October 14, 2014

Measuring Digital Maturity

As digital marketing technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, organizations are making large investments to keep up with new innovations; it’s more important for them than ever to measure the progress and impact of their digital programs. This impact needs to be measured through the lens of the company’s overarching goals and performance. What are the challenges associated with digital maturity measurement? How can nonprofits ensure that they are evaluating the right information in order to be successful with their digital initiatives?

Challenge #1: What Should We Measure?

While nonprofits may not be chasing a bump in their stock prices or measuring their organizational impact in terms of dollars, they still need concrete metrics to measure the success of their projects. This is especially important when it comes to embarking on the journey towards achieving digital maturity.

To begin, the organization’s leadership should discuss its mission and identify relevant key performance indicators (KPIs). These don’t need to be measurable on the website yet. For example, the nonprofit could seek to eventually increase membership, circulation of content, or event attendance.

The Brookings Institution, a private nonprofit organization devoted to independent research and innovative, nonpartisan public policy solutions, has an overarching goal to strengthen American democracy. While this can’t be measured directly through their site, Brookings worked with us as an external digital agency to lay out the goals it wanted to achieve as an organization at large.

Challenge #2: Correlating These Goals to Your Digital Presence

Organizations then have to figure out how these KPIs can be measured in relation to their digital presence. Let’s use Brookings as an example. While it would not be possible to measure a direct correlation between readership of its web content with improved economic and social conditions in the US, Brookings was able to work with us to decide upon relevant metrics to measure audience engagement.

To start off, we helped Brookings organize 500,000+ pieces of content on its website and optimize the site for desktop, mobile, and tablet usage.

We then looked at the website’s visitors using geographic segmentation and focused on the Washington, D.C. area. Changes in metrics within the D.C. area could be monitored across site variations and other external events, indicating relative performance of the content towards Brookings’ organizational goals.

Challenge #3: Determine How You Are Doing Today

Having established these goals and criteria, organizations can identify if they are capturing all of the necessary data to assess the impact of digital investments or if there are gaps that need to be filled. If all of the necessary data is being captured, organizations can then review where their strengths and weaknesses lie and make adjustments accordingly.

Next Steps: Measurement to Fill in the Gaps

It’s likely that an organization will have gaps in its data that need to be filled before progress can be shown. It may not be possible to go directly from the organization’s current state to a point where the impact of online investments on organizational progress can be measured directly; however steps can be made in the right direction and it is imperative to be realistic throughout the process.

When Brookings began the journey to improve its digital presence, it was immediately apparent that we couldn’t directly measure the impact of Brooking’s digital presence on American democracy and the country’s economic and social welfare. Instead, we worked with Brookings to move from looking at simple page views to comprehensive measures of onsite behavior. We conducted workshops with key Brookings stakeholders to determine high-value site activities and scored them using Sitecore’s Engagement Value Scoring mechanism. This gave Brookings topline metrics to use when gauging relative site performance.

It’s also important to note that, for a donation-seeking organization, the collection of eCommerce data is a relatively simple process that can shed a powerful light on many aspects of the organization’s web presence. Not only does the website now have a dollar value associated with it, but those donations can be attributed to different acquisition channels as well. This makes it easier to gain clarity into what is working and what isn’t: for example, it allows you to ask, “Did your last email campaign drive donations, or was it those Facebook ads you purchased last month?”

Analyze and Retarget

Before jumping into complex site personalization or email automation, organizations need to take some time to reflect on and analyze the data they’ve recently augmented. Assess inbound channels, primary landing pages, and website conversion points. This provides visibility into where you’re spending most of your efforts and the associated return on investment – is social media occupying most of your time but only driving 5% of traffic? Could an email campaign that drove 5% of traffic have had a 75% conversion rate to donation? Are your landing pages engaging visitors or turning them off? Inspect pages with the highest number of entries over a given time period, look at bounce rates and on-page events, and determine if the numbers are in line with your expectations.

There are easy-to-use and inexpensive tools on the market for assisting with these activities – A/B and multivariate testing on a website can be executed using Visual Website Optimizer, Optimizely), etc. and email campaigns through Constant Contact, etc. By making incremental improvements and continuously testing, budgets are kept lean and organizations can drill down on improvements that need to be addressed before making larger investments.

Conclusion

Nonprofit organizations need to align expectations and outcomes of their digital presence with those of the organization at large. It isn’t always about having more data, but rather the right data. By addressing gaps in measurement first, it’s simpler to analyze and modify early on. If conversions are less concrete, find indirect ways of measuring impact— measuring articles read, clicks on cross-promoted content, and engagement value scoring.  Finally, it’s imperative to test everything. Not every project will be small and consumable, but begin with initial improvements and validate everything incrementally before taking the dive into larger investments. In doing so, nonprofit organizations can provide an enjoyable digital experience to each individual site visitor and measure their interactions at the same time.

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Andrew Blackmore
Andrew Blackmore is Director of the Marketing & Analytics group at Velir. His early career as a designer and 7+ years of working with content-based websites have given him a unique perspective when creating and measuring client solutions. He has worked on many large, content-driven solutions for clients including The Brookings Institution, The Society for Neuroscience and The Kauffman Foundation. He is currently pursuing an MBA in Business Analytics and an MS in Information Technology. You can follow him on Twitter @amblackmore.
Interest Categories: Data, Evaluation
Tags: Data, Evaluation, website analytics