was suddenly less effective, but rather that it was driving more subscribers to go to stores, which is unequivocally a great outcome. That was evident in the fact that 2021 holiday retail sales increased more than 14%, according to the National Retail Federation.

3. Brands Give Too Much Credit to Single Touchpoints

In the early 2000s, the average customer purchase involved two touchpoints. However, consumers today use an average of almost six touchpoints, according to research by Aberdeen, Oracle and Relationship One.

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