Fireside Chat with Adam Greco – Analytics & Data Platforms in a time of flux

It was a pleasure, and frankly something of a geeky bucket list “tick”, to have a fireside chat with Adam Greco, the world-renowned digital analytics guru, in London last month. We discussed a range of topics about digital analytics, but in essence, the main theme was that Analytics is in a time of flux.

How businesses manage multichannel customer experiences has grown in importance, as customers have moved online during lockdown. Now that customers will also start to return to traditional channels as Covid restrictions end around the world, implementing these customer strategies will be essential to success.

As always, technology is an important part of such strategies. And the Customer Data Platform area is a very competitive market, with many providers offering these platforms with different features. What’s interesting is the Multichannel Analytics and Customer Data industry used to be a market with a few big players who provided platforms, or integrations, so that there was differentiation in the marketplace. Now, with newer competitors making an impact on the market, there are more options for clients, which is a good thing.

At the same time, however, some of the established players are having to react and update their older systems, which were designed in a pre-Covid world where traffic volumes were huge, but not gargantuan, and where data collection was relatively unaffected by punitive data protection legislation. 

For example, Google Analytics is under pressure to adapt to GDPR decisions in Europe that mean it is not compliant, because it collects and processes data, which could include personal data, using servers in the US. Its response to this in early March is to sunset its existing tool – Universal Analytics – as early as summer 2023, and offer its planned replacement, GA4, instead.  (Note: this strategy, and indeed Adam and my conversation, took place before the EU and the US announced plans to create a new “Privacy Shield” agreement, although there is no legislation to review as yet, and may not be for months, so there is still the same pressure for the time being).

The challenge with the early switchover to GA4 is that it’s still relatively light on features, so clearly the plan was to introduce more features before the change was made. Google’s teams will have their work cut out to introduce all of these by the new deadline. It is also unclear at this point exactly how the GA4 set-up will be compliant. Presumably, it will involve the usage of specific European-based data centres, but businesses will have to wait for further announcements. With only 15 months’ notice before the existing system will no longer collect new data, this is a considerable risk for clients, particularly those with European businesses, and compliance teams will want greater certainty. This creates a decision point for clients; do you implement GA4 and hope it’s compliant, or look at the wider market?

In addition, there is the existing trend towards a First Party Data strategy, given Google Chrome’s decision to follow the rest of the market in not allowing third party cookies, and how that affects how you understand and communicate with customers, and this is the most turbulent time in the digital analytics space, arguably since Google bought Urchin Analytics (which became Google Analytics) in 2005.

At the same time, other major players in the digital analytics space are evolving their offerings towards customer data platforms and a more integrated approach to analytics across all channels – Customer Journey Analytics tools. However, these aren’t always perfectly seamless, and in any event, it’s a greater commitment to an individual technology vendor; whilst many will be prepared to make the switch, it creates a decision point – if you are reviewing your analytics system, you might as well look at the wider market.  There are many new approaches and emerging tech vendors in this space, so what was a relatively binary market (there were really 2 options, perhaps 3 at a stretch), is now a larger one, with new dynamics and opportunities. With both major digital analytics players creating decision points for their clients, the wider industry is growing.  

As you can see, the Analytics and CDP industry is in a state of flux. If you are not planning to review your digital analytics strategy in 2022, congratulations – you are one of the few who have answered the above challenges and will be looking to take advantage of your position this year. If not, now is an excellent time to assess your strategy and how you are looking to deliver customer experiences for the future.

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