Free Your Mind: Holiday Code Freeze and 2015 Planning

As the year comes to a close, the "polar vortex" is already doing a number across the Midwest which ultimately makes me think about warm vacation destinations and opening a Stratigent office near a beach somewhere. Currently, our four offices in Chicago, New York, London and Hamburg don't offer any respite from the cold weather or the ability to golf year round. However, in this newsletter I would like to focus on two other important aspects in our industry that require some attention right around this time:

Holiday Code Freeze
 
2015 Planning
 
 
Holiday Code Freeze
 
I'm just going to come right out and say it:  your holiday code freeze is costing you money and the opportunity to make adjustments to the user experience as you analyze the results in real-time. We don't live in an "all or nothing" world anymore, regardless of what Ashley Parker Angel may sing about. Of course, it's natural to think "mo' technology, mo' problems" when it comes to the release schedule for your digital presence. However, simply setting up your digital presence and crossing your fingers this holiday season, just isn’t going to get the job done.
 
Here's the deal - you're investing a lot of money and you're hoping to get the maximum return on those investments. As you're analyzing the results to see what's working and what isn't, shouldn't you be able to make some changes on the fly? For example, if you’re seeing a lack of interaction on a key landing page, wouldn’t you want to make some adjustments to try and salvage your ROI? It's like having the foresight to know that you're going to get in a car accident tomorrow and yet not changing a thing to prevent it.  
 
Tag management isn't a fad, so it's time to start using it to your advantage if you haven't already. Tag Management is the strategic partner you need in order to break through the monotony of your Q4 code freezes; it propels you into the realm of making smart business decisions in real-time as you monitor the results of your investments. A combination of tag management and an optimization platform will be exactly what you need to make necessary adjustments in a controlled environment.
 
I completely understand the importance of your site being 100% functional during the holidays. So, combining my recommendation above with proper governance will allow you to vet out your changes prior to pushing them to production. The point being that you can do this without changing the actual site code and instead simply manage the changes within the tag management system. Having IT as a partner during this will allow you to be as effective as possible while coming up with compromises on what can be changed and what can't (see how to cut through the politics). Make an attempt this year to stop every Q4 from feeling like the movie Groundhog Day.
 
 

 

2015 Planning

 
I know our industry is currently inundated with articles and posts regarding 2015 planning. Honestly, what more could be said that hasn’t already been discussed? I'm not here to state the obvious. If I was going to state the obvious, I would say: Do more with your data in 2015 than you did in 2014. That about sums it up, right?  
 
Now that we have that out of the way, let's add something of actual value to your toolkit for next year. To do that, I’ve provided a list of things you should consider in 2015 if you have the ability to do so:
 
Google’s Attribution Sandbox
Google has built the coolest Attribution sandbox - and it's in the free version! If you implement the free version on your site and simply pass your existing campaign tracking values into the Google tag, you'll have the ability to kick the tires on this. If you have tag management, this task requires minimal effort. If you don't, then you're probably looking at roughly 10-15 hours of development time to accomplish this.
 
Beyond Tag Management
Reach out to Ensighten to see a demo of Activate and Tealium to see a demo of AudienceStream. If you want to get a glimpse into the real power of tag management, this will blow your mind. Easily the two coolest products in our industry today. Seriously.  
 
Advertising Transparency and Viewability
Have you thought about tracking "viewability" across all of your advertising initiatives? The IAB has stamped this as the go-forward metric. It's no secret that the advertising space has lacked transparency for years, but you have the ability to start shining a light in some of those dark corners and taking ownership of the data away from your agencies. My Ebiquity MVM coworkers specialize in this, if you're interested in learning more.
 
Paid Search Targeting
Make use of the targeting capabilities within your paid search initiatives. The ad networks (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) are offering some very powerful capabilities to help you better target who views your paid ads.
 
Conversion Audit
Conduct an audit of your digital analytics through the lens of this question:  "Are we tracking every single "value event" and "conversion event" on our digital presence?"  If not, make that your 2015 focus. If you are, then keep reading the next couple ideas.
 
Identify Visitors
Improve your ability to track individual visitors on your digital presence in at least 1 key way. If your marketing mix includes email marketing, as an example, pass the subscriber ID through on the links in an encrypted way to give you a unique visitor identifier to segment off of. Make 2015 the year of creating a pool of users that you can communicate with more efficiently.
 
Off-line Data Enhancement
Integrate digital analytics event data into an off-line system to give you a more powerful dataset to segment off of. You might want to start by integrating key digital events into your CRM, as an example.
 
 
The whole reason you collect information is to take action.  
 
If you think about it through that lens and list out the actions you wish you could take today, then you can use that wish list to come up with how to invest your time and money in 2015. I could throw so many buzzwords at you right now, but that's not the point. It's not about checking the entire list off, it's about avoiding the same mistakes you made this year and focus on continually improving your tactics. No more accepting "one step forward, two steps back" as the norm.
 
 
 
If you're interested in talking to me about your 2015 planning, feel free to reach out to me through our contact form or directly at bill.bruno@stratigent.com
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
By Bill Bruno
About the Author:

Bill Bruno is the CEO - North America, Ebiquity.

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