What can your data really tell you?

6 12 2007

Online testing is a bit different from other marketing data. It uses live traffic to find out what works. Analytics is the same, measuring what’s occurring at the moment. So why is that important? Well you can infer all you want from surveys, usability studies and demographics, but in the end you can’t argue against what real users are doing.

Avinash Kaushik, a popular analytics blogger, summed up the juiciest bits of a presentation by Jim Novo at eMetrics. In it, Jim asked, “What data yields insights that can be actioned the most?” The answer:

Data pyramid

“[A]ctionability, relevance of insights that can be actioned decreased as you go down the slide”

He makes the point that the farther away you get from the top of the pyramid, the harder it is to accurately predict your users actions. Yet often times too much value is put into the bottom levels of the pyramid. Even when marketers do test and measure actual behavior, they go about it the wrong way because they stick to all this other data too much and end up testing things that are all alike, defeating the purpose of testing.

Think about it, can you really tell if a red button will work better than a blue button if all you have are demographics? There are places for all of these types of data, but there should not be a fear of actual behavioral data. Yes we are using live traffic, yes the data is driven by technology (online visitors, javascript, cookies, rather than people filling out a survey), but those numbers tell a story unlike any other data.

Make the most out of all types of your data, but don’t die by one or the other. Use what’s best for every situation, but realize that you will never know you are right until you test it out.