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WEB ANALYTICS TO UNDERSTAND THE BUSINESS AND MANAGE IT

Chatting with Giovanni Ciaccio 

The Web Analytics Association, now the Digital Analytics Association, considers Web Analytics as “the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of internet data to understand and optimize the use of the Web“. 

Web analytics encompasses many tools for evaluating data and generating insights. It can be used both by small businesses evaluating website performance as well as by enterprises looking to integrate their data strategy. The ability to collect and analyze data allows the noticing of what is working and what can be improved so the business might gain deep insights useful for its strategies and implement its moves.

Over time, Web Analytics tools have become increasingly important and sophisticated for analyzing user behavior. Today they represent a precious wealth of information from which companies can take valuable marketing strategies.

We had a chat with Giovanni Ciaccio, a web analytics professional that is the perfect example of digital marketing passion meeting application. Giovanni was already working in digital marketing during his studies in Bocconi to become a specialist in e-commerce management today. 

At the moment he is Head of Digital Marketing in Lirecento, an online Italian apparel brand, he is also a Digital Consultant for both small and big brands and now he is a GAMS Coach too, being one of our experts contributing to the Challenges creation and laboratories in Web Analytics. 

 

Will you talk to us about your career path from student to Web Analytics professional?

“I studied Business Management at Bocconi University and obtained my specialization in Marketing. My studies have given me the right mindset to better approach problems and concepts, but ten years ago the world wasn’t so digital and social-oriented and the syllabus I took was more related to traditional marketing and to big brands’ realities only. 

In order to introduce myself to the job market in a changing environment I had to learn from people who were the pioneers at that stage. I appreciate my studies because those gave me a good mindset for facing new challenges, but I can say that what I do now, I definitely learned at work day-by-day.

I was working in digital marketing even before graduating, as during my Master’s degree in Marketing I already started to collaborate with Spotlime, a startup that helps users find things to do around them like cinemas, discos, and more. When I started working I immediately realized that I had only gained theoretical until then and the real-world companies wanted something different from a student like me accessing the job space. When you are a student and start working, you realize that there are different logics from the ones you learned in university, so you need to start practicing and learn a lot from that point onwards.

I had some job experiences in a few companies operating in different fields and today I am Head of Digital Marketing in Lirecento, an online Italian apparel brand. I am also a Digital Consultant for small and big brands and last, but not least, I am now a GAMS Coach too.”

 

Do you think working in more realities and kinds of fields has helped you deepen your digital knowledge?

“Sure. I think that in order to understand the big marketing industry scene it is important to gain experience in different companies and different branches. We have to realize that talking about digital marketing sounds like talking about everything and nothing at the same time because it is a very big environment, so getting more knowledge points is surely a benefit.

My first approach to digital advertising was with Spotlime, then I had my first contact with performance marketing in Hotelscan thanks to which I learned how to combine the activities on the advertising platforms with data analysis. Moving to Simple Agency I indeed had the chance to see different verticals from e-commerce, food delivery, telco and large-scale organised distribution. The agency experience helped me understand how different businesses work and the specific verticals’ objectives. My path has brought me having both good technical skills on advertising platforms and strategic skills to manage business and customer relationships in a broad sense.”

 

What are the benefits of Web Analytics? 

“There are many benefits to using Web Analytics and, for a good understanding, it is useful to begin from the certainty that only if the background job is done properly in terms of website tracking and advertising campaign tracking, then it is possible to extract all the insights needed without any mistakes and make business decisions.

Knowing how to read data today is very important and it is also interesting that what I might see in a report could differ from what someone else sees in the same document. Web Analytics is, in some way, not an exact science. In my opinion, the major mistake that can be committed using analytics is reading data focusing only on details and losing the big picture. That is the case when data might be a problem instead of a benefit and the reason why those who work with analytics must find the right balance between details and the big picture.

The best thing about analytics is the power of data. We can verify that data and insights obtained from analytics are either good or not for obtaining better results, that is the main motivation. It is very interesting to see how a new landing page, a new copy or an A/B test might bring huge impacts. We should also remember that we work with limited sources so the main thing is about getting the most out of what we have. If we had infinite resources this job would not be so engaging, probably.”

 

What would you suggest to those who want to take the first step towards a Web Analytics career?  

“The first thing I would suggest is to study the business models to understand how companies work in every industry. If you want to work as a web analyst, it is good to try to understand how that company makes profits and how that business works, before sending a CV to a company.

More in general, it’s good to have some notions in statistics that greatly help to realize campaigns or user behavioral reports, the first tasks usually assigned to an intern. It is fundamental to be aware of what makes sense or not from a mathematical point of view. Another suggestion I may give is to study the analytics platforms, first of all Google Analytics, but also other analytics systems such as the one from Adobe or other ad-servers which are commonly used in many agencies. Today, Youtube is a big knowledge hub so I strongly advise students to help themselves by discovering the professional platforms and following the available online courses that are helpful for acquiring the base notions in analytics for the practice.”

 

Which are the Web Analyst hard and soft skills?   

“In my opinion, the main soft skill for a web analyst is the ability to have an overview of everything and the ability to get micro insights at a macro level. Here again, I want to underline how important it is to know the business models because this will help to relate the insights to the company model and find the best solutions. Just to give an example, let’s say that I am changing the flow of a landing page to optimize the conversion rate. In doing so, I am also optimizing the business itself because my implementation will involve more subscriptions, then more shopping, and a better return on the investment.

On top of the ability to overview, it is so also important to be able to relate information in a logical way, such as the landing page example I made before. If your boss were to tell you the company needs 20% of transactions more in one month, what would you do? You can start working on the step just before that such as the cart, but you can go further ahead and to do it you need to know how things interact among themselves.

Resuming, I think the major soft skills for working in analytics are: the ability to overview, to extract data and information and to relate them to the bigger picture. Talking in marketing terms, a web analyst must know the funnel very well and how to build and rebuild the data they obtain.

Talking about hard skills, it is important to know how to use professional platforms, build analysis models, and be a master of Excel. Do not underestimate the importance of Excel because it is a used everyday tool, starting from basic things to Pivot tables, sum/product matrices, etc.”

 

Must a Web Analyst have a specific mindset or does the Web Analyst do a learning-by-doing job?

“I think it is probably a mix of what you’re saying. In my personal experience, I have always been used to measuring things since I was a child. I did like to count and find logical patterns. I remember when I used to go with my father to the bank and I used to count the banknotes at the same time the employee did. I did love finding patterns and understanding information through data, which is what I actually do today.

When analyzing a campaign there are many parameters such as CTR, impressions, CPC, conversion rate and value rate, and it is fundamental to know how to read those parameters because the values themselves do not say anything, you have to be able to find a correlation among them. It is important to know the industry averages, how to extract a trend and how to find a connection between these dimensions and other dimensions such as seasonality or budget variation.

If you like to measure things, you can be ahead of others but it is something you can learn by practicing. I remember when I was working in Hotelscan I did not often see insights that were more clearer to the colleagues with more experience than me and that is normal.

Relating complex dimensions is a never-ending process that involves strong focus, always remembering that we are not talking about an exact science but that interpretation is also subject to the point of view of the analyst in charge. What I mean is that what happens in a company with some dimensions, is not what may happen in another one with the same dimensions.

Every good analyst knows the importance of creating and testing models. In my experience so far I can say that not finding some problems in everything I do from the product launch or a campaign launch has never happened, and every obstacle found has been a chance to learn and to improve myself as a professional.”

 

What is the biggest area related to your role that you are more curious about and why?

“When I started working with social media campaigns, Facebook and Instagram were the maximum points at that stage, but now many other platforms are taking ground such as TikTok or Clubhouse. I am very curious about these new platforms and about what will happen with the “old” ones. I think that the majority of targets will probably move somewhere else so it will be fundamental, from a business point of view, to understand where to move next. The rich environment will probably also generate a change on the advertising platforms and every professional has to be ready. Platforms evolve rapidly and marketers must stay aware to move with the times.”

 

What are your future professional plans?

“On a personal level, because of my e-commerce passion, I am curious about Amazon advertising and I am undertaking a project with some friends, with the intent of going deeper on this interesting platform.

More in general, I want to get more digital marketing knowledge and move even closer to data. I have many projects I bring with me every day but I am planning to start a course in Data Science in the near future because I think that in 4-5 years’ time this will be one of the most requested roles on the market and I want to be ready.”

 

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