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. 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 (more on that here), or between Webtrends, Loca­lyt­ics, MixPanel, etc.—that’s a whole other conver­sa­tion.

1. Sampling has become a problem.

Source: rebloggy.com

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.

If you’re looking to inte­grate your data outside of your web analyt­ics tool at the cookie/visitor ID level, you’ll need to access your raw, unassem­bled data through a for-pay plat­form. 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.

Source: sites.psu.edu

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.

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.

Source: tehcute.com

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 providers, testing and opti­miza­tion plat­forms, person­al­iza­tion plat­forms, offline data systems, and CRMs are often keys to increas­ing your analyt­ics agility and action­abil­ity. Many free plat­forms offer little to no inte­gra­tions. Enter­prise plat­forms gener­ally provide prebuilt connec­tions with the most-used plat­forms that you’ll want to inte­grate with: DoubleClick, AdWords, Bright­Edge, Chee­tah­Mail, Opti­mizely, Target, Sales­force, and more. 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.

Source: geograph.co.uk

As unsexy a word as it is, data gover­nance is a hugely impor­tant factor for 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.

Source: cutestpaw.com

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? The answer is 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 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?