There is never a dull moment for digital natives. This ever-changing landscape of seismic market shifts, new technologies and a dramatically accelerated pace of movement holds us forever on our toes; grey (and ‘greying’) cells actively trying to consume and understand our surrounding dynamics.
Standing at the second month of circa 2022, perhaps it is not too late for a flashback of the last 20 years in digital analytics to gauge just how far we have come…and where on earth are we headed?
The 2000-s: Processing raw log files and elementary website tagging
Back then, we were using the basement of a residential building in north India, as part of a small ITES agency, to work on the digital portfolios of small businesses around the world. It would be safe to say that Digital Analytics as a discipline was at its infancy even in the most developed countries. I remember seeking access to raw log files of hit data to understand website traffic trends.
Omniture, as it was known at that time, had begun revolutionizing web analytics by using specialized tags. Google Analytics, as even now, was the easier and more democratic web analytics tool that was popular with amateurs and beginners.
Alexa was a trendy tool used primarily to understand competitor trends, notwithstanding its inaccuracies.
We have come a long way since then. Alexa is to be officially sunset by Amazon on May 1, 20221.
The 2010-s: Social media flexes its muscles
While Myspace, Twitter and Orkut (remember that one?) had gained popularity in many countries during the 2000-s, the Egyptian uprising of 20112 was perhaps one of the first instances that made business owners take note of the power of social media. Since then, social media has climbed one high after another. It made a global star out of Justin Bieber3. It funded a scientific gene breakthrough in progressive neurodegenerative disease through the Ice Bucket Challenge of 20144. It made a mockery of the 2016 US Presidential Election as potentially 62% of the electorate got exposed to fake news in a bid to sway popular opinion5.
The 2020-s: Digital and Data become buzzwords
To be fair, all things digital had already been trending since the last 2 decades. Us, digital natives, while struggling to cope with constant change, were always considered a somewhat nerdy or goofy bunch. We were the privileged gentry that could fiddle away on Facebook during office hours because it was our job to do so 😊.
And yet, at the turn of the decade, the spotlight on Digital turned even brighter. As if the pace of change wasn’t already frantic enough, Covid ensured that whoever had slacked on the digital bandwagon was galloping away, fast and furious. Businesses scampered overnight, to activate or enhance their digital sales models. As many brick-and-mortar businesses shut shop, the population that was cooped up indoors switched on its digital screens to stay connected, to stay entertained and to stay productive. With all this surge in digital activity came a flood of digital data that had to be generated, cleaned, processed, and analyzed.
So, what lies ahead?
Spiderman was once lectured: ‘With great power comes great responsibility’. The phrase is prophetic for digital analytics today. While I don’t have the foresight to predict where exactly Digital Analytics stands in its lifecycle, I can certainly tell that Digital Analytics software needs to evolve drastically to support all the attention it is getting at the moment.
A tag-less world in the cloud
The writing is clear on the wall. The sands of time will soon bury giants that fail to evolve. The digital analytics domain requires a fair bit of specialization in analytics rigor as well as software know-how. Standard website and app analytics software demand so much resource for governance and analysis today, that businesses will soon realize the need for quicker fixes. A tag less digital analytics solution plays right into this need. Unless the biggest digital analytics platforms of today can simplify their act drastically, quicker and smarter smaller players will soon take over this space. And perhaps rightly so.
This blog post is, by no means, a catalogue of all key events in the digital analytics evolution of the last 20 years. It only attempts to outline the key changes that are closer to the challenges and milestones I have met in my career. The hope is to resonate with fellow digital analytics thought leaders and have an open discussion.