Why you should hire a full-time web analyst now

What if your next great customer insight or product breakthrough was right in your hands, but you couldn’t see it? Chances are it’s happening to you every day.

10 years into the mainstreaming of web analytics, many organizations are still struggling to achieve the ROI they expected from their investments in web analytics software. The problem is they over-invested in technology and under-invested in people. But that’s finally starting to change.

Buying analytics software and waiting for the ROI to roll in is like buying a Bowflex and waiting for your muscles to grow. There’s still some work to be done.

The savviest competitors today realize that the quality of the people who use their tools is more important than the tools themselves, and that their ability to compete, even survive, in today’s business environment will increasingly depend on getting some skilled and creative data analysts on their team.

Call it web analytics 2.0, and if you’re still struggling with the basics of 1.0, here are three reasons you need to change now.

1) You can’t do it yourself anymore

Many web teams buy analytics software, hand out logins to their business owners and then largely leave them on their own. But it turns out there are limits to the amount your average business user is willing and able to invest in learning web analytics tools. As more companies begin to truly take a strategic approach to web analytics, many of them are realizing that their business users are simply not “getting” the tools they’ve invested so heavily in.

As the tools and discipline get more complex and demanding, business users have reached their limit and are balking at the amount of time it takes to learn and become proficient with them.

2) The game is getting more complex

Web analytics was complex to being with: Pages, urls, search engines, customer needs and wants, customer behavior, customer segmentation, myriad marketing campaigns, SEO, data capture and all the problems associated with it.

And it’s getting more complex. It’s no longer about data from a single web analytics tool. Now you need a whole toolkit: Voice-of-the-customer, competitive intelligence, eCRM and social media monitoring, to name a few.

What’s more, web analytics is increasingly part of a wider function within organizations with names like Customer Insight, Management Information Systems (MIS) or Business Intelligence (BI). It’s now just one part of a multi-channel picture where it’s increasingly important to pull disparate sources of information together and make sense of it all.

3) We’re drowning in data, and the tide keeps rising

‘Big data’ has become a buzzword in the tech community lately, and for good reason. Data has emerged as one of the great competitive arenas of our time. Leaders like Amazon and Facebook are already using their data in creative ways to delight customers, innovate and outflank their competitors. Google was built on it.

The volume and variety of this data are increasing with ferocious velocity. We now create as much information every two days as we did from the dawn of civilization to 2003. Navigating through this digital ocean to get a clear picture of customers is very difficult indeed.

In a recent IBM survey of over 1700 global CMOs asking what they felt most unprepared for, data explosion ranked number one.

Research firm Econsultancy wrote about the excitement and dread of this new reality in a recent blog post (“Data Overload: 5 Key Themes”) observing “The proliferation of data is to marketers what the faster-than-light neutrino is to physicists. Scary and exciting in equal measure, shaking perceptions of what is possible and opening up new worlds of opportunity … and pain.”

A good analyst is hard to find

If you think analytics is daunting, try finding a good web analyst in today’s marketplace. CBS MoneyWatch last year called data analysts one of the most in-demand roles in business (“Data Analysts: The New Masters of the Universe”). According to the article, companies of all sizes are expected to add enough data analysts that, as a group, the job category will grow by 45 percent through 2018, making it among the fastest-growing career choices out there.

Add to this the fact that analytics is a relatively young discipline – even “experienced” analysts may have just 2-3 years in the field – and you won’t be surprised to learn that finding qualified web analysts today is presenting a major challenge for companies. So where do you start?

With analysts in short supply for now, however, you may find it easier to train someone already in your organization than trying to recruit a hard-to-find veteran analyst. This is becoming much easier to do as organizations like the Digital Analytics Association continue to develop resources, education and certification programs.

Another option is to engage a specialist web analytics consultant to audit your analytics program and train your staff. This can be a useful stop-gap measure as you ramp up your own efforts. Whatever path you choose, the main thing is to start moving now or risk falling further behind.

It’s time to bring in the professionals

The price of light is less than the cost of darkness.

Arthur C. Nielsen

This quote characterizes the challenges in getting organizations to hire web analysts that they often view as a cost rather than an investment. But there is no point in investing in expensive web analytics software and collecting data if you don’t have qualified people to analyze, interpret and act on it.

It’s no longer a question of whether you can afford to invest in the people and expertise you will need to win in the era of big data, it’s a question of whether you can afford not to.