5 ways to use context to find hidden insights from your data.

Data is everywhere. We marketers, analysts, and businesses love to collect data as much as we could. As someone visits our website or our Competitor’s website (no we don’t want that!) to buy something we collect data about what products have been viewed? How many times did customers come back before they make the purchase? Where these customers came from? What products have been bought, their color, size, etc?

This also leads to a big problem for us – Finding insights from it. Now we not only have to be more strategic but also clever when dealing with it. And one of our BFF in our data journey is ‘Context’. Without it, we all will be lonely and miserable.

Context helps us to understand what is good, bad, or ugly. When we apply context to our data, everything starts to make sense which wasn’t obvious before. It helps us to focus on things that matter to us.

In this post, I will show 5 ways you can use context to find hidden insights from your data and take your analysis skills to the next level.

1. Comparing trends over different time periods –

Let’s say that you just joined a company in January and don’t have any ideas about your company’s marketing strategies or anything else. And you opened the Google Analytics reports and you see this.

 Here, I am looking at Jan – Dec 2017 data. You can see that after July there is an amazing upward trend to the right, which is a good sign as you are getting more traffic.

And in the second pic, you can see some metrics like new users, sessions, pages/sessions, bounce rate, etc.

Everything is looking nice and good. But the problem is that it doesn’t tell you anything interesting that will make your boss pat on your back.

Now, Pick any comparable time period, this month to previous month or previous month last year or maybe this quarter to the previous quarter. Pick any.

In this case, I am comparing 2017 to 2016.
Now look at the below picture, Did you find something interesting?

If you look at the above picture, almost all the metrics went down except for the average session duration and number of sessions per user. Having a higher bounce rate means bad.

Is someone neck is on line?

Not completely, the increase in average session duration and sessions per user is telling me that we are getting more qualified engaged traffic than before.

Let’s dig a little bit deeper to understand what outcomes were delivered during this time period.

First, go to the Conversions > Ecommerce> overview.

Although we got less traffic than before but google store doubled its revenue from $2 million to $5 million. That’s freaking amazing. The e-commerce conversion rate, transactions, average order value all have gone up.

And if you scroll down a little bit in the same report, you will find these numbers. Although the number of transactions has decreased for both campaigns and order coupon code, the revenue and average order value have actually increased, which means more high-value users and fewer opportunity seekers.

You can see how applying a simple context to your data can beautifully highlights things and bring insights faster for you to act.

Want more awesomeness? Let’s leverage the power of segmentation.

2. Using Advanced Segments –

If you look at the revenue trend for 2017, you can see the same thing as we have seen before, sometimes it’s up and sometimes it’s down. The only interesting thing in this data is revenue has increased to the highest level during Nov and Dec. Nothing much to get from here.

Now let’s apply segmentation to this report. Pick any traffic sources, campaigns, medium, or anything else that important for you and create a segment of it.

In this case, I am just picking few acquisition segments from which this website is getting most of the traffic – Referral, organic, direct, and social.

Now, look at this. Do I need to say anything?

The revenue from referral traffic is doing exceptionally amazing compared to others. It was below direct traffic during Jan to Mar but it starts to keep getting better and better after April till Dec. And at the same time, the revenue from the direct traffic plummeted to a very low level.

So, What happened there?

The customers who came from direct traffic usually are the people who know your brand well and often come to your website when in need.

Then why this traffic is performing so worse?

Didn’t they find what they are looking for? What they are doing once they visit your website? What product pages are they looking for? Lots of questions need to be answered.

On other hand, find out more about these lovely people who are coming from the referral traffic. Find out which websites are sending you these high-value customers? Can we create much better partnership with them to increase more sales and revenue. Don’t wait just go and find out.

3. Industry Benchmark –

Another great way to use context to understand your performance and find insights faster is Industry benchmarking data. This will help you to understand how is your business doing compared to other businesses in your industry. You don’t want to be a frog in a well. You want to explore the ocean and eventually conquer it. Aren’t you?

Benchmarking Report in Google Analytics –

First, go to Audience > Benchmarking > channel

As soon as you launch the Benchmarking report in Google Analytics, It will automatically choose the industry verticle and size of your business and compare it to other websites with the same size as yours in your industry. It will also show you how many websites are contributing to this benchmarking report ( Look at the top right in the first picture).

For some reason, if Google Analytics didn’t do it automatically for you, then just set it yourself. Let’s see how?

To choose the size by daily sessions, first go to Audience > overview.

Then pick a shorter time range, say 1 month and change the metric at the top left from users to sessions( Shown by arrow). Then look at it by day( also shown). You can see that on average this website is getting less than 5000 sessions per day.  That’s the range you will set in the Size by daily sessions drop-down menu.

But before we dive more into benchmarking reports, let’s first understand why this is a good source of data to get some context?

Why is it a Good source of data?

The data in these benchmarking reports come directly from all the websites that are using Google analytics, like yours and mine, and choose to share it anonymously with Google. So, this is one of the purest forms of benchmarking data you can find to measure your performance with other businesses in your industry. Another great thing about it is that even if you have a very small number of sessions on your website, you can still benchmark your performance which is very awesome.

Benchmarking report settings –

1. Industry vertical ( Required) – There are more than 1600 industry verticals and sub-verticals in google analytics so you can be very specific to define the industry your business is in.

2. Geographic location (optional) – If you wish to limit the benchmarking data to a specific country, you can do it from here or maybe you want to measure your performance against any businesses in other countries, you can do it here.

3. Size by daily sessions ( required) –

We already discussed how to set it previously in this post. This setting helps you compare your websites with others in your industry which has similar traffic level.

You can also choose any other metrics that are relevant to you and compare it with other metrics, which will be shown on the trend graph ( Below picture).

How to analyze the bechmarking data in Google Analytics –

So far we learned about all the settings in this report. Now let’s see how to actually use it.

Based on sessions data, this website is performing better than it’s competitors. Also look at the huge spike on 12 &13 Dec, finding more about it will surely help them.

The above report contains 3 metrics each from both Acquisition and Behavior category. And the data is already segmented by traffic sources.

The overall performance of all the metrics in the Acquisition category is better than their competitors. But if you look at the overall performance of metrics in the Behavior section, you will see that all of them are performing worst than their competitors. This is a direct indication that this website is good at driving traffic to the website but ain’t so good at engaging them. This is a very bad sign, you can’t cash in if you can’t engage your customers.

if you want you can remove the row counts from the report, just flip the first button at the top. The second one is for the heatmap.

Out of all sources, referral traffic is doing much better than others. Not only this channel is better at driving traffic to the website but the users are also engaged from this source is also engaged with the website.

Apart from the referral traffic, some sources are good at driving traffic but not so good at engaging traffic and some are bad at both.

This report will help you decide which channels need more improvement or stop spending altogether and on which channels you need to invest heavily.

Isn’t this Amazing? Wait there is more.

Go to the Benchmarking > Location in the left-most panel below the channels report in Benchmarking section.

Awesome benchmarking report this time segmented by country.

Here you can see that the website is outperforming the benchmarks in the United States. It is doing good overall in both acquiring and engaging customers in the united states. It might be that most of the referral traffic is coming from the United States as we saw above that referral traffic is also exhibiting this kind of same behavior and also the revenue and transaction are higher for referral traffic. Segmenting your All Traffic > channel report in the Acquisition section in the left navigation in GA by Country can help you validate this hypothesis and also will help you get additional insights from it.

Apart from the United States, this website is performing below the benchmark in other countries. Same here, good at acquiring traffic but very bad at engaging with them. Let’s move on to the Device Benchmarking report.

The % of new sessions and New users are all outperforming the benchmark in all the 3 device category but the number of sessions is under performing on tablet and mobile devices. All the acquisition metrics for Desktop is outperforming the benchmark. But all behavior metrics for all devices are performing below the benchmark.

One of the best ways to solve this engagement issue with a website or any other is to use qualitative data, which we are going to talk about later in this post.

4. Competitive Intelligence data –

Another way to get some context to your performance is through competitive intelligence data. We already saw some of it in the form of benchmarking data in the previous section. The benchmarking data from Google analytics was very accurate but it gives you less detailed data. On the other hand the data from specialized competitive intelligence tool are little bit less accurate but it gives you more detailed data for comparison. Let’s see how to leverage it.

Amazon and Flipkart are the two biggest e-commerce companies in India. In Dec 2017, Flipkart gained the highest amount of traffic to their website during this 3-month time frame. You are happy that you break the barrier of  250M visits per month and planning for a big party. Then someone came and show you this pic!

Now, did you see the problem if you don’t give context to your data? Amazon is totally crushing Flipkart and not just 1 or 2 million but by more than 700 million visits which are itself even bigger than all the traffic, Flipkart got during this period. So this is not the time for the party, it’s the time for Flipkart to bust their asses. Although Amazon is a very well established brand they started their operation in India much later than Flipkart. This should be Flipkart turf, they should be at the top but sadly they are not. So how the hell all this happened. What did Amazon doing better than Flipkart? There are lots of questions that need to be answered and we got it by just applying a simple context to our data. Isn’t this so amazing?

Learn more here – How to do competitor analysis explained with examples.

5. Qualitative data –

Quantitative data is very good at telling you what happened like- How many customers visited your website? Which products did they purchase? How many customers added products to their cart but didn’t make the purchase? etc. But they are very bad at telling “Why?”. It is very hard to know why someone canceled their order? or Why someone came to your website leave right away? etc. For this, you need qualitative data. Let’s see some examples of it.

Now with this qualitative data, I don’t have to guess anything. I know exactly why they came for. Some came to read, some for optimizing their AdWords campaigns and some even came for their university project, which I never expected. Now, I also know if it was helpful or not, and if not then why?

Here is another example –

It’s not possible to get this kind of information from your web analytics data. When you need to understand the “why” then qualitative data is your best friend. Add some context to your data.

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