Startups Emerge To Unify Metrics, Normalize Data

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broken-analyticsThis is the second in a series on what's still broken in the analytics space. Part one dealt with data ownership, part two will address technology and part three will focus on people and processes. 

Even when data ownership issues are resolved between marketers and third-party agencies and service providers, the way in which it is provided can still leave a lot to be desired.

It is often dribbled out in bits and snatches. Here, a vendor may export pretty charts with little granularity. There, an agency may email a weekly list of metrics. Or elsewhere, another partner may even provide a spreadsheet on request.

But all that data is in different formats and distributed using a wide range of vehicles. What's more, each data set may present a different version of reality.

"The agency does their analysis and presents it to the clients, the clients do their analysis and they do not match. The process is inefficient, and it is not clear who is in charge," said Gayle Fuguitt, CEO of the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF).

It's a snowballing problem and one that can't be addressed by more data collection per se, but instead finding the means to better consolidate, collate and normalize existing data into a unified dashboard.

"What’s trending is a strong interest in bringing the data-driven marketing process, associated applications and resulting data and insights, back in-house," said Justin Honaman, a former sales and marketing leader at Coca-Cola and current consultant for Teradata focused on CPG and retail.

This interest is spawning a burgeoning niche of tech platforms that extract data from disparate sources, and then merge and normalize that data. Last month, two firms, Datorama and Beckon, each released their take on a multichannel performance data-aggregation technology.

Meanwhile, another one named Origami Logic could be fast on their heels. It's beating the drum about cross-channel analytics aggregation, and in January added $15 million in venture capital to the $9.3 million it raised in 2012.

Datorama's Landing Zone solution puts data normalization and data connector technology under the hood for its agency and brand customers. The promise is to simplify the process of adding new data formats into a centralized repository.

"So if an agency will just send the brand an Excel spreadsheet containing the data, all the brand will have to do is to teach the system once how to look at that data, and they don’t need technical people to do it," said Ran Sarig, CEO of Datorama. "It doesn’t need very tight integration with all those other sources. We’ve built a pretty smart system that can digest all those different data sources very easily."

Similarly, Beckon aims to simplify the consolidation of performance metrics using a system similar to what Trip-It does for consumer travel information. The idea is that every data communication that an agency or SaaS provider sends to a brand gets cc'd to that marketer's Beckon account.

The system then automatically adds that transmission to the platform's logs and mines it for relevant information that goes into a well-organized analytics repository. The firm has already signed up heavy hitting customers like Converse, StubHub and Union Bank.

Bringing cross-channel uniformity to all that data isn't just about hooking into APIs of disparate internal systems, said Jennifer Zeszut, CEO of Beckon. She estimates that this brings in less than 20% of the data that Beckon consolidates for customers. It also means finding the way to seek out specific marketing metrics across a range of external unstructured documents. It's a tricky but not impossible technical problem.

"If you have a report, there’s going to be something in there that has a spend number. There’s going to be something which is the number of emails sent.  There’s going to be something which is the number of actions or clicks," she said. "We know what we’re looking for. It is not an infinitely complex data-parsing problem."

By simplifying the submission process, Beckon eliminates technology barriers that would make it difficult for agencies to share data even once the data ownership debate is sorted out. In fact, once participating agencies see how the visibility can enhance performance they may even become evangelists themselves.  Zeszut told of how Converse recently opened Starcom's eyes to the benefits through the relationship.

In previous client campaigns, Starcom always only had access to the media data that they buy – information about spend, impressions and the like. Now with Converse using Beckon, they see when Converse opened a giant store in San Francisco supported by a lot of offline spend, click-through rates on all online media and even organic search volume increased.

"Once agencies realize that they have this robust connection between marketing activities and business outcomes, they become huge fans," Zeszut said.

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