Contextualizing Data through Business Intelligence Tools

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:: By Matt Swan, Affiliate Window ::


Data is one of the most valuable aspects of online marketing. Complete visibility over customer journeys and purchasing patterns are made possible due to every tangible action a consumer takes being trackable. While attributing the success of offline campaigns to a particular advertising campaign is extremely difficult, online activity is far better positioned to understand the influence that each touch point has over a purchasing decision. The performance channel is no exception. Affiliate networks are able to see the affiliate touch points within a customer journey but additional data from advertisers and agencies is required to complete the full picture. With this additional data it is possible to analyze the influence that each channel had on the eventual purchase. Post conversion data is also highly valuable in terms of determining the quality of customers referred. This can provide insight into whether they are new or existing customers, how often they return, the products they are purchasing and their lifetime value.


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With such a significant volume of data being readily available, it can be difficult to identify the most relevant elements. Using business intelligence tools can help to contextualize the data as well as present findings in more meaningful ways.

As mentioned above, affiliate networks capture a significant volume of data. This typically relates to the transactions generated and the publishers that delivered them, however there is a significant amount of additional data captured. This could include geographical information such as where publishers are from and the regions they are generating sales. This data can be used to identify publishers that are effective at driving sales in particular areas. Additionally more data can be captured around the transaction such as the products that were purchased and whether a coupon code had been redeemed. With the rise of m-commerce, device data is invaluable in determining how consumers are accessing your site and how this impacts upon order values and conversion rates. Click to sale, or latency times, impressions and average order values also help flesh out the story. Advertisers can gain a true understanding of their publisher base and the quality of customers they are converting with more sophisticated use of data. This will allow for a more effective promotional strategy to be rolled out with advertisers not only knowing who is driving sales, but also identify those publishers driving valuable sales, where they are coming from and the device the transaction took place.

Business intelligence tools can be extremely sophisticated pieces of software but they provide a simplified way to drill down into the data to gain a solid understanding of it. Effective use of its software can empower affiliate managers to gain a greater understanding of the programs they are managing as well as their position within their sector.

Providing a benchmarking tool based on data available from any given sector, allows the ability to plot how they compare against others within the sector as well as identify where there is opportunity for growth.

Device data allows for identification of publishers that are effectively driving mobile transactions across similar advertisers so they can be recruited to the program. 

By breaking down data into a simpler format to analyze, affiliate managers are essentially able to become analysts to provide greater program insights for their clients.  

These tools also help to visualize data in a more meaningful way. It is possible to move away from standardized graphs and charts to present data more effectively. For example, location data can be displayed on maps – whether this is where the publisher is based or where transactions are being generated from. Size and color can also be added to charts to make them even more visual. When looking at data in Microsoft Excel, formatting options can be limited meaning restrictions in how data can be visualized.

Formatting the data is not the only limitation when using Excel. There is also a restriction in the number of rows of data that can be added for analysis as well as implications upon the speed it operates. A suitable business intelligence tool allows for faster and more flexible reporting, where data sources can be easily combined and parameters set to aid the analysis.

The opportunities for reporting and benchmarking are endless as the volume of data captured continues to increase. A sophisticated business intelligence tool will allow for additional layers of insight into the performance channel. This can only help to transform the level of understanding of a program and enhance key publisher relationships.


Matt Swan is a Client Strategist at global performance marketing network, Affiliate Window. He works with advertisers to offer strategic advice to optimize campaigns. He also contributes to new business pitches and is an active member of the IAB AMC.

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