I recently attended a MeasureCamp event in Helsinki, Finland. After I presented about some of the differences between marketing and product analytics, I got into an intriguing discussion about the intent of digital analytics. For example, why do organizations do marketing analytics or product analytics? What problem are they really trying to solve? I think this discussion arose because during my session I showed what ChatGPT thought the differences were between marketing and product analytics:
While we often don’t take a step back to think about intent, it is actually interesting to consider because intent drives a lot of what analytics teams work on and what digital analytics vendors build into their products. While it is easy to focus on the specific feature differences between marketing and product analytics products, the person I spoke to made an interesting observation that there is a significant difference in why organizations conduct analytics and why vendors provide analytics products. As ChatGPT correctly points out, most organizations conducting marketing analytics are doing so to improve advertising spend and optimize acquisition. Conversely, most organizations conducting product analytics are doing so to improve digital products. Though this might seem like a subtle difference, intent is important. Understanding why you collect data can significantly Impact analytics use cases, what data you are collecting, and what analytics product you should use.
Optimizing Digital Advertising
The intent behind digital analytics also has a significant impact on what features analytics vendors build and prioritize. For example, it is no secret that Google Analytics focuses on digital marketing use cases. GA has been the digital analytics product of choice for marketers for over a decade. Google knew that if it provided a way to show the impact of marketing spend, marketers would likely keep buying Google advertising. Since the primary intent of Google is to boost digital advertising spend, it is no surprise that the features and roadmap of Google Analytics focus on marketing use cases. These features include creating Audiences and sending them to Google Ads, marketing attribution, etc.
But one of the complaints I have always had about Google Analytics (even before joining Amplitude!) was that its primary intent as a product was to make Google more money. That is why GA is often given away for free or heavily subsidized. Of course, you can use Google Analytics to improve your website or mobile app, but that is often organizations or agencies finding ways to work within the GA construct to do so. Google’s marketing focus is why Google Analytics has limited product analytics features. Trying to perform product analytics use cases with Google Analytics is like fitting a square peg into a round hole. You can do it if you push hard enough, but it wasn’t its intended purpose. You can also see this in the go-to-market strategy for Google Analytics. Google uses agencies to promote its products and provide support. If a digital analytics vendor truly wants its customers to use its product to improve their digital products, it should have a direct relationship with its customers. But if your main goal is to get customers to buy more ads, you can outsource customer relationships to others.
Improving Your Product
At a high level, the intent of product analytics is very different. Most product analytics products exist to help your organization make (or save) more money. Whether improving a conversion funnel or identifying which product features are or are not helping, product analytics features help improve your digital products. Having been at Amplitude for almost two years, I can attest that our product roadmap focuses entirely on what will help product teams improve their products. While we have added several marketing analytics features (and are actively competing with Google Analytics), we added these to help product teams extend their view into the product experience. Our product team spends a lot of time talking to product teams to understand what features they need to build world-class digital products. Product analytics vendors like Amplitude also know that it takes more than just a product to help make great digital products, so support is a significant component of our offering.
So even though there is considerable overlap between the features and functionality in marketing and product analytics features, intent matters because intent permeates so much of the customer-vendor relationship. Ultimately, you have to decide if you want your digital analytics program to be driven by what will make Google more money or your organization more money!