The Changing World of Analytics: A Q&A Series

We caught up with Ryan Webb, Conversion and Analytics Director at SearchStar – a Google Analytics Certified Partner and digital media buying agency.

19 Oct 2020


SearchStar are able to proudly boast an impressive portfolio of clients within the eCommerce space, and so we caught up with Ryan to hear his views on a career in analytics, and what’s in store for the future.

Stacey: “How would you summarise your career to date which brings you to your current role of Analytics Director at SearchStar?”

Ryan: “I started out as a “media buyer” buying offline advertising space for clients in newspapers, magazines and radio. When Google launched, it became clear very quickly to me that I would find digital advertising a more rewarding area to work, because I could more easily see the impact of my efforts (through measurement & tracking). After 10 years or so trying my hand at all different types of digital advertising, I have settled in a role that focuses on measurement. My team at SearchStar spend all day, every day trying to better measure client advertising activity & also uncover insight that helps them improve it”.

Stacey: “You’re regularly involved in thought leadership for analytics in eCommerce – have you noticed any interesting trends with clients during the events of 2020?”

Ryan: “We’ve spent quite a lot of time trying to uncover common trends across a highly unusual summer.

Something that stood out very clearly early on was the difference between eCommerce businesses that stood still & those who looked to face the challenges of lockdown head on. For example, we saw those who very quickly added transparent messaging about safe/unaffected deliveries to their website, continued to perform incredibly well (especially as holiday budgets were cut and people spent money on home furnishings & DIY). Those who sat still suffered, as hesitant prospective customers didn’t want to part with their cash without that added reassurance.

Equally as clear were differences in performance of eCommerce businesses offering products that required an in-home visit (design consultations/surveys etc). These businesses needed to adapt quickly; some started offering virtual consultations, some offered clear evidence of “safe home visits”. The result was that traffic volumes, click through rates, conversion rates… across all KPIs, we saw the difference in performance of those who were proactive and those who sat still.

And of course, let’s not forget travel. The market for 2020 has been decimated, but thankfully for many, we’ve seen interest in booking for 2021 surge. Ad performance and conversion rates for some of our travel clients has been brilliant over the last month or so. Again, however, as with eCommerce, the clients who’ve bounced back fastest and are seeing highest conversion rates are those who’ve adapted and included better refund/flexible products. Let’s just hope we’re through the worst of the challenges and the travel industry can build on this momentum into 2021”.

Stacey: “In your opinion, how important do you think analytics is in consumer/retail businesses, and why?”

Ryan: “What’s the highest score you can give for importance? 11 out of 10? 110%?! It’s not just important, it’s critical for any eCommerce business. Most people look at an example like Amazon and know they’ve become a giant of an eCommerce business because of the analytics data they collect and use wisely.

I don’t have to convince anyone about this anymore, the current challenge is to ensure that clients don’t just collect analytics data of the sake of it, instead we ensure they are tracking what they need and then only reporting on the things that are insightful, not just the numbers”.

Stacey: “What would your advice be for someone looking to establish a career in analytics right now?”

Ryan: “That’s easy. Digest all the Google Analytics Academy content that’s freely available. If you can build up and then gain the main certificate (the Google Analytics Individual Qualification) then do that too. This is one of the first things a new starter at SearchStar would be expected to do; anyone who has already achieved it when they apply for a role will certainly help their CV move to the top of the pile”.

Stacey: “Are there any particular skills/competencies that are well suited to a career in analytics? If so, what are they?”

Ryan: “You’ve got to be numerate, but you don’t necessarily need to be a statistician. Many of the tools we use do the more complex calculations; you need to have the ability to spot when something doesn’t look right and have confidence in determining meaning from the results.

Beyond that, anyone who is a great communicator will do well. Let’s be honest, analytics and data can be boring, so anyone who can interpret the data and then tell an engaging & insightful story with it, will have an impact”.

Stacey: “And finally, how do you see the eCommerce industry changing/evolving in 2021?”

Ryan: “In analytics we’ve got some big challenges coming up over the next few years as Apple, Google and others increase user privacy and hence start to limit our ability to track as much as we’ve been used to in the past. My belief is that we’ll end up with less analytics data that is of a much higher quality, so in effect we’ll actually be able to gain insight much faster.

In eCommerce, I’m just excited by the potential for more and more businesses to sell online. What I’d love to see is a few truly disruptive eCommerce businesses emerge that make Amazon sit up and take notice”.

Photo by Edho Pratama on Unsplash

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