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Upgrade your digital analytics - why your brand can't afford 'free'

Author: Tiffany Staples

Why your brand can't afford free digital analytics tools

You've relied on free web analytics for years now. Maybe you think it gets the job done, or maybe you’ve just resigned yourself to an “it is what it is” mentality. But what if there's a better way to understand your customers and optimize your marketing? A premium analytics solution is a complete game changer for your brand – and for your sanity.

It’s high time to ditch the freebie (that’s not so free once you start breaking down the cost implications) and make an upgrade. Investing in the right analytics tool pays for itself many times over – imagine no more patching together data or trying to align reports from different departments. Just true visibility into your customers and their digital interactions with you - and smarter, data-driven decisions across the business.

So…what do free analytics tools really offer?

The truth: limited functionality, delayed and incomplete data, and siloed reporting, not to mention the compliance risks. You get enough information for a superficial view into your digital marketing performance, while a steady stream of guesses and risks associated with making decisions on incorrect data that leads to costly mistakes.

Limited functionality

Let’s take a look at functionality of these free digital analytics tools. Free tools only scratch the surface when it comes to data collection and reporting of your digital data – mostly because they rely on third-party cookies, must process your data by sending it through their servers and spit back only what they want (hint: you don’t get everything!), and require tagging to actually collect anything in the first place. These free digital analytics platforms lack the features you need to understand your customers and optimize their experiences, like persisting digital identity across platforms, devices, channels, and time, profile building, journey mapping, predictive analytics, and machine learning capabilities.

Premium tools use advanced algorithms and machine learning to detect and allow you to action meaningful data patterns and insights. For example, a premium tool could analyze your web traffic and show you that people who view a certain product page are much more likely to make a purchase if they’ve already watched a video about that product. That’s an insight that could significantly impact your marketing strategy.

Subpar digital data quality

There’s an even bigger concern however – and it has to do with your data quality. Free digital analytics tools – and even most of their paid versions, experience delays with providing insights. And, what insights they do manage to provide are incomplete – you’re not getting the entire story of how people are interacting with your brand.

Your data can be hours or even days old by the time it’s made accessible. Capitalizing on interactions while someone is on your website or in your app simply isn’t possible. Real-time data is critical for agile marketing—you need to see how campaigns and experiences are performing now to make quick optimizations that drive results. It’s not enough just to collect the data in real time, you must action in real time as well. Relying on stale data results in missed opportunities and wasted ad spend.

Reporting silos and inaccuracies

Free digital analytics solutions, as well as their paid versions, don’t integrate data across your business. So that means that the data you actually manage to collect and is made available is highly siloed.

In your marketing department alone, your web team, social media marketers, and email marketers are all looking at different reports that don’t align. And they’re more than likely logging into multiple tools to piece together those insights. There’s no single source of truth. Gaining a complete view of how your channels work together or how customers interact across touchpoints is impossible.

Organizational inefficiencies

With the recent volatility in the market, brands have been focused on increasing efficiencies and savings across the board. Greater efficiency across your brand means a higher level of accomplishment, greater ROI and a positive increase in your bottom line. After looking at the above three shortfalls of free analytics tools, it’s evident that they add up to some significant organizational inefficiencies.

These free tools also suck resources from your brand in terms of implementation and maintenance costs due to their reliance on tagging for data capture. Data tagging requires change management and that requires significant head count costs. The risk of basing business decisions on incomplete and inaccurate data collection due the continual management of broken or altered tags costs the brand significantly in the long run.

Compliance risks

Sending data outside your four walls isn’t just bad for business, it’s a practice riddled with risk. But, it’s necessary element of tech associated with all of these free digital analytics tools – and as we’ve mentioned above, most of their paid versions as well.

These tools work by collecting the digital engagement and Personally Identifiable Information (PII) on your website (permission granted by you since you’ve decided to use their tool), ingesting it into the tool’s central servers and then packaging the data back to you in the form of reports and insights, or what we know as digital analytics reporting. This is risky, leaving you with a lot of room for error – data loss, data latency, and concerns over how data is ingested and interpreted, as well as the overall privacy regulations and practices deployed by these technology providers. How can your organization uphold a particular regulatory standard if you don’t have visbility to the process and own the data or the process in it’s entirety?

Are you still convinced that "free" is really "free"?

Yeah… we didn’t think so.

While the upfront cost of a premium paid digital analytics tool may seem daunting, it pays for itself through the quality of insights and performance improvements you gain. Accurate, real-time data and robust features give your brand the competitive edge to thrive, making the investment in a premium solution well worth the cost of the alternative. The old adage of “nothing’s free” couldn’t be closer to the truth—you can’t risk your brand's success on these inferior tools, they’re costing you more than you think!


Tag management is dead

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