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Data is King [Guest Post by Luke Richards]

The Magic Number: Why data is important three times over in our multichannel world – a #JUMPchallenge post

This guest post by Luke Richards is part of the #JUMPchallenge, a blogging competition designed to raise awareness of how to join up online and offline marketing, launched to support Econsultancy’s JUMP event.

Data and tracking has become more important to web developers and digital marketers as online business has become increasingly competitive.  However, as companies start to look at their performance across multiple channels – i.e. incorporating mobile and social media, as well as search engine optimisation, onsite usability and offline techniques – intriguing developments have been made into collecting data seamlessly across channels and then using this information in the best possible way.

Whether you are building a website, designing a new app or producing a marketing campaign, we believe that data is most useful today when considered over all three key stages of a project:

1. Data that helps you plan

So you’ve got a budget, an idea of what you want to achieve and some time to get things going – how are you going to go about it?  Collecting data about your competitors and your market is a logical and common way to find out what channels are being used and how your prospective customers are being engaged and behaving on and offline.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Industry and sector specialists are emerging alongside every new channel and offering reports which give further insight into trends and developments which are nearly always enlightening, and often surprising.

With the emergence of online technology came a new era of tracking user behaviour and some now well-known companies such as Econsultancy and Hitwise frequently publish great data and make it available to others.  Yet, for younger channels be sure to search out smaller lesser-known businesses.  For example, with the rise of smartphones and the mobile touch web, Taptu are a great group to follow offering quarterly reports which work to shed light on the worth of mobile-friendly sites compared to apps for iPhone and Android – as well as more general data about this quick-growing sector.

However, whilst it is all important to spend some time soaking up all the data you can at this time, whether it is by chatting with followers on Twitter or reading the latest reports, be sure to allocate a timeframe for such research and stick to it.  Don’t let data research at this stage get in the way of starting your project.

2. Data that helps you develop

‘Test!  Test!  And test again!’ is fast becoming an adage among web developers and digital marketers alike.  After all, how do you know if your PPC campaign is working, or which design makes people want to sign up to your product, if you aren’t looking at your own data after your launch and tweaking things accordingly.

Specifically, online companies now have a tendency to launch in beta and to be upfront with their customers that things may not run perfectly straight away.  This is something of a side-effect of the need to dive into our data almost as soon as a site or a marketing campaign has been launched.  Software such as Google Analytics is a simple starting point for us to see how users arrive at our sites, and what content, offer, product etc is working best to get them there.  Additionally, services such as Unbounce are making it even easier for site-owners to test landing pages and design as they are going along.

Again, at this stage it is also becoming more important for individuals and companies to bear in mind the multichannel workings of a given site, campaign or app.  Is everything integrated and are you seeing the full picture?  Or perhaps you’re jumping to the results you want to see?  After all, your site may be climbing up the search rankings and your content might be great, but if your customer then needs to use the phone to make a purchase, be sure you are seeing the necessary call tracking data to ensure that investment in all that SEO has been worthwhile.

3. Data that helps you promote

So you’ve researched before you launch (1) and you’ve looked at the data to ensure your site is tweaked and perfected as you’re moving along (2) – is there any use for all this stuff after you’ve finished a project?  Of course there is!

The truly great thing about being immersed in months of your own line graphs and spreadsheets is that this content is likely to be unique to you and of interest to others.  This data is a fantastic means for promoting yourself across case studies, blogs, PR (online and offline) or even your own pay-for  reports.  The age of protecting your trade secrets is over, and the time to be transparent with your data as a means to get your name out there is certainly upon us.

Don’t believe me?  Check out the following sites and see for yourself:

  • OkTrends – OkTrends is the official blog of online dating site OkCupid.  These guys are sure-fire geniuses when it comes to understanding their own unique data and presenting it in enthralling ways for regular web users.
  • Topspin – Topspin is platform for musicians to promote and sell their music directly to their fans across online media.  As you can see, they are proud of what they achieve and how they go about achieving it – and they make plenty of the data available for all to see.
  • Datablog – Although not the only newspaper to offer such ‘pure data’ today, The Guardian were certainly pioneering in the way they began to offer their researched facts and figures and posting them online in an attempt to make the paper ‘more open and more useful to its readers.’

For the above companies, data doesn’t lose its worth when the product is launched or if it has already been used internally time and time again.  In today’s multichannel world there is often a prospective third life cycle for data.  And it is at this time, when it must be presented to the outside world, that it can often prove even more valuable than when you first cast your eye over that emerging trend or intriguing correlation – if not necessarily for your current project, then perhaps for interest in future ventures.

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