In recent years, companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on web analytics software, support, and personnel. But surprisingly, only a small percentage of those investments have translated into positive returns.

It's not that companies aren't compiling web data. In fact, they're gathering and storing vast quantities of it at record speed. But somewhere between data extraction and actionable insights, something gets lost. Perhaps the company isn't collecting the right data, or they may lack analysts with the skills needed to turn the data into actionable insights, or they may not be sharing those insights with the right people. Even if the company is doing all those things, there is no guarantee they are tying their analytics efforts to business goals in a meaningful way.

"Behavioral analytics and personalized messaging empower brands to turn normal users to highly-engaged power users," said Doug Roberge, Product Marketing for Kahuna. "Behavioral analytics are key to this because it enables brands to sense the 'digital body language' of users who may drop off, and then intervene with relevant messages."

Leverage Unstructured Data for Business Intelligence

Gaining insight into consumer behaviors is one of the main reasons organizations analyze data. Exploring consumer behavior may involve simple dashboards, building holistic customer profiles, segmenting customer bases, and cohort analysis, which consists of organizing observations into two or more groups that are mutually exclusive based on a combination of variables.

It is only possible to gather these insights if you look beyond traditional metrics like pageviews, and begin analyzing the unstructured data, such as social media or internal text data. This information is gold in exploring customer sentiment as it relates to your brand.

"There is more data than ever sitting out there, it contains invaluable information, yet most online businesses only analyze website and mobile application traffic, page clicks and user purchases. There is a massive world beyond that," says Dan Schoenbaum, CEO of Cooladata, a business intelligence and behavioral analytics platform. "Companies conduct email campaigns, advertise online in Facebook, LinkedIn, and some still engage with customers the old fashion way, by meeting face-to-face. All of this information and data is useful and should be analyzed to understand people's behavior, what makes them 'tick,' how they are influenced and what makes them ultimately become a customer, and remain one. It is a new level of intelligence the industry has never before experienced."

Identify the Actual Problem You're Trying to Solve

One huge pain point for business intelligence is actually identifying specific problems they are seeking to solve with their data. Analyzing generic data doesn't magically produce answers to unidentified problems. Identifying specific issues allows for specific problem solving and the ability to design a program from the outset to ensure actionable information is the end result.

Michael Rutledge a Product Manager at American Express describes the data predicament well. "So the challenge becomes, with all this data how can we use it all effectively? I've seen companies that run in circles over and over again because they can't get clarity and agreement on what metrics matter. It can become a sickness when there are too many metrics flying around and some are going up, others going down, and actions are paralyzed because there's too much discussion about whether some test has illustrated an improvement or not. This is sometimes called analysis paralysis."

Strive for Actionable Insights that Drive Engagement

Behavioral analytics are a key data input to create engaging marketing campaigns. However, most brands fail to focus on the right kind of analytics. High-level aggregate stats can tell you where the problems are, but more than likely, these stats do not offer a deeper understanding of why a consumer acted in one way or their behaviors that led them on their journey to conversion. This is because this data can be too granular to export across multiple platforms.

Fern Halper, Ph.D., is Vice President and Senior Director of TDWI Research for advanced analytics, explains, "If you've segmented your customer base, you can target customers and engage them because you have a better sense of what they might be interested in. For instance, an organization wants to make customers the right offer when it launches a product campaign across various channels (online, email, mobile, in-store, etc.). By analyzing historical purchases and profiles, companies can predict the likelihood, or propensity, of future activity at a customer level. This data can be used when developing the new campaign."

Of course, for many business owners and entrepreneurs who are trying to scrape together a startup business on a budget, the prudence of hiring a data expert to leverage these tools is questionable. That is why behavioral analytics are becoming consumer-friendly, accessible to the common man.

"Access to data was once limited to technical users who knew how to write complex queries to find information, but this is rapidly changing and you will be able to ask questions in plain English to get the information you want, and in some cases, using your voice, not even by typing," says Schoenbaum. "This opens up so many possibilities for so many people and industries - exciting!"

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