One of the key benefits of using Adobe SiteCatalyst for digital analytics is the variety of options you have for moving data in and out of the tool. On the input side, your company may have a variety of digital properties and initiatives that it would like to track with digital analytics—websites, mobile apps, web-based kiosks, campaigns, etc. It may also want to combine its digital data with useful metadata and offline data to enrich the analysis of its visitors. Adobe gives you different options for collecting, grouping, and appending data, which provides your business greater flexibility and more actionable insights.

On the output side, data that is locked up in silos won’t drive your business forward. Your digital data needs to be shared, analyzed, integrated, and ultimately used to improve business performance. Adobe gives you multiple ways to unleash your digital data.

In this two-part post, I’ll provide a high-level overview of the various input and output options that you have with SiteCatalyst. I’ll also share use cases for each option so you can better evaluate how each can be best applied within your organization. In addition, I’ll try to point you to places for further information on each input/output method.

Input Options

On the left side of the diagram above, there is a dashed line which separates the two main types of input alternatives. The first two options are the real-time/live data collection methods for Sitecatalyst. The second two options represent post-collection methods for importing additional data into Adobe’s analytics platform.

JavaScript Tags

Today most digital analytics platforms use this method to collect data from websites and other web-based systems. This approach involves placing client-side JavaScript code within your web pages, which sends page, browser, and visitor data to SiteCatalyst. Most SiteCatalyst implementations leverage this “web beacon” approach. More and more organizations are now using tag management solutions such as Adobe TagManager to deploy and manage their various JavaScript tags, including their SiteCatalyst page code. Another way of making the deployment of JavaScript tags easier on your development team is the introduction of context variables and processing rules, which give both the developer and the marketer more flexibility and control over their implementation.

AppMeasurement Libraries

Besides the standard JavaScript tagging, companies also have the option of using Adobe’s AppMeasurement libraries. These measurement libraries provide a mechanism for data collection when the JavaScript tag method isn’t compatible with the device, application, or system to be tracked. Adobe has released AppMeasurement libraries for mobile devices (iOS, Android, Windows Phone), rich media (Flash-Flex, Silverlight), and other languages/frameworks (Java, .NET, PHP, XML). All of these libraries leverage the Data Insertion API to pass data to SiteCatalyst, which can also be used for batch uploads or delayed data collection.

Here are some of the interesting use cases for the AppMeasurement libraries:

  • Collect data on mobile apps and non-JavaScript supported electronic devices
  • Send order confirmation server-side from a backend transactional system to reduce order count discrepancies created by client-side browser issues
  • Measure telephone call systems and intranets
  • Track actual file downloads rather than clicks on download links
  • Use as a workaround for the IE URL limitation (IE has a 2083 character limitation that can truncate your SiteCatalyst image requests if they exceed this threshold)

In order to link a visitor’s behaviors across JavaScript and tagless data collection, you may need to generate your own visitor ID (unique identifier for a particular visitor) so that the AppMeasurement and JavaScript values match. Without a tie to a common visitor ID, AppMeasurement data is typically collected in a separate report suite. For more information on the AppMeasurement libraries, go to the Developer & Implementation section within the Digital Marketing Suite Help Center.

SAINT Classifications

As one of Adobe’s more creative acronyms (SiteCatalyst Attribute Importing and Naming Tool), SAINT enables you to upload metadata for SiteCatalyst custom variables (prop or eVar). Metadata is data about data or attributes about your data. For a particular campaign tracking code, article ID, or product ID, you can assign multiple classifications to define or aggregate your data in various ways. For example, for each campaign tracking code you can specify the marketing channel, offer type, featured product, ad placement, creative type, etc. Each classification generates its own unique report in SiteCatalyst, which can be broken down by other attributes or dimensions.

A great feature of SAINT classifications is the fact they are retroactive. If you want to re-classify or change some metadata values, you can simply replace the SAINT file with an updated version. While many attributes are just text-based (brand, color, size, etc.), a special form of classification (Numeric 2) allows you to create metrics (cost of goods sold) that can have different values for different time periods. For more information on SAINT, download the SAINT Classifications Manual within the SiteCatalyst Product Documentation page.

Data Sources

In SiteCatalyst, you have the ability to import other forms of time-based data. The data sources feature is often used for uploading offline metrics but it can also be used to import data from other digital marketing systems such as your email or ad serving vendor. In the upload process, you specify and map the metrics and data dimensions to particular custom events and eVars for reporting and analysis purposes.

There are two main types of Data Source uploads that you need to be aware of. First, you have the ability to upload summary data, which attaches offline metrics to a subset of specified reports (eVars). Second, the Transaction ID method enables you to link an offline event to an online event through a unique transaction identifier that is set when an online event occurs such as a lead form being submitted. The advantage of transaction ID data is that your uploaded metrics are fully integrated with the rest of your SiteCatalyst reports rather than a few designated reports with summary data uploads.

Here are some common examples of how companies use Data Sources:

  • Upload campaign metrics (ad impressions, campaign cost, etc.) via summary data tied to campaign tracking codes
  • Import cost of goods sold data via transaction ID to analyze gross margin performance
  • Tie product returns via transaction ID to close the gap between gross sales and net sales
  • Upload closed offline sales via transaction ID to understand what online tactics and behaviors close business deals not just generate leads
  • Bring in financial loan approvals, declines, and loan value from offline processing via transaction ID
  • Import CRM data for data that may change over time such as customer lifetime value, customer type (silver/gold/platinum), location, etc. via transaction ID

A third type of Data Source upload is known as fully processed data, which is used in limited cases for post-collection batch uploads (tied to visitor ID or IP/user agent) and is handled as if it were received by Adobe’s data collection servers at the time specified. An important aspect to know about Data Sources is that the uploaded data is indistinguishable from your normal SiteCatalyst data, and there is not a mechanism to delete the data if it is erroneous (so be careful!). For more information on Data Sources, download the Data Sources User Guide within the SiteCatalyst Product Documentation page.

In summary, I’ve covered four key methods for collecting or importing data into SiteCatalyst. In the next article in this two-part series, I’ll review the multiple ways you can extract data from SiteCatalyst.

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