How important a role will data play for the rest of the year?
"I think data is becoming a much more important focus for businesses. The first thing driving that is it's getting more expensive to acquire customers. Every time you get a customer to your website you've got to figure out how you can get this to turn into not just a one-time customer, but a lifelong customer How can you keep this person dedicated to your brand and coming back and not only buying, but buying from me?
"Data helps you understand more about your customer. So data equals a better understanding of what you're business is doing with your customers. We're moving beyond page views, conversion rates and visits as being the metrics that you run a business by to actually understanding the behaviour of your user. What content do they look at before they buy? How many times do they visit before they purchase? What are the things that they need in order to buy? That's what data is driving."
Can you have too much data?
GC: "That is actually the problem. The CEO of HP, Mark Hurd, 1999 said, "In the next four years we will create more data than ever before in the history of mankind." So we're creating more data than ever before. I think it's something around an 800% increase in data over the next five years. A huge amount. Everything you're looking at today, expect that to get eight times bigger over the next five years. About 75% of that's going to be unstructured.
"So what you've got is more and more data and it's going to get harder and harder to get through and get meaning out of it. So that does pose a problem. You can either have tonnes and tonnes of rock star PhD analysts to figure it out or you can look to technology. Using statistical techniques or artificial intelligence techniques to actually find patterns in the data. That's what we do at QuBit. We build these models and systems to look for patterns in the data and actually find meaning out of what your users are doing on your website."
What tips do you have for a small publisher who doesn't have time to study data?
GC: "I guess the things to look at are what are your primary KPIs? What are the things that you should definitely be focusing on? First of all every KPI for 2012 going forward should be who's my user? Who is actually coming to my website? Who can I take and eventually convert into a customer of some sort? So understanding and thinking in a user-centric model. So instead of thinking purely from a web KPIs like page views, think about user KPIs like how many times does this person come back, consume content before going across to a partner site or actually making a conversion. So focus on the user. That would be my number one tip.
"Number two would be if you're not using web analytics, to look at your web analytics in more detail. Number three would be to learn about, again back to the user, ways of how you can actually think about what your users want. So testing, trying different types of content, seeing which ones the users prefer. As a publisher, thinking about do people react to top tens better than they react to images. Do they react to inspirational pieces? Figure out what users like and then serve more of that content to users. Those are the ways of optimising the experiences."
What would be your two top tips to publishers for quick wins with their website?
GC: "Focus on what are your most important metrics in the publishing business is your returning visitors. If you're a publisher, you want to make sure you're getting return business to that site. You want your content to be great; you want people to come back. So understand how many of your visitors are returning visitors and what the frequency of their return is. Is it once a lifetime? How many times do they come back before they stop coming back altogether? That's a really important metric. If you can double the rate in which people come back by, for instance incentivising them to come back, you will have a significant change in your business models. So certainly, return rates and focusing on return rates is key. You need the right data to measure that.
"My other top tip is around understanding what your users think about the site. So collecting feedback from users, actually asking: "what can we improve on our website? How can we create a better experience for you in getting that feedback loop going?" So you can figure out what's working and what isn't working in real time."
How far should advertisers, publishers and networks go when sharing data?
GC: "First of all it's very important to think about the laws coming into place. Some laws were passed last year in May around cookies, around the user, around transparency to user data. So I think that the first step for when the law changes in May is it's critical to ensure that you're informing your users that there's data being collected on them using things like cookies.
"So my top advice would be to make sure you're being compliant. Make sure you're informing users, you've got consent in order to be on the right side of the law. Then as part of that strategy if you've got consent from users to share data in order to create a better experience or give the user deals then data sharing can be a positive thing as long the user is informed and they've given consent. That's what we're going to see a lot more of over the next couple of years is users understanding that their data is being used. They're going to actually have to make the decision of yes I'm willing to be targeted by advertising, yes I'm willing to get deals specific to me. I'm willing for these things to happen because I like the benefits of what I get from businesses when I share my data. That's going to be a really big thing."