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Using Universal Analytics to advance digital maturity

It’s been hard to avoid the hype and excitement in the digital analytics and marketing community surrounding Universal Analytics (UA). UA is the next generation of GA’s platform and much has been written about its technical prowess and capabilities. All this hype has served to significantly raise the expectations of marketers and data analysts about the opportunities that UA promises.

Cardinal Path has been fortunate to work with some “fashion forward” clients, where we’ve been able to leverage UA to deliver unprecedented customer insights, true marketing line-of-sight, and business value to clients. One such client is Bombardier Recreational Products, a world leader in the design, manufacturing, distribution, and marketing of motorized recreational vehicles, more commonly referred to as BRP.

The perfect alignment

A decade ago I was senior web architect at BRP — responsible for the technological foundation of their multinational, multi-brand online presence, ecommerce and dealer management system (and leveraging data at every step of the way). When BRP called Cardinal Path seeking an independent, trusted third-party advisor to work with their digital and advertising agencies, I jumped at the opportunity. At Cardinal Path, we have many clients who have retained us to play just such a role, i.e. a “Digital Agency of Record.” In this case, BRP was undertaking a complete website overhaul, on the Adobe CQ5 platform, to coincide with a major advertising campaign across multiple brands.

Can-Am Offroad ATV by BRP

No Risk, No Reward

One aspect of our role as Digital Agency of Record (DAoR) was to guide and support BRP in its desire to grow their newly formed Digital Center of Excellence. We began by conducting a digital analytics maturity assessment which gave us clear direction on what areas to focus and invest in. These were:

  • Analytics governance: Review the role and responsibilities of all parties involved with digital analytics (e.g. web development, design, marketing strategy and execution, etc.) and explicitly define the governance and reporting relationships within the Center of Excellence;
  • KPI definition: Define and align around Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that reflect a single common source of truth, and which fuel everyone’s understanding of the strategy and tactics that contribute toward shared goals and desired online outcomes;
  • Empower via the right tools: Analysis of how data was to be used and socialized in the organization revealed the need for a single common window into all data sources (web, mobile, email, social, CRM, sales, etc.), along with training on how to leverage and make use of the data. We therefore selected Tableau Server as the data integration platform of choice to ensure a smooth and steady flow of data; and
  • Strong data collection foundation: recognizing the many channels and future plans across their many brands, we settled on an approach to tagging using Google Tag Manager (GTM), to deploy all tags (including Universal Analytics &  Pointroll tracking pixels).

This last point was actually a very big bet — when the project started both GTM and UA were still only in Beta release. However, we believed that this was a calculated risk and felt that by the time the new website would go live, and the campaign would launch, both GTM and UA would be up to the challenge. This bet is now yielding substantial returns as BRP is positioned to reap the many benefits of UA and the advanced analytics opportunities it affords.

Leap frogging the maturity curve

Key to this project was quick delivery of value and incremental improvements that would allow BRP to learn and develop standards and best practices replicable across all brands. Starting with a single web property — BRP’s Can-Am Off-road fall campaign — allowed us to lower risks while gradually leveraging the technology to deliver immediate value.

BRP and its partners are already benefiting from clearer governance; they are optimizing their marketing campaign against clearly defined and agreed-upon KPIs. They benefit from smarter and more agile instrumentation through Google Tag Manager. Thanks to Universal Analytics technology, custom dimensions and metrics, dimension widening, and leveraging a unique user ID to provide greater understanding of the end-to-end consumer journey are a real possibility. Ultimately, the greatest benefit stems from a trifecta only made possible by Universal Analytics:

  • Expand the line of sight: bringing display network, Facebook and Bing cost data directly into Universal Analytics;
  • Understand all channels: defining custom channels representing their own, unique marketing mix, and assessing the contribution of each marketing channel — including TV and print;
  • Learn and optimize marketing spend with clear business outcomes in mind through pre-defined and data-driven attribution modeling.

Can-Am Offroad ATV by BRP

Next steps

Over the past several months we have witnessed a clear shift in market demand. On one hand, projects that used to take a while, and were fairly complex and focused around “visits,” are being streamlined, commoditized and now revolve around the “customer.” On the other hand, business expectations are much more sophisticated, leading to solution landscapes that require a more thoughtful approach, involve a lot more data integration, go beyond channel-centric web analytics and put the customer at the center of the analytics ecosystem. While the ocean is rising, the reefs and tidal flats are numerous and we are lucky enough to have developed early and strong expertise to show the path for BRP and other clients. This increased trust and confidence will allow BRP to extend the initial pilot project to other brands and continue to learn and grow their digital analytics capabilities.

Want to hear more about this project? Don’t miss our keynote at the eMetrics Summit Toronto, coming up May 12-15.

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