Category Archives: Conference Review


Thoughts on eMetrics 2015


At the end of last month, the team at L3 Analytics attended eMetrics, an annual summit which facilitates learning and collaboration in the realm of digital marketing. As most of our clients are interested in improving this side of their business, we managed to dip into as many presentations as possible to get a broad overview of new tools, techniques and thoughts around marketing and analytics. Read on for two of our analysts describing their experiences.


Counting, Tagging, Transforming

On October 28 & 29, L3 Analytics attended eMetrics Summit, a conference which covers the impact of data and technology and dives into the latest tools and strategies. The first day started with Jim Stern opening the conference with a presentation stating that Einstein was wrong and everything can be counted. A presentation with useful insights about marketing data taxonomy and a Shakespeare poem (!) were his arguments to support his statement. I agree with the idea that everything can be counted and in analytics everything is able to be counted. However, let’s leave Shakespeare’s idea of love to be unconditional and uncounted.

Following that, a coffee break took place to keep us energised for the next talk. Simo Ahava took the lead, informing us how to transform tag management from a project into a process. It is well known that many organisations struggle to deploy the tagging system into their organisation properly. Simo explained to us how we can think of the implementation as a process. That way, we avoid messing up with data collection, and we get valuable and useful insights. L3 Analytics follows a strong implementation process, communicating with all people involved in that. We are available to explain and discuss every aspect of the process during the implementation project.

The day continued with Dave Rhee, talking about cultural changes in a complex organisation. His presentation was fun, interesting and insightful. The presentation provided information of how analysts can change from being data geeks to being cool Jedis. He shared with us his ideas of how to transform ourselves into wise analysts, and a set of skills that we need to evolve our career quickly and efficiently. Having in mind his instructions and advice, I am looking forward to transforming myself into a wise Jedi! And I believe I will soon!

Evi Anastasiadou



Finding Your Niche

After coming back from eMetrics I’ve found that one talk really stayed with me – ‘The State of the Analytics Nation’ by Stéphane Hamel. There were numerous things that I took home from this talk, but the one that stuck with me was ‘find your niche and specialise’. This leads me to think is it time for me, and others, to pick a speciality and to focus on this.

Personally, I’d consider myself to be a generalist in digital analytics. I have a broad selection of skills but wouldn’t describe myself as having a ‘specialist subject’. There are things I’m more interested in (user experience, understanding business problems and surveys) but I wouldn’t consider myself an expert in any one area.

With data science becoming more prevalent, as Digital Analysts we need to be able to provide more than just great analytics. We need to drive changes within our organisations or clients. This can be achieved by differentiating ourselves, which can be done through specialising in a specific area; below is what Stéphane listed:

  • Analytics
  • Business Outcomes & Actions
  • Enabling Capabilities

For me, it is a case of finding out where in this list my interests lie and how to explore them further.  One of the benefits of working within an agency is, by working with a wide range of clients, providing myself with exposure to many different aspects of analytics, which allows me to find my niche and to specialise. Doing this makes me feel like I’m in the best place to allow me to figure out where I want to specialise.

Apart from specialisation, another major theme from eMetrics was that it is time to get out into the business. I’ve found that the analyst sometimes can stay in their ‘cave’ and just been known as the ‘numbers guy’ – this needs to change. Getting out into the business, and having a really good understanding of it, enables an analyst to move from being considered the ‘numbers guy’ into being considered an agent of change. This progression would allow you to have a greater visibility within the business, and to get help from other departments when needed. I know we can all have our frustrations with IT and Marketing, but we need to learn to embrace them and to work with them – we are all working towards the same goal of making the business more profitable.

So there it is, the thing I took away from eMetrics: find your passion, explore it and specialise. Whilst you’re doing this, get out into your business/clients to truly understand how they work. Make friends with IT and Marketing – you’ll always need their help, plus they normally have bigger budgets.

Would I go to eMetrics again next year?… Yes!

Thomas Loveridge


MeasureCamp Logo

What we learnt at MeasureCamp 6

On March 13 & 14 2015, L3 Analytics attended MeasureCamp VI, the web analytics unconference. As with the previous events, it kicked-off with a series of training workshops the day before the unconference. More than 220 campers coming from various places in Europe gathered in London to share their knowledge during a full day.

MC Kick Off Session

The L3 team enjoyed learning new things from the Digital Analytics community so we would like to share with everyone, in return, a summary of our favourite tips from the weekend.


Google Analytics API

During the training workshop, Tahir Fayyaz (@tfayyaz) shared an awesome trick to enhance the Google Analytics alert feature available by default in the user interface.

MC API  SessionIt consists of using Google Sheets to extract your data via the API and push a notification via email if the value of the selected cell matches your desired rule. The great thing is you can use Zapier to send this alert to third party applications such as Trello.

With this approach, you can automatically create new tasks in your project management solution based on your GA data and be even more “agile” to improve your website performance!


Four sessions on Saturday dealt with attribution. L3 Analytics attended two of them: Is last click dead and device attribution.

At L3, we have a pretty strong opinion about attribution since Peter explained why it is broken back in December 2012 at Emetrics. The key issue is that it doesn’t work across several devices as the logic is based on cookies. It is now clearly possible to link the same user on different devices thanks to a visitor ID and we had a great demo from Adobe about this. However, there are still several caveats due to not-logged-in users who cannot be identified.

MC Attribution SessionAnother takeaway is that the standard 30 day conversion window should be updated depending on your offer. The purchase process can be longer/shorter from one industry to the other.

For example, it should be at least 90 days for insurance and no more than a few days for a food delivery website. Following that, the average basket value within the same sector matters. The conversion window should be longer if you buy the last generation of TV than if you buy a cheap USB key.

Online/Offline Measurement

Google ran a session describing how to measure the ROI of your marketing campaigns within a multichannel environment. This topic is critical for retail websites as one of their primary goals is to drive customers to their physical stores. Hence, marketing departments require methods to estimate how much revenue is made in store thanks to online advertising.

MC Online/Offline measurement SessionThere is no perfect answer for this unfortunately but one option with GA is to use the measurement protocol in a smart way. Customers can be tracked within their multichannel journey through a common user ID. For online customers, the user ID is known when logged-in.

For offline customers, the user ID is known on purchase, when a loyalty card is used. Thus, it’s possible to link online/offline users and identify which online source drove a customer to buy in store.

As you can guess, the biggest caveat is that it’s impossible to identify all not-logged-in users. Google recommends being creative to encourage to people logging-in. The limit is that it could have undesired effects. A prospect might not wish to enter an email address just to look at a product description. This why customer feedback is still highly recommended to answer this type of business question – the easiest way of finding whether people came to your shop because of your website is simply to ask them!

Google Tag Manager

L3 is always learning new tips and tricks for Google Tag Manager (GTM) so we were excited by listening to Simo Ahava talking about Tag Management System (TMS) in the big room.MC Simo and GTM Session

The presentation was great as Simo demystified important facts that every advanced GTM user should be aware of. L3 especially enjoyed two reminders:

  • There is no magic connection between GA and GTM. A tag container is simply made of JavaScript code so it doesn’t matter whether you use the tag container from Google or from another company – you should be able to send the same information to Google Analytics.
  • Tag Management should always rhyme with IT and the reason is obvious: “GTM is all about IT as it’s a freaking JavaScript injector!”. JavaScript is a powerful language which can do many things including breaking a website if the code is wrong. Hence, marketing and IT must always work together and define the internal process to deploy new tags on the website.

R Programming Language

R is a powerful programming language which can be useful to treat a large set of data. A discussion was run by Guillaume Lombard and Richard Fergie to introduce this language to beginners.

The key benefit is that many libraries are available allowing the user to save time to export a complex database.

MC 'R' SessionIt is often used for data modelling, predictive analytics and to create some online dashboards. L3 enjoyed the example showing how to extract some data from the GA API as it shows how the tool can be used shortly after a brief learning curve.

BlackHat Analytics

Phil Pearce ran another fascinating discussion dealing with the malicious techniques faking your web analytics data. For instance, competitors could try to deteriorate your conversion rate to prevent you from taking the right business decisions. Hence, it matters to know what’s possible and how to avoid the most common issues.MC BlackHat Analytics Session

The key points to keep in mind regarding BlackHat Analytics are:

  • A simple and useful tip is to exclude JavaScript bots in your web analytics solution settings. In GA it’s only a box to tick but you could also configure additional filters.
  • A fake transaction with a huge amount of revenue could mess up your e-commerce metrics. The workaround is to declare the transaction as refunded.
  • Accidental PII in page names should be avoided as it violates Google’s TOS and your account might be deleted.
  • Flash cookies and Ever cookies can be malicious and are difficult to disable in your browsers.
  • DNT doesn’t stand for “Do Not Track” but “Do not Target”. To clarify, if this browser feature is enabled, the traffic is still captured in web analytics solution, it just means that users aren’t retargeted by online ads.
  • It is critical to add on your website a clear privacy policy in compliance with your web analytics solution and your different marketing partners.

Funnel Analysis

At the end of the day, Xavier Colomes shared some tips to analyse a website funnel. The method consists of using a strong page naming convention to identify the different stages more easily. In GA, a simple option is to create a view of your data with some filters to group pages by category (i.e. homepage, category page, product list page, product page, etc.).

A longer term solution is to specify the desired page name directly in the code. L3 Analytics completely agrees with this method as we believe that a strong page naming convention is critical to answer most business questions.MC Funnel Analysis Session

So we had a fantastic couple of days learning from our peers. What about you? Did you make it to MeasureCamp VI? And if you did, what were the highlights for you?


MeasureFest 2013 Wrap-up

Yesterday, I attended the first MeasureFest organised in London by the brightonSEO team. From 10am to 6pm, I had the chance to watch a wide range of presentations about digital analytics, CRO, SEO and business intelligence. It was also the opportunity to catch up with all the other #measure folks and to exchange a few tips:

There were group of four sessions throughout the day. For each one, you will find below for a wrap-up of what I’ve found most interesting. If you missed the event or would like a more complete summary, you may visit Koozai or redrocketmedia’s blog:

Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)

The kick-off was with Paddy Moogan (Distilled), Joe Doveton (GlobalMaxer) and Stephen Pavlovich (Conversion Factory) who spoke about Conversion Rate Optimisation.

  • Getting started with testing without experience can be painful so it’s important to follow a clear framework before jumping on tools like Optimizely or AB/Tasy.
  • CRO across international websites implies different strategies. English language, meaning of colours, supported technologies and method of payments may be completely different depending on countries.
  • Mobile conversion rate optimisation has become essential so it’s better to start right now with small scales.


The next set of presentations were run by Philip Sheldrake (Euler Partners), Ben Harris (Decibel Insight), Russell McAthy (Stream:20).

  • The classic return on investment (ROI) formula just doesn’t work to measure the success of Social Media. The example of the barbecue sales on the first sunny day of the year was meaningful – too many external factors to attribute the success to the campaign.
  • Heatmaps can be useful to get actionable insights but you need the right tool to make sure the data is accurate. It can then help to present the most important call-to-action at the right place.
  • Everyone seems to hate Excel whereas it’s a fantastic tool. Russell’s goal was to make all the attendees save 5 mins a week (£1.7 million a year if you charge £500 an hour) by providing Excel tips available right here: (nice one the formula transposing trick!).


The Analytics session was run by Dara Fitzgerald (FreshEgg), Nikki Rae (Future Insight Analytics), Anna Lewis (Koozai), Ryan Gallagher (IOVOX).

  • Attribution modelling may be useful but there are too many caveats. A solution could be to optimise through testing. This is challenging to segment traffic campaigns but an easy way to get started would be to combine GA advanced segments and Google Adwords Remarketing. If you missed this presentation, slides are available right here:
  • Segmentation is one of the most powerful features from web analytics tools and we often under use it. Not all users are created equal so it is recommended to analyse conversion paths through specific set of behaviours (see Anna’s blog post for the full presentation on segments: The Power of Segmentation in Web Analytics #MeasureFest).

Business Optimisation

The last sessions were performed by Andrew Hood (Lynchpin), Ali White (CallTracks), Dr. David Sewell (FreshEgg), Yousaf Sekander (RocketMill).

  • Optimising customer value can be as important as CRO depending on sectors. Acquisition and retention strategies are often antagonists (short term VS long term) whereas they should go along (statistical modelling can help).
  • According to Google, in the US, 70% of mobile searchers call business directly from its result pages. Unique tracking phone numbers can help to identify within web analytics and CRM tools the behaviour of visitors.
  • Focusing on the content instead of keywords is the only really good way to handle the ‘(not provided)’ effect but you may use neural models combined to the Google Prediction API to reveal your hidden SEO keywords thanks to the not provided tool:!
  • Have you ever wondered if your competitors were testing a certain part of their websites? is a free tool which aims to monitor testing campaigns running by competitors!

Adobe Summit Wrap-up

I recently attended the London Adobe Summit as a Roving Reporter, exchanging tweets & blog posts for a free ticket.  My previous blog post covered the content from the breakout sessions I attended, this one will go through all the keynotes and other aspects of the conference.

Day 1 Opening Keynotes

First up, we had Brad Rencher, the Adobe General Manager of Digital Marketing opening the Summit.  From early on, I was reminding myself that the Adobe Summit is now a Digital Marketing conference, not Digital Analytics.  So the target audience is marketers with analytics being one of the tools they can use.

Brad introduced the concept of the last millisecond, the tiny period of time when everything has to connect perfectly to achieve success.  People want the same things they always have but due to evolving expectations, they want it now.  This means the time you have available to deliver has been greatly reduced.  The Adobe view of this process (apologies as ever for not writing things down word for word) is:

  • Listen to signal from consumers
  • Predict expectations (based on behaviour)
  • Build the response
  • Deliver this response (in the last millisecond)

Based on this model and those expectations of immediate response, real time data is critical.  I didn’t totally buy into this though.  The resources required to deliver a response based on real time data are very large.  I agree that it is possible and will deliver a positive impact but it feels like more a top of the tree actions.  There are likely many more low hanging fruit which will deliver more value for the resources invested.

Coincidently, Avinash has “Real-time data is life changing” as the first of 8 data myths that marketing people believe in but can actually end up getting them fired.

Product Demo

Adobe has consolidated their many products into five pillars, greatly simplifying their product offering.  We moved into a very slick product demo illustrating all five tools using a common example.  And it was very impressive, seamlessly moving from department to department and from data to solution.  Even had a couple of big brands saying how powerful it was for them.

The core of it does appear to be a project management tool (the Adobe Marketing Cloud) – this is not a negative.  It was a displayed as a tool that eliminated silos and enabled rapid transmission of ideas.  But while a slick product demo, it was light on the details (which an analyst can’t cope without).

A key question was if a company has four of the five products, can this process still work?  For example, if they use a different CMS (e.g. BT Fresca), can they still easily push elements live on the website through this UI?  And all their predictive tools, just how accurate are they?  How can you claim to predict the behaviour of a new campaign, that is just not possible.  Slick demo but I was sceptical.

Most importantly, how was their web analyst satisfied with the quality & detail of the analysis work they did – I would have sent them away to do a proper job…

Adobe Analytics

During the demo, the new Adobe Analytics was introduced and I found this exciting.  Rather than offering SiteCatalyst with lots of extras, Adobe has simplified (finally).  There are two packages, standard and premium, the price is still based on the number of measurements generated.

With standard, you get

  • SiteCatalyst
  • DataWarehouse
  • Discover – unlimited licences
  • ReportBuilder – unlimited licences
  • Genesis – unlimited connections
  • SiteCatalyst Tag Manager

Finally, Discover, the true Analyst’s tool is included as standard.  And ReportBuilder is the default Excel plugin.  It means EVERY company with SiteCatalyst will have good tools available which have the potential to be more powerful than Google Analytics (depending on set-up and ability of users).

Adobe Analytics is available on all new contracts.  I would recommend anyone using SiteCatalyst to immediately negotiate to upgrade their existing contract (unless they already have all the additional tools/features).  Note that Insights is the difference between the Standard and Premium package and fair enough that you pay extra for it as this tool is not necessary for most companies.

Day 1 Closing Keynotes

Remembering again that talks which are targeted to inspire marketers don’t do a lot for analysts, I didn’t take all that many notes in the afternoon keynotes.  Some points I did note down although not sure if it was points by the speakers or what I thought of as a result of what they were saying:

  • Deloitte Digital says companies need to have a strategy (to be fair to them, they are a very young department and have not been around as long as L3 Analytics)
  • The world is changing rapidly and this brings a whole new set of challenges for everyone (the old ones are still there as well)
  • It has never been easier to turn ideas into reality
  • The best organisations take away people’s pain points
  • Successful organisations have a purpose greater than themselves
  • The most powerful force is imagination, technology is just a tool

Summit Party

A brief word on the Adobe Summit party.  Jessie J was incredibly impressive.  Given the audience doesn’t quite match up with her normal demographic, she gave a classy performance with a big smile the whole way through.  I didn’t stay too long after she finished but am sure the party continued till late as it always does.

Day 2 Opening Keynotes

I started late on the second day as needed to complete some client work first, so only caught the last two speakers.  The first speaker was reporting back on the BBC’s online coverage of the Olympics.  Reporting was the operative word, the key learnings for the BBC appeared to be to show stuff live and help viewers feel they are there.

The second speaker was Felix Baumgartner, the man who skydived from space.  He was the only non digital speaker and easily my favourite.  It was simple stuff, he wasn’t trying to inspire us, just tell his story.  One line has stuck with me though.

Felix was describing how he was the youngest in the team working on the project, working with some very senior & experienced people, who started out seeing him as just an adrenaline junkie.  He had to “earn the respect I deserved”.  There was no doubt in his mind at all that he deserved this respect, just that it took a while for everyone else to recognise this fact.

Again, this was not said to send any sort of message about believing in yourself or to inspire the listeners.  Felix was just answering a question.

Summit Sneaks

The final session was all about sneak previews of features Adobe may be releasing in the future.  I didn’t take notes through this session as was in shock from my experiences on stage with Nina Conti.  I do remember a couple of features seemed pretty familiar from Google Analytics though…

One feature, which I believe was described as “BoomData”, seemed like it could be pretty useful.  If I remember right, it allowed you to drag and drop any data from SiteCatalyst into Excel and more impressively, to somehow drag data from Excel into SiteCatalyst.  By bringing the data into SiteCatalyst, you could quickly compare against a range of different SiteCatalyst data sets without having to export them one by one.


The most useful aspect of Adobe Summit for me was not the content or even the party, it was catching up with other members of the Digital Analytics community.  So thank you to all the people who had a chat with me, I really enjoyed it.  My biggest regret from the two days is that I didn’t manage to make time to talk properly with Evan LaPointe or even to say hello to Rudi Shumpert.

Final Words

So that is Adobe Summit over with for another year.  I am not sure how to summarise – no question at all that is an incredibly slick and polished event which is extremely well run.  I just need to remind myself that it is a Digital Marketing event which means I am not the target market.

It is worth attending if you want to be inspired or to see what is possible with Adobe products.  But, based on the last couple of years, it is not somewhere you can learn ideas for using Adobe Analytics – which is what I want from the event.  Hopefully Adobe will work on this for next year.

Adobe Summit Breakout Sessions

I have nearly recovered now from Adobe Summit and the fun of being up close & personal with Nina Conti.  Going through my notes to write up summaries of the conferences, thought I would start with the five breakout sessions that I attended.

Analytics Rock Stars

This session was a series of tips with the speakers headlined by Brent Dykes of Web Analytics Action Hero fame.  He was joined by three practitioners working client side.  There were some nice tips presented during this session, sadly only one was new to me.

The tip is relevant to booking engines for travel related organised.  It is to group booking dates into useful buckets with the example given of holiday periods e.g. Christmas period, school holidays, summer break, Easter, etc.  For SiteCatalyst, this can be accomplished using SAINT although possible directly through the tagging with the help of a good developer.

The value then comes when evaluating performance of campaigns (internal and external) against the date period they prompt bookings (or searches for bookings) for.  So your summer campaign would ideally prompt bookings for the summer but this might not be the case.

I would add additional dimensions here of the booking window (time between now and the start date), length of booking, location and value of booking.  Comparing conversion rates from search to booking across all of these dimensions could provide some very interesting actionable insights.

Other tips included:

  • Ideas for making SiteCatalyst dashboards more readable & user friendly (my advice is still to do it in Excel)
  • Use Marketing Channels as your one source of truth for traffic source performance – totally agree
  • Create calculated metrics using a combination of metrics and segments (limited by creativity) allowing you to compare performance across multiple areas in one place
  • Use a logical structure and initiative names for the Calculated Metrics – this is relevant to everything, especially Page Names but also segments and campaigns
  • Whatever the solution/tool, combine all date in one place
  • For product merchandising, create a scatterplot of all products across two dimensions with different tactics for products in different quadrants

Advanced Analytics

This was another tips & tricks session (with a theme of time saving) featuring Ben Gaines, everyone’s favourite Adobe Product Manager (plus another client side practitioner).  Key tips here were:

  • Set up the Key Metrics report for managers for their top 5 KPIs (including segment to apply to them) – so they don’t constantly ask you for the same information
  • Use Processing Rules to define variables without the need for dev involvement
  • Extend this using Context Data Variables so you don’t need to predefine if a piece of information is an eVar, sProp, etc
  • Use segmentation to drill into your data

A basic summary for all of this is quite simple:

Step 1: Do a proper & complete set up of your web analytics tool based on the information you need to know

Step 2: Learn how to use the tool and its features

You will save time and finally start getting value from web analytics.

Customer Analytics Part 1

This session started very promisingly with Simon Ricketts from Channel 4 describing their approach to segmenting their visitors.  Interestingly, it does include just exporting all of the data out of SiteCatalyst, instead creating a unstructured data warehouse by combining it with other data sources in a Hadoop environment – allowing for detailed ad hoc analysis.

Visitor behaviour is grouped based on their Recency, Frequency and Value (value defined based on Dwell Time).  This leads to about 7 different visitor segments being created based on different types of website behaviour.  Segments can then be created in SiteCatalyst to reflect these segments.

The missing element in this session was a detailed example of the process for setting up these segments and applying them to reports.  It shouldn’t be too difficult to do (within Discover) but would have been nice to have been shown this.  I was also unclear what proportion of visitors login across the Channel 4 properties so if this analysis applies to 50% of their traffic or only 5%.


This is a session I was genuinely looking forward to.  I have been arguing for a while that Attribution is not possible (whatever the cost of the tool/consultancy) and that we need to find alternative approaches to evaluating and optimising marketing campaigns.  Econometrics sounds like a possible option for this.

And the first 10 minutes was great.  Dr Sid Shah definitely knows what he is talking about and introduced the ideas of Econometrics in a nice simple to understand manner.  The basic principle is to calculate a baseline for a campaign (using other data in some way), compare against actual performance with the difference attributed to the impact of the campaign.  It then gets complicated with multiple campaigns & different quality campaigns.  But I was sold on this being a valid approach to accurately calculating the impact of campaigns.

Unfortunately we then switched to a presentation on Attribution which highlighted the many issues with it but went through how Sky attempts to use it anyway.  No issues with the presenter but she didn’t appear to believe in Attribution either.

I really really wish this had been a full session on Econometrics.

Customer Analytics Part 2

The final breakout session I attended was another on customer analytics featuring my old boss Matthew Tod.  I know he likes to be controversial and make people question what they are doing so anticipated an interesting session.  His co-presenter was Adam Jenkins, an Evangelist for Adobe Analytics.

Adam started out by stating 3 facts (apologies if I don’t get this word perfect):

  1. Customer Analytics is the future of Digital Analytics
  2. Conversion rate doesn’t matter (an old favourite of Matthews)
  3. Digital data is only a part of customer data

Unfortunately all 3 “facts” are merely opinions.  I disagree with all three which made this a very difficult presentation to sit through.  I have had plans for a while now to write a blog post about how I believe there are three types of analytics for online companies:

  • Marketing Analytics (pre website behaviour)
  • Web Analytics (website behaviour)
  • Customer/Member Analytics (post website behaviour)

For companies where the majority of visitors log in, e.g. community websites or those with most useful content behind a login, I agree that Customer/Member analytics is the most critical.  For the vast majority of companies, it is only one element.  Any analyst who focuses all of their attention on say 5% of website visitors (most retail websites) is leaving a lot of money on the table.

Matthew then stuck to his guns on how Conversion Rate is totally irrelevant.  I continue to disagree with him, while the website conversion rate declining doesn’t necessarily mean bad performance, start applying segments and it is the key metric for most organisations.


So I was a bit frustrated with the last couple of sessions (and it only got better when I was dragged up on stage for everyone’s general amusement a little while later).  There was mixed feedback from other sessions that people attended, some of the technical labs ones were said to be great as the presenter really got into the detail but others were considered quite basic.  I believe the Marketing Innovations track was well received as it was more about concepts.

My request, and that of every other analyst I talked to with more than a couple of years experience, is that a new track is required for (real) Advanced Analytics.  We don’t care what company the presenter works for, we want their knowledge & ideas – mostly we just want to learn something new. Please…

Thoughts from XChange EMEA 2012

Promotional image for XChange Berlin

I spent half of last week in Berlin with 100 other people in the web digital analytics world discussing various topics during sessions and later in a more social environment.  It was my first XChange conference and the first time that XChange had come to Europe.  My experiences to date with digital conferences had left me underwhelmed, so I was excited to try something different.

The format of XChange was very appealing and I had heard good things of the whole experience.  The huddles sounded closer in principle to the unconference / barcamp format which I typically get a lot more out of.  Plus it was an opportunity to meet up with numerous leading practitioners at one time, some of whom I had only met on twitter previously.

Overall, I was not disappointed.  It was great to listen to, talk to and learn from so many other people doing similar work to me, particularly with the number there who clearly knew what they were talking about.  The format left plenty of time for discussions outside of huddles which was great, I met numerous people that I look forward to catching up with at future events / chatting with on Twitter.  It wasn’t perfect and I wish I had attended a more diverse range of huddles but definitely recommend XChange to anyone.

Thoughts, Ideas and Take-aways

The following are my key take-aways from the event, whether it was something I learnt for the first time or had my thinking solidified on through discussions (huddles and informal):

  • Analysts MUST be able to communicate their ideas in order to have an impact on an organisation
    • To do this, they need to be able to speak the language of their audience (which could be directors, marketers, developers, etc)
    • Ideas are communicated more effectively through the use of stories
  • Work (changes, tests, investigations) needs to be prioritised based on business impact and I need to beg, borrow (but hopefully not steal) the templates/criteria for this from various people I met at XChange
  • The development and implementation of templates and processes within an organisation is vital for that company to accept a data informed culture
  • The previous behaviour (past and current visits) of website visitors should be used to inform and guide tests, surveys and website content
    • I intend to spend more time focusing on this in the future
  • The difference between reporting and analysis cannot be emphasised strongly enough
    • Both add value but they serve different purposes
    • Combining the two or mistaking one for the other leads to trouble
  • The definition of what constitutes a KPI appears fairly fluid amongst attendees
    • My current belief is that it is any metric where a change automatically triggers action
  • One interesting discussion was around the need for analysts to spend time justifying other work performed (calculating ROI on changes made, attributing sales to different marketing channels, etc), taking time away from working to improving business performance
  • A WebDigital Analytics Maturity Model will become increasing useful for me as the framework for identifying and communicating required changes within an organisation to take full advantage of the intelligence available data informed decision making
  • Another interesting discussion was the impact of the natural curiosity of good analysts on the companies they choose to work for
    • Does it lead them naturally to work for consultancies with a wider variety of projects than directly for organisations?
  • The EU cookie laws are actually online privacy and data protection laws
    • The discussion changes when you frame it in those terms
    • We can start thinking about using similar principles to the data privacy used for other company data (customer databases, sales data, etc)

Optimising Performance in Large vs Small Organisations

Most end users who attended XChange were from large to very large organisations and we all really appreciated the insights they provided.  But many of my clients are smaller companies.  So I tried to learn as much as possible about how to apply the ideas from the larger companies to my clients.  What I learnt was…


  • Limited resources
  • Need to obtain management buy-in to programs
  • Difficulties with managing optimisation processes
  • Numerous competing priorities


  • Large companies have a requirement to calculate and prove ROI
  • Small companies are less likely to have dedicated resources or specific skill sets
  • Lead times are generally shorter for smaller companies with simpler sign-off processes
  • Large companies have more potential resources to throw at a program

So smaller companies have the ability to get things done faster but they struggle with the skills/knowledge/experience of how to do these “things”.  But most issues are common to all organisations.  Everyone working to optimise performance needs

  • more resources
  • better ways of streamlining processes
  • some understanding/appreciation from management of how they are going to change the world

Feedback on XChange

So my feedback to Semphonic on XChange (oops, I still need to complete the official survey).

Many huddles felt too large but that might be because I felt the size hindered the participation of all attendees.  Smaller groups would force everyone to contribute and I wanted to hear from more people.

I was fine with large numbers of consultants (as one myself) and vendors attending but only if they participate in discussions – everyone has experiences they can share and people can tell the difference between a sales pitch and a practical example.  At the same time, I do wish there was a much higher proportion of end users there.

I would also like more people to disagree with comments made, I find it forces people to really examine their own views, make their arguments stronger, if they need to defend them.  And in the process, we all learn more.  But I understand this can cause issues as well.

Final Points

My biggest regret was not pushing myself to approach Gary Angel and take the opportunity to pick his brains.  I find his blog posts provoke me to think and provide me with new ideas, speaking to him in person could only be more useful.  Must stop being so shy next time…

I could give more feedback but for every suggestion I make, I also want to make the counter suggestion – London/not London, more consultants/less consultants, more structure/less structure, disagree/be nice, etc.  It is fine balancing act to get the event to work and I think Semphonic, Matthias, Michael and anyone else involved did a great job.

Finally, my apologies to the non native English speakers for the speed at which I sometimes talk and my accent.  I enjoyed your perspectives during huddles and the rest of the event.

Oh, and look out for announcements soon of web analytics conferences to be held in London in September…

Experiences from Adobe Omniture Summit EMEA 2011

A friend was kind enough to lend me an unused pass to the second day of the Adobe Omniture Summit enabling me to mix with over a thousand online people interested in knowing more about the Omniture suite of products.  Unfortunately I had missed the previous night’s festivities which were apparently pretty special but it was nice to be able to focus on the presentations.

Thoughts on the Sessions

The session I was most interested in was a panel discussion from some top experts on using SiteCatalyst.  It lived up to expectations and I have detailed out the ideas they discussed for taking your SiteCatalyst knowledge to the next level in a separate post.  Unfortunately the second most interesting session on privacy and the new European cookie regulations was on at the same time, a complaint echoed by others.

The first keynote session had presentations of varying usefulness.  I liked the Confessions of a Digital Marketer with key take aways of the message still matters (even if it is now via Facebook/Twitter) and that econometric modelling is key for optimising campaign spend (unsaid point being campaign attribution doesn’t optimise spend).  I loved the presentation on How to be Bold in Business by Shaun Smith (stand up for something apart from profit, stand out and stand firm by your business model) and look forward to reading the free book.

The sessions in between were decent.  I admit I walked out of one as not relevant to me but that did enable me to get a couple of key tips on tracking social media platforms with web analytics from another session (use iFrames on the social media site but not on your own site).  Scott Roth of Exact Target did a good job presenting ideas on using data to improve performance without it being a total sales pitch – it is acceptable to use screenshots of your own tool to demonstrate what you are talking about as long as the ideas are applicable elsewhere.

The second keynote was an entertaining performance by Brett Error.  I stick to my claim that he reminds me of the Master from Doctor Who, compare that clip against his performance on the streets on London.  And I was impressed by Adobe/Omniture taking live customer feedback on how to improve their product, hopefully it will all be taken on board.  Unfortunately my vision for SiteCatalyst Marketing Channels would have taken too long to describe.

Constructive Feedback

While overall it was a great day for me and a great event, I do have some constructive feedback to provide.

Given it is the European Adobe Omniture Summit, I thought that Omniture would be able to provide a higher proportion of Europeans presenters.  I know it is an American company but it seemed weird that they were flying out consultants to present on topics like Landing Page Optimisation when they must have very competent people in these sorts of fields based on this side of the world.

There were about ten feature requests made to Brett in that last session and all but one related to SiteCatalyst.  Yet only a low proportion of presentations were on improving your usage of the core SiteCatalyst product.  Most appeared to be sales pitch sessions on related tools whether from the Omniture suite or 3rd party tools.  I know you have to have a balance in this sort of conference but more sessions on advanced ways to use SiteCatalyst would have been great – e.g. options for reporting on campaigns with a detailed examination of a best practice configuration of Marketing Channels including the use of SAINT classifications and custom reports.

Following on from that (and knowing it would be a nightmare for various reasons), I would have loved some sessions with a BarCamp unconference approach so SiteCatalyst users could trade ideas back and forth.  A couple of my favourite experiences at the summit were doing just this sort of knowledge share and it would be great to have this encouraged.  At the end of the day you have people getting more value from SiteCatalyst and therefore using it more – even purchasing some of the additional features they now understand how to use.

Given the success of the Ask Brett session, I wonder if it would be possible to run a Feature Request throughout the entire conference.  Possibly using the apps (without requiring the user to grant access to Twitter) or touch screens scattered within the venue, people could enter ideas during the conference (pre-prepared or inspired by a session) and vote on them in real time.  Via some algorithm (to account for time available for voting) the most valuable ideas would float to the top as basically a live Ideas Exchange.


It was a great event and something I would have happily paid for if they hadn’t sold out of tickets.  While reading about the Adobe Omniture Summit, I recommend also checking out:

I will be back next year and putting my hand up now to present a session, topic tbc…

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