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.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @analyticshero.