Here at Search Dis­cov­ery we have clients of all sizes and ana­lyt­ics needs. In our opin­ion, the deci­sion to choose an ana­lyt­ics plat­form is an impor­tant one. We believe there’s a ton of oppor­tu­ni­ty for improv­ing your site’s expe­ri­ence and your abil­i­ty to attribute your mar­ket­ing to con­ver­sion with free plat­forms; how­ev­er, there are times when the data that comes from free plat­forms like Google Ana­lyt­ics or Flur­ry may not ful­ly meet your data needs. Migrat­ing to an enter­prise web ana­lyt­ics plat­form is sim­ply a step along ana­lyt­ics matu­ri­ty curve. 

Here are the top 5 rea­sons to upgrade from your free ana­lyt­ics ven­dor to an enter­prise for-pay mod­el. Note that we are not dis­tin­guish­ing between Google Ana­lyt­ics Pre­mi­um and Adobe Ana­lyt­ics (or Web­trends, Loc­a­lyt­ics, Mix­Pan­el, etc) as that’s a whole oth­er con­ver­sa­tion.

1 — Sampling has become a problem.


One of the ways that ven­dors keep their plat­forms free is by lim­it­ing the data qual­i­ty to show only a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of traf­fic in your reports. This is a well-known issue and a very com­mon sce­nario with Google’s free ana­lyt­ics plat­form. It’s impor­tant to remem­ber that sam­pled data is still very action­able — the trends shown in free GA are accu­rate and will show the true direc­tion of your data, even when it’s sam­pled! But the more fil­ters you apply to a pro­file and the more seg­ments you apply to a report with­in that pro­file, the more your data will be skewed. All web ana­lyt­ics plat­forms pro­vide sev­er­al ways to slice and dice your data to answer a ques­tion; if you find that your col­leagues are slic­ing data dif­fer­ent­ly than you are then you’ll prob­a­bly end up with dif­fer­ent answers in a sam­pled plat­form. When you find that you’re spend­ing more time argu­ing over which way to skin your cat than you are decid­ing what to do with it, it may be time to look into an enter­prise plat­form.

Anoth­er rea­son to need access to your raw, unassem­bled data is if you’re look­ing to inte­grate your data out­side of your web ana­lyt­ics tool at the cookie/visitor ID lev­el. If you fore­see the need for a well-inte­grat­ed Busi­ness Intel­li­gence or Data Ware­house plat­form, enter­prise plat­forms are the way to go.

2 — Cardinality is of importance.


I’d say this is relat­ed to sam­pling, but it’s dif­fer­ent enough that it has earned its own sec­tion, here’s why. We’re cur­rent­ly work­ing with an enor­mous glob­al brand here at Search Dis­cov­ery that has over 6.5 mil­lion unique prod­uct IDs and grow­ing. At any giv­en time an ana­lyst may need to report on the most traf­ficked prod­uct ID or the least traf­ficked one. Free ana­lyt­ics plat­forms gen­er­al­ly have a lim­it on the num­ber of unique dimen­sion­al val­ues that can be dis­played in a report. Even paid plat­forms may insti­tute a lim­it in their web-based report­ing engine! The bril­liant thing about a paid plat­form is that you’ll have access to the raw, unsam­pled data via the vendor’s data ware­house or API. When our client, an Adobe Ana­lyt­ics user, needs to report on a very impor­tant prod­uct that gets very lim­it­ed traf­fic, they can always fall­back to Adobe’s Data Ware­house prod­uct. In addi­tion, they have the abil­i­ty to request increased car­di­nal­i­ty for cer­tain reports so they can see all 6.5 mil­lion IDs in the web-based report­ing engine. If you’re deal­ing with lim­it­ed access to your most impor­tant yet casu­al­ly vis­it­ed val­ues, it may be time to look into an enter­prise plat­form.

3 — Integration with other platforms has become a focus.


There comes a time in an organization’s ana­lyt­ics matu­ri­ty when inte­gra­tion becomes a focus for their data. Inte­grat­ing with dis­play media, paid search, SEO, email ser­vice provider, test­ing and opti­miza­tion, per­son­al­iza­tion, offline data sys­tems, and CRM are often keys to increas­ing your ana­lyt­ics agili­ty and action­abil­i­ty. Many free plat­forms offer lit­tle to none inte­gra­tions. Enter­prise plat­forms gen­er­al­ly pro­vide pre­built con­nec­tions with the most-used plat­forms that you’ll want to inte­grate with; plat­forms like Dou­bleClick, AdWords, Bright­Edge, Chee­tah­Mail, Opti­mize­ly, Tar­get, and Sales­force are just the start. Inte­grat­ing these plat­forms will allow you to slice your data based on many new dimen­sions and get you clos­er to that goal of a 360-degree view of your cus­tomer base. Most enter­prise plat­forms include an option for import­ing cus­tom data too! Adobe Ana­lyt­ics uses a sys­tem called Data Sources where­as Google Ana­lyt­ics uses Cus­tom Dimen­sions and Mea­sures for data import. Just make sure to fac­tor this into your plat­form costs while inves­ti­gat­ing a jump to a for-pay plat­form!

4 — Data governance is key.


As unsexy a word as it is, gov­er­nance of your data is a huge­ly impor­tant fac­tor with the larg­er orga­ni­za­tions with which we work. Sev­er­al of Search Discovery’s clients have hun­dreds of brands in dozens of coun­tries with a mul­ti­tude of ad agen­cies, offices, and end-users of their ana­lyt­ics data. Keep­ing this data con­sis­tent, acces­si­ble, and prop­er­ly man­aged can turn into a sce­nario where you’re try­ing to herd cats — it just can­not be done. Most free plat­forms do not grant user-based per­mis­sions at the gran­u­lar­i­ty that these types of orga­ni­za­tions require. For exam­ple, a cur­rent SDI client uti­lizes a cen­tral­ly man­aged dig­i­tal ana­lyt­ics mod­el — one group that owns every data-relat­ed mar­ket­ing sys­tem across the entire mas­sive com­pa­ny. This would be much more than a dif­fi­cult under­tak­ing with sev­er­al free plat­forms, it’d be vir­tu­al­ly impos­si­ble! Enter­prise plat­forms also pro­vide admin­is­tra­tors with the abil­i­ty to ‘login as’ a user to see what the expe­ri­ence will be like for that user to ensure prop­er access rights. 

I’m remind­ed of a client from my days as a Busi­ness Ana­lyst at an agency in Philadel­phia which grant­ed my per­son­al gmail access to their Google Ana­lyt­ics plat­form as an admin. Almost a decade lat­er I still have this admin access today. Don’t let this hap­pen to you! Use an enter­prise plat­form to ensure logins for third-par­ty agen­cies have an expi­ra­tion date.

But data gov­er­nance is more than just user man­age­ment, some enter­prise plat­forms allow you to lock down cus­tom dimen­sions, met­rics, and seg­ments. This grants glob­al users con­fi­dence that data viewed for one brand with­in the orga­ni­za­tion will have the same mean­ing as the next brand. Try doing that with a plat­form that doesn’t allow you to glob­al­ly apply data fil­ters!

Final­ly, what hap­pens when your CMO asks, “How is our orga­ni­za­tion using the data that we send to our ana­lyt­ics plat­form?” Hope­ful­ly this is on your CMO’s mind already. Most free ana­lyt­ics plat­forms don’t have the abil­i­ty to inter­nal­ly report on its users. What reports are used most? What users are using the plat­forms extend­ed capa­bil­i­ties? An enter­prise plat­form should enable you to answer these ques­tions and more — which will help fur­ther prove the ROI of your plat­form.

5 — Custom dimensions and metric limitations.


Here’s a tough ques­tion for you — what can you do if you’ve reached the lim­it of cus­tom dimen­sions that you pass into your plat­form? Give up? Not much. You can always try to squeeze more data into a sin­gle dimen­sion via con­cate­na­tion, but at some point, you’ll out­grow this method too. And how about cus­tom met­rics? If you’re squeez­ing more than one met­ric into sin­gle vari­able you are liv­ing dan­ger­ous­ly. If these issues are com­mon dur­ing your imple­men­ta­tion process, it may be time to con­sid­er imple­ment­ing an enter­prise plat­form that can han­dle your organization’s size.

There are prob­a­bly hun­dreds more rea­sons that clients decide to pay for an ana­lyt­ics plat­form. What oth­ers has your orga­ni­za­tion used to prove the case for an upgrade?