Top 13 Highlights in Data Analytics in 2013


ImageLooking over the prow at the first quarter of 2014, it’s an excellent time to take stock of the year that was for the digital industry. When it came to all things data and analytics, 2013 saw a huge shift in public perception of what data privacy means as the Snowden revelations threw personal security and the governmental manipulation of data into the spotlight.

ImageLooking over the prow at the first quarter of 2014, it’s an excellent time to take stock of the year that was for the digital industry. When it came to all things data and analytics, 2013 saw a huge shift in public perception of what data privacy means as the Snowden revelations threw personal security and the governmental manipulation of data into the spotlight. We also celebrated the idea that the roles of CTO and CMO began converging in a big way, with technology budgets being shifted firmly into the media and marketing camp. And finally, Google took a swipe at brand marketers by making SEO that much harder and paid search that much easier to invest in.

On the eve of hopefully yet another newsworthy year in analytics, we look back at 2013’s 13 data analytics highlights:

1.      Spotify uses analytics to prove its worth to doubting musicians

At the end of 2013, the music streaming service Spotify decided to bring transparency to artists who it claims can do a good job of earning a living through internet downloads. The future is not so bleak, according to the firm claiming that even the most niche of Indie bands can earn $17K per month when it reaches 40m subscribers, and endeavored to prove this by opening up the Spotify Artists website along with free analytics for artists. Data is provided on streams of their music and publishing figures on how much musicians can expect to earn as it grows.

2.      Twitter ranks tweet performance for free on its analytics platform

Social got analytical in July last year, as Twitter gave the public access to its analytics dashboard, giving users access to in-depth data about the people and brands who follow them, as well as the performance of their most recent tweets. Previously only available to advertisers who paid to get their messages in front of the right audience, Twitter now offers these detailed insights – including how many times links within tweets are clicked – to all users.

3.      Prioritizing Business Intelligence

According to Gartner’s latest CIO survey, the top business priority is enterprise growth, with analytics and business intelligence remaining the number one technology priority for 2013. Following a major shift in the CIOs’ focus which began in 2008, almost a fifth of CIOs now act as their enterprise’s chief digital officer (CDO), leading digital commerce and channels.

4.      Data Privacy

Web security made the headlines for all the wrong reasons as privacy became a worldwide concern in 2013. Since Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA’s widespread phone surveillance and government regulators put increasing pressure on tech companies to disclose their data collection processes, users and pundits alike were put on high alert about the existence of a “big brother” state. Google agreed to pay $7 million to settle charges that the company collected network data from user Wi-Fi accounts while its Street View vehicles passed by homes and businesses. Another court settlement was paid by the search giant related to unauthorized tracking of cookies on browsers without the knowledge of users. Microsoft capitalized on the fears of the public by creating an advertising campaign around the fact that it doesn’t snoop through its users’ emails – unlike arch-rival, Google.

5.      Marketing Agility

Data-driven decision making becoming a reality in the world of the CMO, who began to cut through the data “noise” to begin generating genuine ROI for their businesses using first and third party data sets to overlay their marketing plans. In a survey into marketers’ attitudes conducted by TagMan, 60% of marketers agreed that Big Data can have a real impact on business revenue and profits.

6.      Information as an asset

Along with all the technology changes, there have been big changes to analytics culture. Information is no longer a by-product of manufacturing processes – it is fast-becoming a key component of the products themselves. Additionally, information is now being used as currency, with users becoming more and more aware that their personal data is particularly valuable to advertisers and media owners, and can even be used to “pay” for services online.

7.      Data visualisation gets sophisticated

We saw marketing data visualization take off in an interactive, real-time and increasingly advanced way in 2013. Visual dashboards, advanced heatmaps and attention maps are all designed to track user interactions with web pages, understand how they are viewed and highlight the most popular areas of a site. As well as making data aesthetic, the challenge in 2013 was for businesses to display the most important, actionable data, ready for marketers to make decisions with.

8.      Google’s Hummingbird update

Conversational search became the talk of the town, even more so in 2013, and with the updates to Google’s algorithm, high-quality content has reached even more of a premium this year. The name apparently representing something which is “precise and fast”, Google’s latest update aims to give meaning to longer search queries by paying closer attention to each word in a query and ensuring that the whole sentence is taken into account. Time will tell whether it truly works…

9.      Google Search moves to become a fully-subscribed service

Marketers took a hit at the end of 2013 with the changes made by Google to SEO keywords [not provided]. The company is the dominant analytics player – according to research from Econsultancy in 2013, 90% of advertisers use Google Analytics (GA), with 86% using the service to analyze site traffic and conversion KPIs. Google recently switched off sharing organic search keywords referral data, which simply means that when an advertiser logs into their Google Analytics service, they can no longer view which search terms users typed in to get to their website. Without this data, the very marketers who have worked their way out of the “blind SEO” optimization days have now been sent right back to square one with the introduction of secure organic search.

 10.  Rise in data partnerships

Partnerships were inked this year between a number of companies in the data management and tag management sectors, aimed at bringing even more flexibility for advertisers and value for money when it comes to choosing online marketing tools. Notably, in February 2013 Facebook made a number of partnerships with data providers like BlueKai, Datalogix, Epsilon and Acxiom, allowing advertisers to target hashed lists of existing and potential customers, and categories like make-up users or online gamers. This is part of the expansion of Facebook’s Custom Audiences program.

11.  Cross-device tracking

Despite lots of posturing by tech companies last year, effectively tracking user activity across devices only genuinely became a reality towards the second half of the year with Google and Microsoft both announcing tracking systems. As data management companies develop new ways of puzzling out how users interact with apps and browsers on various platforms throughout the day, advertisers started to reap the benefits of joined up marketing campaigns. Now the industry is looking forward to seeing near-field communication technology develop this joined-up consumer journey even further, allowing communication with consumers when they’re on-site in stores and engagement them in augmented reality-style interactions.

12.  Tag Management introduces the first ever Marketing Data Platform

The launch of the Marketing Data Platform provides marketers with access to real-time marketing data collected and unified by tags. By expanding marketers control to this new marketing data layer, marketers have the ability to collect, unify and distribute a clean layer of third-party and CRM data to technology vendors in real-time.

13.  The Rise of Tech-Savvy Marketers

Management consultancy McKinsey predicted that by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT systems than the CTO. The rise of Big Data, technology and new tools (Customer Experience Management (CXM)) and technology developments during 2013 signifies the start of a real power shift within businesses.

In the past, we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to data and analytics. In the coming year, marketers will need to continue to focus on being more agile, willing to learn how customer insights – both first and third party – can revolutionize their marketing ROI, and adjust their decision-making according to what effective data visualization can reveal. Here’s to celebrating an eventful and progressive 2014 this time next year.