In this two-part interview, hear an industry expert’s take on the evolution of web analytics, its growing role in Southeast Asian markets, and the future of digital analytics. Fai-Keung Ng, AT Internet’s group country manager for Southeast Asia, shares his thoughts. You can also listen to or download the podcast here.

What is “web” analytics? And what about “digital” analytics?

In a nutshell, web analytics is a measurement of user behaviour on digital properties, which can be your desktop website, mobile website, mobile application, and in the very near future, wearables. “Web analytics” is an outdated term: The online world actually starts from the web, but these days, we often hear “digital analytics” instead, as it includes other channels, like mobile and wearables.

The breadth of what web analytics can do for businesses is great: Web analytics can tell you where the visitors come from, what they do on your digital property,  how they use your content, how long they stay, and what they like about your website or app. You can use all this data to improve your web and application design to attract more users and get them to consume more digital content. You can even leverage this data to get more transactions, and get users to buy more products. The whole big data wave that we’re seeing today, to a large extent, is driven by web and digital activities, because there are just so many things that we can track – and therefore a wealth of rich data to analyse.

What do web analysts do on a day-to-day basis?

When we talk about web analysts, we tend to think an analyst’s scope is linked to data insights, and in the old world, those data insights resided on internal databases, CRM databases, and perhaps market surveys. These days, data basically comes from digital channels: online channels like the web, mobile, and mobile applications. This scope gradually expands to include many other channels from which you can collect data.

Web analysts have a number of tasks they do on a daily basis. One part of a web analyst’s job is understanding the effectiveness of marketing campaigns: When you set up a website, you want to attract people to your site. Other than just spending money to attract people, you want to find out what they’re actually doing on your site. Do they buy products? Do they consume content?

Web analysts also help product teams to improve usability through, for example, A-B testing, multivariate testing: These tests show a percentage of your audience a different type of design. Product teams can then learn which version performs better, in order to launch it to a bigger population.

Web analysts can also help with content optimisation – determining the right content to serve to the right audience, optimise the cross-device experience, and also optimise, for example, the purchase funnel in the e-commerce environment.

Is it better to have an in-house analyst, or outsource for one?

A good analyst is one who can ask the right questions. In order to do that, he or she needs to be very knowledgeable about the business – which an in-house analyst naturally is.

The part that can be outsourced is answering those questions: An in-house analyst who is able to ask the right questions enables an external vendor or consultant to help with the implementation process, and find the right tools to execute and answer those questions. The core part should always be in-house, and the “how” part can be outsourced.

How does analytics help with business challenges?

The challenge that businesses are facing today is the lack of maturity in handling data. More and more people are moving online – businesses are also moving online, following their consumers.

We have seen that as businesses move online, the understanding of the tremendous data provided by their digital properties is still lacking. Someone needs to bridge the gap between the business and the data. That’s why we’re strong advocates of having in-house web analysts who can ensure that you extract value from all your data.

What are some of the common misconceptions about web analytics? How would you address them?

The number one misconception is thinking that buying a tool can solve the problem. In the digital world, we believe that problems can be solved through the combination of the tool and talent in-house, and the talent on the vendor’s side. That’s the formula for success.

The second misconception that we have seen is the assumption that a higher complexity tool is automatically better. That’s not always the case. You always want to find the tool that matches your needs on the feature side and can help generate the highest ROI. The downside of a high complexity tool can be lower usability: If the tool is complicated, it might be very hard to navigate and find the right information. High complexity can also mean longer implementation time, and even higher cost.

So how do businesses know which web analytics solution is best for them?

Always remember: You’re buying a solution, not just a tool. That solution encompasses the tool, your vendor’s experience, and the industry knowledge of the company you’re buying from.

First of all, it’s necessary to have a clear objective in mind to understand the features needed from the tools available. That’s more on the product side.

The next step is to evaluate the experience of the solution provider: understand their references, their industry experience, how long they’ve been helping businesses with a similar nature in generating analytics and insights. Knowing how the tool can generate insights in your environment is more important than the tool itself. Vendor experience can tell you how successful they have been in the past, and how that can be translatable in your business environment.

A proof of concept process will also be quite valuable to ensure the solution provider’s tool will work for you. This will also minimise the risk of making such a large investment at the very beginning. Choose one or two major requirements that you have, and ask the vendor if they can take one or two months to show that their tools can achieve those key requirements. Usually, vendors who are willing to provide a proof of concept are more willing to work with you on a long-term basis because it’s a mutual investment.

Check back for part two of this interview to hear Fai’s thoughts on Southeast Asian market maturity and trends, and where digital analytics tools are headed.

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