Editor’s Note: Throughout this series, when I refer to “marketing analytics,” it includes digital marketing analytics or web analytics as it used to be called.
Since joining Amplitude, one of the questions I frequently get is how “digital product analytics” differs from “digital marketing analytics.” This question is logical because I spent over twenty years of my professional life advising on marketing analytics. But I have found this question difficult to answer. In many ways, the principles of product analytics are like those of marketing analytics. Both fall under the heading of “digital” analytics products. Users of both types of products are looking to leverage data to increase conversion rates, improve digital experiences, etc.
But I have been part of many conversations where organizations struggle to understand the difference between marketing and product analytics. There have also been some great articles on why organizations may need both. So, in this two-part blog series, I will share some of my thoughts on the differences between marketing and product analytics from functional and vendor product perspectives. I hope that my introspective journey to add clarity to this topic can also benefit you.
One way to start thinking about this topic is to go back to the non-digital world. If you think about a traditional car manufacturer, the marketing team would focus on what types of cars the marketplace needs, the price point, and how they would market the vehicle. The product team would have engineers who designed and built the actual vehicle. Both teams had the same goal of making the car successful, but there was not much overlap between them.
In this car scenario, the marketing team might grapple with questions like:
- What can we do to make people [emotionally] want this car over a competitor’s car?
- What is the ideal target audience for this car?
- Where can we promote the car so that our target audience will see it?
- What collateral/brochure content do we need to help prospects learn about the car?
- What price point balances our need for profit and sales goals?
At the same time, the product team might have a different set of questions:
- How does the driving experience make the customer feel?
- How can we make the car have the fewest technical issues possible?
- Would customers recommend their vehicle to their peers?
- Does the car experience align with the brand promise?
- Which car features do owners use and which do they not?
- What car features or innovations should we improve for the next model?
- What would make customers loyal to the vehicle such that they would buy another in the future?
In this example, the marketing team is most concerned with the product’s ideation, messaging, content, and promotion. In contrast, the product team is most concerned with the physical experience, reliability, feature engagement/innovation, and long-term customer loyalty.
As digital transformation pushes more and more brands into the digital world, the same principles apply, but the distinctions between marketing and product get blurry. I think we can agree that no one would want to drive a car built by the marketing department. Nor would a car engineer be the best person to create a television commercial for the car! But in today’s digital world, there is much less distinction between what digital marketers and digital product teams can and should do. Digital has become the medium for marketing and for interacting with the product. I have seen digital marketers and product teams argue/fight over the design of digital products (mobile apps and websites). These disputes have led to many marketing and product teams having poor relationships.
Marketing Analytics vs. Product Analytics
From my perspective, I think the functions of marketing and product teams in the digital world are not that dissimilar to those in the analog world described in the car example. For many organizations, I see the following [albeit simplistic] separation of use cases and objectives:
The preceding team differentiation loosely follows the analog model. Most product teams don’t want to create digital marketing campaigns. Most marketers don’t want to code new digital product features. But where I see the tension is when it comes to improving digital customer experience and loyalty. Both marketing and product have opinions on what is best for the digital product in these areas. For example, the teams might debate whether the budget should be allocated to the marketing team for new customer acquisitions or to the product team to build new functionality. Which will benefit the business more in the long run?
Digital Creates Tension
The tension between marketing and product teams is created when both teams feel they have responsibility for improving digital apps and websites but come at it from different angles. Let’s look at a practical example of how marketing and product teams can clash by looking at a single page within a digital experience.
Let’s imagine that you work for a retailer that sells products online. At some point, customers will arrive at a product listing page, where they view many products within a particular product category:
As you can see, there are a lot of different elements on this page. There is a grid that shows a bunch of products, a rotating banner at the top that shows promotions and cross-sells, left navigation that allows visitors to filter products, another filter at the top for types of shirts, a top navigation bar, and a search box with rotating search terms.
Let’s assume that this organization wants to optimize this product listing page to get the most engagement and product conversions. Which team, marketing or product, do you think would be responsible for this? If both, which portions of this page fall in the marketing domain vs. the product domain? While the answer can differ in each organization, in my experience, digital marketers would typically be interested in the following questions and look to take the corresponding actions:
At the same time, the product team might be interested in the following questions and look to take the corresponding actions:
Some of you may be digital marketers who have used marketing analytics products to answer some of the questions shown on the product list. Some of you may be on digital product teams that have used product analytics tools to answer items from the marketing list. The team responsible depends upon the organization, its people, and their skill sets.
I find it interesting how difficult it is to determine which team should “own” the preceding questions in the digital world while making the same distinction was much easier in the analog one. I believe that this difficulty has caused tension and potential acrimony between marketing and product teams. The tension between marketing and product has even led to new terms like “growth marketing” which have caused some confusion.
As you can imagine, many of the questions above could be answered by marketing analytics or product analytics products. But over the years, many organizations have chosen to use marketing analytics and product analytics products, which can have several downsides. In the next post, I will explore how marketing and product analytics products differ and where I see digital analytics products heading in the future.