Dubizzle is the most popular classifieds site in UAE, (source: Effective Measure). It offers users the opportunity to buy, sell and find things within their community. It was launched in 2005 by co-founders J.C. Butler and Sim Whatley. Dubizzle also operates in 13 other countries across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and during the past year the number of employees and the office space have tripled.
How did you become a web analyst?
I hold a BSc degree in Economics and Management from Otto-von-Guericke University, Magdeburg, Germany and an MSc degree in Business Studies from the University of Amsterdam. All courses in my BSc program were strongly focused on analytical and problem solving skills as well as the ability to see business from a broader perspective. Later, my MSc studies introduced me to the idea of new technologies in the ever evolving and connecting world where information is seen as a commodity. This combination of exact and analytical thinking and fascination of the online world pushed me into web analytics.
Before joining Dubizzle, I had 2 years’ experience in web analytics. I was working as a consultant at Contentmetrics, one of the leading Web Analytics agencies in Germany. There I got intense theoretical and practical web analytics training. I was working in a small team. Our work was based on a rotation principle, i.e. every 3 – 4 months our tasks changed. Thus, I went through reporting, customer support, campaign tracking, implementation consulting, deep-dive analysis, NPS surveys, social media tracking & analysis etc.
My main client was a multinational company with huge online presence, focusing on both B2B and B2C businesses. Every single project had a different scope, duration, goals, stakeholders etc. The work there widened my understanding of the role of web analytics in an organization and endowed me with first-hand experience in very different areas.
At Contentmetrics, I was exposed to all different types of analytics tools. In 2010, as part of my professional qualification, I became a REQB Certified Professional for Requirements Engineering and in 2011 I obtained a certificate in Omniture SiteCatalyst 5, Advanced Features & Tools.
In a few words, how would you define your company’s digital strategy?
In April’13 traffic to the UAE site reached over 8 million visits and 2 million unique visitors, and in MENA – over 7 million visits and 3 million unique visitors (70% of which goes to Egypt), source: AT Internet.
We generate revenue through display advertising, premium listings, featured listings and other products. Once we gain a leadership position in a particular market, monetisation follows. Therefore, the online strategy will differ according to the phase of the respective market we find ourselves in. Of course, this has a great effect on the web analytics strategy and implementation.
How is your company’s web analytics activity organised?
I am a Web and Financial analyst. I am based in the finance department and I report to the CFO. This ensures uniform measurement and prevents biased (target-oriented) reporting. The company has a few different areas in which web analytics is required (i.e. marketing, business development, web design, sales). They all have very different needs in terms of KPIs, reporting, accessibility etc. In some teams there are dedicated web analysts (e.g. Marketing, soon in Product). I am responsible for all of the implementation and defining metrics, and high level reporting. The marketing analyst is more focused on campaign analysis. He relies on me for implementation purposes.
It is important that main set up and all definitions are aligned and controlled centrally. Our business is purely online so we need to synchronise online data with financial data, integration is crucial.
What are your current tasks and challenges?
I work with all departments and business divisions. So far my role is rather strategic than operational. My main responsibility is to ensure that we have a proper tracking and reporting system across all our sites. Hence, for the past 7 months my main project has been setting up and deploying a new analytics solution – AT Internet. It involves constant coordination with the provider, tech teams, business owners, marketing etc. It entails a great amount of testing and serious decision making.
At the moment, Phase I (implementation) is almost done. I have just started working on Phase II (deployment). The goal is to provide all parties with easy access to the data they need. It is important to set up proper reporting, e.g. tailored dashboards for different teams, easy data extracts, regular central reports etc.
Phase III will be linking the web analytics data with other data sources and developing deep-dive analyses which could help to improve certain areas of the business.
Can you give us a description of your typical working day?
I start the day with a brief check of the key stats for the main markets. After that, I go through my list of various tasks and requests and I prioritize them.
At this stage, I am still mainly absorbed by implementation issues, finding and fixing bugs in the tracking, checking and testing the AT Internet data, training people on how to use the interface etc. This involves many emails / meetings with the developers and business owners. It takes around 50% of my time. The other 50% I distribute among daily requests (e.g. tracking and analyzing the performance of new features on the site, questions regarding the interface, data inquiries etc), weekly and monthly reporting and smaller scale analyses.
What do you think the future holds for web analysts?
Being a fairly new discipline, web analytics has evolved a lot in the past 5 – 7 years. In the past it was mainly about web data put in a silo. The rapid development of ecommerce and the ever-growing competition, lead to a rising need for better integration of various online and offline sources.
The focus of WA shifted from simple data tracking and reporting towards more sophisticated business analyses. The new web analytics question is not “What data do we need?” but rather, “What is the problem and how do we solve it?” or “What could we do better and how?”
Web analytics is not just looking at numbers and optimizing KPIs. It is rather a core understanding of the business. In the very near future, WA will be more business consulting overlooking the needs of all different business areas rather than a discipline strictly focused on website data.
What has been your biggest success as a Web analyst?
In my previous job, as a consultant, I worked on many projects, some of which proved really successful. However, as my biggest achievement I see the AT Internet project – we started from scratch and in 6 months we had a very powerful, fully functioning and highly customized web analytics tool.
I gave my recommendation at the beginning to use a market vendor and not create our own. It was difficult to coordinate because the processes are different on the different zones and at one stage we really thought about having different tools. At that time people were used to manipulating the data but were not used to basing their decisions on it because they didn’t have the right and consistent data set to do so. So we agreed to go for a unique tool.
What do you like most in your position?
I like that it is strategic. We are at the centre of the data and the decision making process. I also appreciate working with many different teams, it takes time to find a common language which is crucial to understanding what they need exactly and focus on their business requirements. It is also a very stimulating job because you get new challenges every day, a guarantee to never get bored!
Do you have an anecdote or a particular use for the AT solution?
AT Internet helped us to discover problems in our old way of tracking data. We used to rely on the Google Analytics statistics and we had no way to check if the numbers we were getting were correct. Once the AT Internet solution was fully deployed, we found many discrepancies with our GA data. One memorable moment was when we found out that one of our main KPIs – the number of new listings, was highly understated in GA. When we first saw the difference, we decided that there was a problem in the AT Internet tracking. However, after extensive testing, we realised that actually the GA numbers were flawed. Due to the high volumes, GA did not process the analysis properly and attributed a huge amount of data to a different category. Later, we had a few similar situations with event tracking and mobile tracking.
Which pitfalls have you encountered throughout your career as a web analyst?
In my previous job as a consultant I faced many problems with acceptance and usability of WA. I would group them into five main categories:
- Lack of internal web analytics culture – tracking and reporting is in place, deep dive analyses are provided, but the stakeholders are not used to basing their decisions on data.
- Ever changing strategy – everything can change overnight. It is not possible to collect consistent historical data and to rely on trends.
- Lack of budget / willingness to invest in proper tools or in dedicated resources.
- Problems related to the unwillingness of the stakeholders to use the tool – typical arguments were that it is not user-friendly, that they already have another tool in place, that they don’t trust the numbers, that it is difficult to implement the tracking codes etc.
Other problems were related to miscommunication between the different parties. For instance:
- marketing versus tech teams – they couldn’t always agree on the needs to be tracked and what’s being tracked;
- upper-level management versus operational levels – the former would argue that the managers should extract their own data and analyse it, while the latter claimed that they don’t have enough resources for this, so they would rather outsource this to an agency.
At Dubizzle, management delegates and trusts us enough to let us communicate and make mistakes.
With hindsight, what piece of advice would you give to anyone starting out as a web analyst?
- Understand the business you are in, understand the company and your department and think about the business needs and goals. WA is not about number crunching, but problem solving.
- Learn how to prioritise. Not everything which can be tracked should be tracked. Throwing data at stakeholders would be useless without proper interpretation and communication.
- Understand different parties you are working with and learn their language (marketing, tech, finance etc). Communicate the data/findings in a customised fashion for each team. One size does not fit all.
- Be up-to-date with the latest developments / trends in your area. Read blogs / forums, talk to other specialists. There is always something to learn.
A big thank-you Valentina for sharing your challenges, accomplishments and vision as a Web and Financial Analyst. It’s fantastic to see the analysts’ position take a more and more strategic business role within companies such as Dubizzle and we, at AT Internet feel, privileged to be part of that culture.