How to Gather Data

When you need to make informed decisions you need to rely on accurate data provided by a data analyst. To gather accurate data you must begin by collecting, analyzing, and interpreting the right data. In an order to collect the accurate data you need to follow an organized and systematic way of gathering all the pieces of information from the sources available to you. When gathering data you can collect quantitative data, qualitative data, or both. 

Quantitative data are observations that are expressed in numbers and you can meaningfully summarize using statistical techniques. For example, the number of visitors to a website is qualitative data.  Qualitative data provides you with descriptions and you cannot summarize it meaningfully with statistics. For example, if you ask your customers why they decided to purchase your product rather than your competitors, you will get qualitative data. In this article we discuss how to gather data from Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, social media, and point of sale transactions.

Preparing to Gather Data

Before you begin collecting data there are several preliminary preparations and best practices provided by leading data analysts.

  1. Identify the issue to be addressed by collecting data and set your objectives.

  2. Make a decision on the approach and methods you will use to gather data. Decide on who or what you will collect data about, your groups of interest, and geographical areas from where you will the collect data.

  3. Make a decision on type of data you will collect. You can collect quantitative, qualitative, or both.

  4. Identify your sources of data. You can decide to collect your data from one or multiple sources. Make sure your data sources help you meet the objectives you set.

  5. Estimate the period you will take to collect your data.

Types of Data

There are various forms of data available to collect, organize, track, and analyze data. Today the most essential data is captured online and observes visitor behaviors, locations, and other general information. We’ve compiled a list of the most popular data gathering platforms and services, as well as provide insights into the best ways to benefit from the information they provide.  

Google Analytics Data

Google Analytics (GA) is a service provided by Google to assist marketing and website development teams with understanding the traffic patterns and behaviors of visitors. GA helps you collect data on total visits, traffic sources, bounce rate, and ecommerce goals. This data helps you measure return on investment and build conversion strategies that are feasible and slightly proven, which may reduce risk.

Before you can begin collecting data via GA you need to add a tracking code on your website pages. The tracking code is a piece of JavaScript code that you place within the head tag of your page. Another way you can add a tracking code to your pages is by using Google Tag Manager (GTM). With GTM you avoid the problem of modifying code.

Using a tracking code is the classical way of gathering data but Google is encouraging users to migrate to Universal Analytics (UA). UA is just an updated version of GA that gives you more features.

By default GA gathers data on the web page, browser, user location, and language but this is not the only data you can collect. Using JavaScript code or GTM you are able to customize the data that will be collected. By customizing the data you collect, you only gather data relevant to your website so you are able to create reports that are useful to your business.

The best way to harness the power of GA or UA is to partner with your data analyst to determine the most useful data to your business.

Adobe Analytics Data

Adobe Analytics is a web analytics solution that works in a similar way to GA. To collect data on Adobe Analytics you need to add JavaScript code in a similar way to GA. Adobe Analytics provides Dynamic Tag Management to help you manage your tags without any need for coding skills.

Although GA and Adobe analytics are similar they have their differences. GA offers a free and a paid version while Adobe Analytics only offers a paid version of its analytics platform. GA stores your data for up to 25 months while Adobe Analytics stores your data for as long as you are a customer.

Adobe Analytics enables you to collect data from websites, email, mobile devices, client-server devices and most devices connected to the internet. The tracking code that facilitates data collection can be placed on the client device or on the server side. Many data and business analyst find this information very useful and concise.

When deciding whether to place your tracking codes on server or client side consider the following issues:

  1. When JavaScript is disabled on a browser it may not be possible to collect data.

  2. Device limitations of inability to run JavaScript may prevent gathering data.

  3. Sensitive data needs to be protected so that it is not viewable on the browser.

Social Media Data

Social media data is information we gather from social networks that tells us how users are viewing, sharing, and engaging with our content and profiles. Some of the social media data that we can gather are number of shares, likes, mentions, followers, and comments. From our social media data we are able to calculate key performance indicators (KPI) that tell us how the brand is performing. Facebook pages give you KPIs on engagement, likes, impressions, and other valuable metrics.

To successfully use social media data the first step is to identify the goal that will be achieved by using social media data. For example, you can target to improve customer service by analyzing user sentiment. Another thing you need to be aware about social media data is its limitations. For example, some social networks are skewed in terms of gender or age of their users. Any data collected from such networks will therefore not be representative of an actual situation. Once you have identified KPIs that are important to your business goals you can rely on tools available in the market to help you gather data.

Point of Sale Data (POS)

Data collected at a POS can be identifying or non-identifying. Identifying data includes details like names, email, physical address, and phone number. Identifying information is very useful because you can use it to link data existing in other systems. Non identifying information like if a customer is a parent; is also useful to the business and may be easier to acquire.

Personal data is stored in a POS system together with products or services purchased. The collected data is then moved to a purpose built system like a data warehouse or a CRM from where it can be sourced to make informed decisions.

When you are moving data from your POS system to your purpose built system there are three important aspects to consider:

  • Make sure the data you are moving is of good quality. Completeness, accuracy, and validity are the three quality aspects you need to look out for.

  • Update data as often as possible. Daily updates are good but an even shorter update interval is better, such as every 12 hours.

  • Make sure the purpose built system where you move data has the capacity for analysis and extraction of actionable information from data.

By collecting, analyzing and acting on data from multiple sources you are able to have a complete understanding of your customers. With a good understanding of customers you are able to personalize your offerings. As you sit down to determine the type of data you need remember to consult with your data or business analyst to ensure the data you are gathering is relevant and useful in achieving your overall objectives.