What is marketing analytics?

Marketing teams now juggle an average of 91 marketing tools to monitor their sea of thousands or even millions of prospects and users who surf many channels and devices. Marketing also spends as much on software as the IT department. Using so many tools with separate data sources creates a high potential for data loss and error. More than ever, marketers need a way to unify it all.

Marketing analytics is the practice of collecting and measuring marketing data to improve the performance of a website or app. Today, this is only possible or practical with the help of tools. Marketing analytics tools, like Mixpanel, track the behaviors of individuals within the product so teams can monitor channel activity, tie activities back to revenue, gather insights, and test new ideas. But with so many vendors and choices, which systems do marketers actually need?

In the spirit of consolidation, here are five types of marketing analytics tools teams need, plus how to tie them all together.

1. Event-based tools

Also known as click analysis, event-based tools track the actions of individual users within a website, app, or platform.

An event is anything that matters to the company. An e-commerce site that relies on purchases, for instance, might care deeply about conversion events such as visitors adding items to their shopping carts. A news app that relies on advertising revenue, on the other hand, might focus more on view time and clicks.

The best event-based tools are those that have broad-ranging capabilities. The more events, devices, and channels one tool can track, and the more integrations it offers, the easier it is for teams to unify their data. Some tools, like Mixpanel, have many functions beyond tracking events and can serve as an anchor platform for bringing other data sources together.

These four tools will help you collect marketing analytics data:

  • Website analytics tools such as Mixpanel
  • App analytics platforms such as Mixpanel
  • Marketing automation such as Marketo, Hubspot, Pardot, and Eloqua
  • Data platforms such as mParticle, and Segment

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2. Testing tools

Testing tools, sometimes simply referred to as A/B testing, allow teams to test multiple variants of a feature or message. For example, a news publication can A/B test whether a sign-up form earns higher conversions when it’s on the right side of the page as opposed to the left. Based on the results, the team can learn what users like.

Testing is a critical component of product development because teams that don’t take the time to disprove assumptions and collect real data are flying blind. They may have hunches, but until their ideas are verified as true or false, it’s difficult to know if feature changes actually improve the product.

Some testing tools allow teams to A/B test messages to their users. Teams can send one-off emails and in-app notifications or schedule them as part of a user journey. A mobile gaming app, for example, could test which marketing message convinces more users to make in-app purchases, or whether emails or push notifications are more effective at resurrecting churned users.

A/B testing tools are available as either standalone tools, such as Optimizely or VWO, or with an all-in-one analytics platform, like Mixpanel.

The five most common messaging channels for A/B testing tools are:

  • Email
  • In-app notifications
  • Push notifications
  • SMS
  • Web-hook

Visual behavior tools

Visual behavior tools reveal where users spend time looking at the screen. They’re often compared to looking over users’ shoulders to see which content draws the most attention.

For practical reasons, the data is collected using viewers’ cursor movement (or taps and swipes on mobile) as a proxy. Some of the most common visual analytics tools—HotJar, CrazyEgg, and Sumo—present the data as a heat map that highlights the most heavily trafficked or clicked areas. Teams can see how far down users scrolled on the page, and some tools allow teams to segment the data.

Teams can use visual behavior data to rearrange their product’s interface and improve the service. An e-commerce retailer, for example, might discover that customers often fail to notice its sizing chart and, as a result, make lots of returns. A heat map could show the team where to place the chart to make it more visible and then verify that the change reduced the rate of returns.

Digital marketing analytics

Digital marketing analytics tools collect data from marketing and advertising channels. They fall into five categories:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO) tools help teams understand how likely their site and content are to show up in online search results. SEMRush, KissMetrics, and Moz Pro, as a few examples, suggest new keywords, provide recommendations for improving search rankings, and let marketers compare their site to those of competitors.
  • Social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn each offer their own free analytics, which show teams how visitors interact with their profiles and posts. Some social platforms offer paid versions with expanded reporting features.
  • Search engine marketing (SEM) tools such as Google AdWords and Bing Ads provide analytics for search engine ads. Marketers can view ad results, track their spend, A/B test variants, research keywords, and learn to improve their ad performance.
  • Display ad platforms such as Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, Bings Ads, Taboola, and Outbrain provide analytics for display ads to help marketers improve their success rates.
  • Predictive-scoring model platforms including TechTarget, EverString, Bombora, Lattice Engines, and Infer provide algorithms for marketers to score users or prospects based on likelihood to buy or renew.

Every platform has its own benefits as well as its own limitations, the most common of which is that most don’t integrate with one another. Marketers who run ads on Adwords and Outbrain, for example, find that they must use each platform’s analytics separately despite a nearly complete overlap in functionality.

How to integrate marketing analytics tools across platforms

Modern marketers are on a never-ending journey to unify their data. If they successfully gather their data in one place, they get a more accurate view of what’s happening inside the product and across the web and advertising systems. If they don’t, they can run into trouble.

If a team that hasn’t integrated its CRM, marketing system, and SEO tools decides to pull the same report from each, they’ll have three very different views of their audience. Each report will suggest different attributes and it will be impossible to know which to trust.

Unified data makes the information more reliable. Each system may track each event differently. For example, one system might track dates in the European format and the other, U.S. format. One might measure retention by time and another by activities. Teams need a way to resolve these discrepancies so they can rely on their data.

Integrated data also makes for faster reporting. Teams work slower when they must log into multiple systems—each with its own unique interface and terminology—export the data, and try to collate the numbers in an Excel spreadsheet. It’s a problem even the most advanced marketing organizations face.

For each of these issues, an anchor tool can help. An all-in-one marketing analytics platform like Mixpanel, for instance, has a variety of features that cover most of the five must-have analytics tool categories. It offers event tracking across devices, A/B testing, messaging, pre-built integrations, and an API for accessing data throughout marketers’ technology stacks.

Teams who unify their data spend less time trying to massage data into place and more time harvesting knowledge. With all their data in Mixpanel, marketers view user behaviors in one dashboard that’s unified, fast, and provides reliable answers. And in an age where the average number of marketing tools has crept up into the low nineties, a little consolidation goes a long way to building better products.

Marketing dashboard tools

This brings us back to where we began: data unification. It’s a good idea to consolidate analytics vendors wherever possible because otherwise, marketers can get bogged down and duplicate efforts—for example, by exporting similar reports from multiple systems and combining them by hand. To save time, companies often deploy marketing dashboard tools.

Marketing dashboard tools like Mixpanel, Cife, and Klipfolio, as well as a variety of business intelligence (BI) tools, aggregate data from many different marketing tools and display it in one dashboard. This consolidates event, testing, and marketing analytics data into one interface so teams can keep tabs on many systems and quickly manipulate the data to answer questions.

Dashboard tools offer an ease and simplicity that’s difficult to match with ad-hoc or home-grown systems. Without dashboards, teams often rely on Excel spreadsheets, which can’t automatically refresh the data, can’t send scheduled reports, are prone to human error, and may require basic coding knowledge.

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