Trends from 2021’s SEJ Summit: Part 1
The focus at SEJ Summit, much like everything else in the beginning of 2021, was “leaving 2020 behind and looking forward to 2021.” But an area that a few experts touched on in regards to the impacts of 2020 was in connecting data across platforms.
Analyzing Data and Informing Strategy
I attended the SEJ Summit with the intent of addressing one major challenge that faces every performance marketer—data visualization and analysis. It defines our job, defines the successes and failures of our colleagues, and is the foundation of strategy.
Thanks to on-platform insights, data analysis is more complicated than ever. Every major digital platform has developed insights tools; and smaller/newer digital platforms and programmatic advertising tools are coming pre-built with onboard insights and analytics tools.
This all sounds great, right? But it’s not. It’s a nightmare, and here’s why:
Cross-Platform Data is Blurry
Anyone who has worked in paid media across multiple platforms knows that different platforms will show different metrics for the same campaign. It’s impossible to be 100% accurate from every platform in the current market for a few different reasons:
- Attribution Differences: Different platforms attribute “conversions” and other KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) in different ways. Facebook and Google are examples of major platforms that don’t always speak the same data language. What Facebook considers a conversion, Google often does not—and this is based heavily on attribution models (last-click, etc.). There are ways to get the two data segments close, but this analyst has yet to see them match 100%. Example: A user of the website clicks on a Facebook ad and either purchases something or fills out a form on a website. This same user clicked an ad in Google 2 days prior, but didn’t convert. Depending on specific settings in Google Ads, both Facebook and Google Ads will report the same conversion.
- Different Data Sources: Different platforms define their users differently, and this hurts our understanding of data. Google defines a user by their device. Facebook defines a user by an email, and other platforms use other variables such as usernames or session IDs to define their users. What does this mean for data? We don’t know much about the person on the other end of the interaction. Example: A Google user can visit a site on 3 different devices and purchase at 3 different times, registering as 3 different people in analytics tools. This assumes some privacy settings and desynchronization in their accounts, but with browser security plugins and VPNs, this is more likely to happen than ever before.
- Data Privacy: If you service international sellers like I do, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a major block on understanding your customers. GDPR requires websites that service European countries to include an opt-in message. For analytics, Ads, etc. to track the usage of the website, this opt-in must be selected by the user. Between GDPR and the emergence of free VPNs, scrambled browsers, and other security plugins, data privacy has become a major inhibitor to attribute website interactions with the original source of marketing.
- Platform Data Ownership: Data is everything in 2021 and beyond. Sharing it is becoming increasingly more monetized as data privacy standards tighten and digital platforms grow. Facebook wants to sell its own data to advertisers in order to boost its bottom line. It does not want to inform the investment from advertisers on Google Ads, Twitter, etc. This creates a massive challenge for marketers when analyzing data and attempting to inform strategies based on successes and failures of past campaigns. Example: My life. I build a campaign that utilizes advertising on both Google Ads and Facebook. At the end, I want to report on the important KPIs to my client. But, Facebook’s numbers are wildly different from Google Analytics. Based on the final numbers Facebook and Google Ads are reporting that they received 150% of the leads the client actually received in their CRM. So I implement a 3rd party data reporting tool to compile everything in one spot. What happens next? The 3rd party tool only plays nice with Facebook or Google, but not both.
So how do we deal with these discrepancies in data? We pull our hair out and cry ourselves to sleep. OR, we integrate our website with the platforms and let the website decide who gets the attribution.
I’ve tested this. A lot. The data analysts at SEJ Summit confirmed my suspicion when they summarized the problem as needing SQL experts to solve, with 3rd party tools only working so well. Datastudio and other analytics tools are limited to what the platform gives them for data. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
In 2020, CRMs plugged in. Lost in all the confusion around analytics tools, advertising platform insight reports, and SQL experts is the value of the data coming directly from the website. According to the data keynote at SEJ Summit, 2020 saw a record number of major CRM providers building direct connections to web CMS platforms and development software.
Platforms like HubSpot have been offering fully integrated CRM services for years, and the market is catching up, which is a great sign for data analysts. Directly plugging your CRM into the advertising platforms is the most accurate way of generating consistent data analysis. Plugging the site into ad platforms enables the following:
- Eliminates attribution differences
- Reorganizes the data so that different sources are translated into your marketing and sales terms
- Opens the lines of communication so data ownership is just an afterthought
- Allows for attribution, even through GDPR
The answer is ultimately simpler than learning a new language or working with developers to get APIs between different analytics platforms. Plug your conversion source directly into the advertising channel and the data cannot be wrong.