Merwan Benarbane describes the path that has led him to his current position as Web Analytics Project Manager at Bouygues Telecom and shares his challenges, successes, advice and vision of the future with us.
How did you become a web analyst?
I graduated from the Clermont Ferrand Business School, specialising in online marketing/BI. I discovered the world of web analytics in 2007, during my apprenticeship at Hewlett Packard. At the time I was “Online Marketing Junior” working with Thierry Pires, Webmaster, and Jacques Exertier, Online Marketing Manager. Both of them gave me the opportunity to spend entire days analysing campaign statistics to analyse the ROI of SEM and Display campaigns. I liked to understand how the data was saved technically, how it was retrieved, and also understand the differences between the different measurement tools (in particular site centric versus adserver).
After that, I worked for three years at “Eulerian”, a web analytics editor, where I had three different roles: support, consulting and training. Today, I am Web Analytics Project Manager at Bouygues Telecom, where I am responsible for measuring all of the Bouygues Telecom and B&YOU sites.
In a few words, how would you define your company’s digital strategy?
Bouygues Telecom has a strong will to progress and innovate on all levels in the digital field (web analytics, SMO, SEO, standardisation of AB testing and Ad centric etc.). We also talk about the digitisation of points of sale, the implicit recognition of our customers on prospect sites, measuring set up boxes etc. There is a real sense of awareness amongst the Digital Department at Bouygues Telecom and B&YOU.
Today, with the AT Internet solution, we measure 150 sites, mobile applications, Intranets and Extranets.
How is your company’s web analytics activity organised?
The web analytics team works with all of the different services of Bouygues Telecom. We are a team of 3 people which is part of the Digital Department. This Department manages the general public and professional store sites, the customer zone, the hub, animation and game sites on B&YOU etc. All of the Intranets are also measured with the AT Internet solution which allows us to work with other departments such as HR and Sales to work on their respective Intranets. Today, there are between 300 and 350 regular users of the AT Internet solution at Bouygues Telecom.
Whenever a new project is started, we work first of all with the marketing department to help them choose their KPIs. We then deliver a tagging plan which they have to integrate. Once this has been implemented, we double check with the contractor that the tags have been placed in the right place. We are not responsible for the “Reports” and the “Data analysis” parts. The “Performance” team is in charge of these two parts. We occasionally generate automated Dashboards via Data Query* but only very occasionally (for example, implementing a performance dashboard which is specific to B&YOU).
What are your current tasks and challenges?
Our challenge is to evangelise internal teams on the subject of web analytics and to improve the skills and knowledge of each member of the Digital Department. To be able to do this we rely on both technical and web marketing training sessions. Some of the training sessions are given by the AT Internet teams, whilst others are given directly by our internal team for more specific needs.
As part of a large-scale web project, the measurement part is still not automatically taken into consideration even though it is essential. How can we optimise projects if it is not possible to measure performance? Back in the day we had to fight against any bias and convince project managers of the usefulness of web analytics tools. For 2 years now we have been benefiting from our management’s strong desire that no project at Bouygues Telecom will be released if it has not been measured. If our team doesn’t validate tagging it means that publishing it online is a “NO GO”. Our superiors also give us lots of support and make us understand that measuring is essential. We are then able to position ourselves as a support, in other words a source of help which makes contact with the different teams much easier.
We also have the strong advantage of having an AT Internet consultant working on-site with us. It would be impossible for us to work without having the consultant working in our offices. First of all, there are not enough of us and even if our team was able to do the job, a tagging plan is still much better, and quicker prepared, having an on-site AT Internet consultant, rather than one of us, do it. The “advantage” of having the on-site consultant is two-fold in terms of both “implementation” and “understanding data”. The on-site consultant brings efficiency to the tool, allowing us to ensure that the measurement is stable. For an e-commerce site, it is essential to have a reliable measurement especially in a crisis situation where we are continually striving for optimisation, and improving performance. Our on-site consultant, Christelle, knows the solution perfectly well, understands where the data is coming from, and how it is processed. She is a great resource for us to help us monitor how our solution is used.
Can you give us a (brief) description of your typical working day?
My days are rarely the same from one day to the next, and this is what I find exciting and challenging. In simple terms, the time is divided between monitoring large internal web analytics projects, ad hoc studies, monitoring debugging, implementations and the reporting of our activities. This means that I might spend one day working only on web marketing to help a team or online store manager validate their dashboard. I check to see if the data has been measured correctly, that the tags are present and that the data is available: I can also spend an entire day working on debugging, for example, trying to find out why a tag doesn’t work, why a specific A/B testing wave does not have its own measurement etc.
No two days are the same. This can also be explained by how the different tags are implemented for retargeting, mail targeting, affiliation, virtual agent tools, online surveys, etc., in addition to the web analytics tags. We use the Tag Commander Tag Management System (TMS) for this.
What do you think the future holds for web analysts?
We are part of a market which is still young and dynamic. Web analytics tools will have to follow both the market as well as customer expectations. As far as I am concerned I expect a lot from the server side full measurement to improve the performances of the web page loads. We have already carried out tests on the B & You servers, but there still remains a lot to be done and gaps to be filled in relation to the site centric tools which have been implemented server-side. For example, it is not possible to measure clicks, which as a whole makes it insufficient and less accurate for the moment.
I also imagine more bridges between the web analytics tool and the other tools that we use such as the TMS, AB testing etc. This means that the connections between the different tools in place will make our job easier. There will also be more links with BI. We have had two Big Data projects based on web data. We managed to successfully complete the projects but they were very complicated to implement. Without our on-site consultant, Christelle, we wouldn’t have been able to do it. You really need to be able to understand the raw data to then be able to analyse it, whilst at the same time ensuring that the data remains a unit.
We also expect more user-friendly and intuitive interfaces, but actually you have already got off to a head start with your latest new features: Data Query for creating and automating dashboards, and Data Manager for debugging without touching the source code. We can easily say that with these interfaces “the future is now”.
What has been your greatest success as a Web analyst?
As far as the ad centric part is concerned, I would say the implementation of a completely automated deduplication (real time attribution). It was a complicated technical and marketing project for Brand Alley which I was responsible for when working as Project Manager at Eulerian. As far as the AT Internet exploitation is concerned, technically we were successful in measuring orders server-side.
In human terms, I am very satisfied to have been able to make people more autonomous when it comes to defining their needs (defining KPIs and using the interface), and implementation (debugging).
Do you use the AT Internet solution for any particular reason(s)?
The AT Internet interface surprised me mainly by the quality of the site centric data, in particular the funnel and paths. At Bouygues Telecom, we analyse about 150 funnels. This is something which can be implemented and maintained thanks to the solution, and which provides an in-depth analysis on a page by page basis. Furthermore, thanks to Data Manager, we were successful in removing tags that were polluting our data. For example, in our “General Public Customer Zone” there were the rests of tags which were difficult to find because on some pages we have several iframes managed by completely different teams J… Rather than try and find the history of how the tags were used, we preferred to delete the tags from the reports thanks to Data Manager. That’s what we call a “story swept under the carpet”. The polluting tags are still online, but they are no longer processed in the statistics.
Which pitfalls have you encountered throughout your career as a web analyst?
Our activity is considered as being important, yet complicated as it is often too technical. What I tend to say is that we have never done any developing in our team. We are quite simply technophiles or a little bit curious. Problems are resolved with common sense and sometimes a little experience helps.
With hindsight, what piece(s) of advice would you give to anyone starting out as a web analyst?
It’s difficult to give advice as I still have a lot to learn about the job! I would say do not hesitate to read lots of blogs and contact the many different bloggers in the sector. The sector that we work in is still young, quite collaborative and not too serious (yet). You have to make the most of the experience that the most mature profiles have in order to learn (e.g. members of the DAA, Nicolas Malo, Julien Coquet, etc.), and take advantage of the fact that they are accessible. However, nothing replaces professional experience.
For a young person starting out, it is interesting to work on both the technical and marketing aspects. This will allow them to decide which path to follow in their career. What is essential, in my opinion, is to understand that web marketing is essentially technical. You need to understand what we measure, how the measurement is made, how a website or browser works to understand, for example, anomalies in statistics.
What do you like the most about your job?
We combine technical/web marketing and business all at the same time. The data can be extrapolated in different ways and we are not confined to just a marketing aspect or one specific technical aspect. I have had the opportunity to take part in different types of committee, for example, to identify anomalies on sites, in other words somewhat technical committees. I have taken part in purely marketing and business performance committees, where figures and the cost of goods sold etc., are analysed. We also have access to all of the statistics for all of the sites, meaning that we are at the centre of the activity. With Tag Management we are in contact with numerous editors and with the internal staff that chose them. We have to understand what the marketing need is, and think on what pages the tags will be placed. We cannot be compared to simple builders who just place the tags on sites, we also take part in the marketing strategy, re-contextualising each need.
A big thank you to Merwan for having shared his rich and eye-opening thoughts with us. AT Internet would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your humour which shines through at each challenge. It’s not mentioned here but it makes it very pleasant to work together.