*** Adobe Analytics has been chosen to represent all Web Analytics tool references in this article, due to its dominance in the user personalization field *** There are many reasons why a company would love to understand what each individual user is doing on their website. It can be the desire to provide better web experience for users, to offer personalized deals, to look for potential leads, or simply out of human curiosity. Whatever the reason might be, it is undoubtedly good to know more, since information is king. The more we have, the more informed we are to make better decisions. Having said that, is Web Analytics the right tool? Yes and no. Sure, the only way to obtain user web browsing behavior data is through Web Analytics, but don’t expect the reporting/analysis to be done using a Web Analytics tool. Simply because, Web Analytics specializes in aggregated data, and moreover, PII data are not supposed to be in the Cloud!
BenefitsBefore we go into the how, let’s take some time to understand what are the possible benefits from tracking individual users:
- Generate potential leads through the understanding of individual user’s product interests
- User X has looked at 5 baby products in the past 3 days. Let’s send her an email offer on baby products.
- Personalize offline services
- User X has been checking on her insurance policy ABC quite frequently this week. Let’s inform her agent to follow-up.
- Personalize communications
- User preferences are ever-changing (and changing fast!). But, changes in user preference will not be reflected in the outdated online profiles we have. With Web Analytics, we can find out her current preferences through her browsing activities.
The BasicsLet’s take some time to get ourselves familiarized with the core ingredients for tracking individual users on our website. On the Web Analytics front, we would minimally require:
- Visitor ID
- Customer ID
- Event Tracking
- PII Data
- Data/Customer Analytics team
Visitor IDVisitor ID is simply an unique ID provided by Adobe to identify each and every user on our site. This ID is stored in a persistent cookie found in the user’s browser. Whenever a new user visits a website that has been tagged, Adobe will generate persistent cookies and send them to the user’s browser. In one of those cookies, you will find the Visitor ID which is used to identify the user for the current and subsequent visits to our website. For repeated visitors, Adobe will first look for such cookies. If the cookies are there, Adobe will simply use the Visitor ID found in those cookies. In the case where such cookies cannot be found (e.g. user clears cache and cookies, surf anonymously, etc), Adobe will treat the user as a new visitor and issue a new set of cookies. If you want to know what other Adobe cookies do, here’s a link for you: https://marketing.adobe.com/resources/help/en_US/whitepapers/cookies/cookies_analytics.html Below is a screenshot of what a Visitor ID looks like:
Customer IDCustomer ID is an unique ID that we, as website owners, give to a customer that has logged on to our website. Typically, this Customer ID sits in a database within the company, where all our precious and private details (PII) are stored. PII (Personally Identifiable Information) includes our name, date of birth, identification ID, address, contact number, and of course, the mother’s maiden name (Don’t ask me why, the banks want what the banks want). With Customer ID, the company has all your personal information (obtained through consent) and is able to serve you information that are privy to you. That includes your order history, parcel tracking, savings account information, credit cards, etc. Below is an example of how Adobe stores my Customer ID:
Event TrackingTracking is basically divided into 2 parts:
- Page-Level Tracking
- Event Tracking
PII DataPersonally Identifiable Information. As mentioned earlier, PII include our name, date of birth, identification ID, address, contact number, etc. These information are dear to us (hence the emergence of Blockchain and Bitcoin), and should never be exposed to the public. If data leak is bad, giving criminals access to your customer information by putting them up in the cloud is heinous. Therefore, PII should never be stored in any Web Analytics tool, as their databases are most likely in the Cloud. So… if we can’t pass these information to our Web Analytics tool, how am I supposed to identify the users…? Don’t worry, we will cover that later.
Data / Customer Analytics TeamThere are so much confusion between Data Analytics and Web Analytics. I’ll try to explain it as simply as I can. Web Analytics
- Mainly online data
- Commonly used tools include Adobe Analytics, Google Analytics
- Mainly offline data
- Commonly required skills include R, Python, statistics, SQL
- Commonly used tools include SAS, Tableau, SPSS, Qlik
How Information FlowsTo provide a clearer picture on how all these can be achieved, I have come up with a slide to give you an overview of how information flows and how it results in actionable insights. We will break it down into 3 parts:
- Customer visit
- Marrying of online and offline data
- Actionable insights