Avinash Kaushik of Intuit had a great post recently on the poor quality of web analytic data. A side story to me was how much better the amount and quality of data we have for online marketing is over every other measured medium. As we look more and more towards this data and the quality of it to define audiences and behavior there is an important optimization concept that emerges. There is also a lesson of failed web 1.0 thinking and 2.0 simplicity.
Think of any time you’ve compared data sources measuring the same metric. How many times do the numbers match? Never. How often are they within 10%? Probably, not too often. It is because of the questionable quality of data that you can’t too sharply define, cluster or segment for personalization and targeting. Data discrepancy dictates that segmentation must be done at high source levels to ensure confidence and reduce margin of error.
No problem here though. The greatest value in segmentation is found at higher levels in the food chain. Test where the impact is greatest. It’s likely that segment will be pretty large. An additional benefit is that with all that traffic at those higher levels you need a relatively short amount of time to get signal. It is a fast and simple way to test and lends itself to continued iteration forming the backbone for Relevant Design and Agile Marketing methodologies that I encourage you to think about for your business or clients.
So what was the lesson here? Take a look at all those personalization companies from the .com bubble. Where are they now? The first issue is that they had no testing platform. They weren’t agile. So all the great personalization ideas, well nobody knew how effective or relevant they were to users. But really I think it was that they sliced their ideas and concepts to thin, focusing and delivering personalization on meaningless and non-relevant micro levels (Welcome back Rick!) when larger issues like delivering content users have told you interests them from their click path were simply not possible (beyond Amazon and a few others) with this large, heavy 1.0 enterprise software.
New ways of thinking always encounter resistance. But more and more of the smartest people in optimization are moving toward agile strategies using high impact segmentation. The web is undergoing a revolution in the delivery content and experiences will continue to become more and more relevant. Anyone who is optimizing media by segments and sending and testing targeted content delivery has a competitive advantage. For how long is unknown. What I do know, is at some point in the next few years we’ll wonder how we ever delivered relevance without segmentation.