How and Why Marketers Must Understand The Story Behind Consumer Data To Guide Strategic Business Decisions

By: Mohannad Ali, CEO at Hotjar

2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day by users all over the world. Data can show how many people are viewing your site, demographic information on users, and even which aspects of your site visitors are spending time on. This collected data can be invaluable to companies –  if used correctly.

Many data tools only provide a small glimpse into consumer data and at best, it is surface-level. Surface-level data only tells you what is happening, but it doesn’t tell you why it’s happening. And without understanding why,  it becomes increasingly difficult for marketers to identify and prioritize the changes and work that is required to make improvements for their customers.  In order to make strategic, impactful business decisions, marketers must understand the “why” behind the data they receive and how to build a story around this data.

Understand your customer behavior

In a world where the cost of marketing is constantly increasing,  there is an inherent need to achieve more efficiency and solve problems faster. The first thing marketers need to understand is who their users are and how they feel. When users land on your webpage for the first time, where do they go? What do they click?

Learning about user behavior will ultimately help you segment and empathize with your users. The way you connect with millennials will be drastically different from what an older generation or even Gen Z might need. If customers are primarily landing on your webpage from social media advertisements, it doesn’t make sense to pour more money into your email campaigns. You cannot target your customer until you know your customer, and the easiest way to get to know your customer is through the data behind how they interact with your products.

Find a balance between quantitative and qualitative data

Marketers often focus on quantitative data that simply share the numbers. I’ve seen teams get hyper-focused on KPIs such as impressions, conversion rate, and clicks that only tell one-half of the story. For example, a marketer could be looking at a conversion funnel, and at a high level – they can see conversion rates dropping. But, they’re unable to identify the reasons behind those lost conversions. The quantitative data is only telling half the story.

Quantitative data needs to be complemented by qualitative data so marketers and product teams can build products users actually need and love. Product experience insights  (PX) blend traditional analytics with behavioral data so teams can better empathize with their users. PX tools aren’t new and one popular tool that has helped teams visualize this data is heatmaps.

Heatmaps indicate where your product and website users are clicking, interacting, and engaging, and combined with recording tools – it builds a deeper explanation of how customers are using your website. For example, heatmap tools can reveal an aggregated view of clicks and scrolls – allowing you to easily identify where a certain button or CTA on your page is not getting the level of attention you anticipated. At Hotjar,  we have seen customers dramatically increase conversions by making simple changes to the prominence or location of specific elements on their page.

I believe one of the best things marketers can do is take a page out of the Product designer’s book and give more attention to building empathy with the users. This is where you complement the quantitative data with qualitative data that you get from speaking with your customers and asking for their input and feedback.  Collecting the data is important, but finding the story behind the data is where marketers will stand out.

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Be cautious around data bias and privacy

As marketers start to leverage PX insights, it’s vital that marketers look out for and avoid introducing bias into their data. Bias can be introduced in a number of ways including the way we ask questions, the way we interpret data, and even the way we present our findings. We recently included surveys and other qualitative options for Hotjar’s customers and we always encourage teams to use inclusive language and terms.

In addition to avoiding bias, something even more important that marketers need to be apprised of is customer privacy.  Customers should feel like they can trust a company, and not like they’re being spied on or that the data they’re providing is going to make them unsafe. Seek tools that prioritize customer privacy and that keep data anonymous while still being effective.

Data-driven organizations need to walk the talk

If you want to be a data-driven organization, you need to walk the talk. Many times marketers will use customer feedback to drive impactful changes and make products better but internally, decisions are not made with these details in mind.

Leveraging data to make streamlined business decisions means data has a bigger importance than just straight opinions. Just as you would listen to your customers and analyze the data, listen to your employees while also diving into your team data. Big decisions should never be made by just the highest-paid individuals in the room. To be an effective organization, you need to hear feedback from all teams and use data to build your story.

Ultimately the job of marketers is to engage your customers and understand their needs. This task cannot be accomplished without the help of both quantitative and qualitative data and understanding how they connect and the story that they tell. Once you can create empathy for and with your customer, you open new doors to how you can engage, connect, and problem-solve with them.

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