It’s hard to have a dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing con­ver­sa­tion these days that doesn’t touch on real-time ana­lyt­ics. Whether you’re for or against the pro­lif­er­a­tion of real-time data (and there are many who fall into each camp), the increas­ing speed of mar­ket­ing is a real­ity that we see at every turn. On-site per­son­al­iza­tion, remar­ket­ing cam­paigns, and con­tent opti­miza­tion are just a few exam­ples of emer­gent tac­tics that require data to be made avail­able in new and faster ways. While most data-informed deci­sions should still take days or some­times weeks to make, there are increas­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for mar­keters and oth­ers based on live data that can make a sig­nif­i­cant impact on a business.

This is why, in our 17 Octo­ber 2013 release of Adobe Ana­lyt­ics 1.4, we are intro­duc­ing a set of true real-time reports—low-latency (a few sec­onds!), high gran­u­lar­ity, and con­stant streaming—in the Adobe Ana­lyt­ics reports & ana­lyt­ics (for­merly Site­Cat­a­lyst) UI. In this post, I will describe the report at a high level and share some insights we’ve gained over the past few months of beta test­ing so that you can take advan­tage of this new set of reports in your own mar­ket­ing efforts.

What Can I Do with Real-Time Reports in Adobe Analytics?

As described above, we define real-time report­ing as:

  1. Cur­rent: data latency in the real-time reports is as low as a few sec­onds. There is almost no lag between data col­lec­tion and data avail­abil­ity in these reports, and you can choose from among hun­dreds of vari­ables and events to view in real-time.
  2. Gran­u­lar: while most reports in Adobe Ana­lyt­ics are lim­ited to hourly gran­u­lar­ity, the real-time reports offer minute gran­u­lar­ity so that you can iden­tify and respond to trends much more quickly than in tra­di­tional reports in the tool.
  3. Alive: the real-time report streams data into it as that data is col­lected. You should never need to refresh your browser to get new data when view­ing the real-time report. New data becomes avail­able auto­mat­i­cally every 3–5 sec­onds, and visual ani­ma­tions make it clear how your data is changing.

Real-Time Report

Each report suite in Adobe Ana­lyt­ics is auto­mat­i­cally enabled with access to three real-time reports. These reports are eas­ily cre­ated, con­fig­ured, and saved by any admin user, and then become avail­able to all users in your com­pany. Each report requires one met­ric and three dimen­sions, typ­i­cally based on your exist­ing imple­men­ta­tion. Avail­able dimen­sions include all traf­fic vari­ables, Pages, Site Sec­tions, Refer­ring Domains, Track­ing Code, Prod­ucts, and more; avail­able met­rics include all cus­tom events and shop­ping cart events, Rev­enue, Orders, Units, and Instances/Page Views. This means that most users can “plug and play” with­out mak­ing any tag­ging changes at all.

Break­downs

One of my favorite ben­e­fits of the real-time reports is that they explain “why some­thing is hap­pen­ing” through break­downs. In the screen shot above, click­ing on any prod­uct name will show refer­ring domain and GeoSeg­men­ta­tion U.S. DMA for that prod­uct. Pub­lish­ers might report on Arti­cle Names, Site Sec­tions, and Refer­ring Domains so edi­tors can see site sec­tions and refer­ring domains by arti­cle; this will inform the tac­tic they use to max­i­mize upward trend­ing articles.

Full-screen mode

I need to share one more of my “favorite fea­tures” of the real-time reports: if you click on the icon in the upper left cor­ner of the report, you will enter our native full-screen mode. Early users of this tool reported want­ing to dis­play it on a big-screen TV in the news­room or the mar­ket­ing depart­ment. We made it really easy for you to do so, and when you click the icon, the report enters an attrac­tive full-screen view per­fect for dis­play on these devices:

Real-Time Full-Screen Mode

Real-Time Best Prac­tices and Use Cases

Pub­lish­ers

The edi­to­r­ial use cases are fairly clear: pub­lish­ers want to make sure that con­tent is rel­e­vant, posi­tioned appro­pri­ately to max­i­mize traf­fic and engage­ment, and pro­moted in the right way at the right time. The real-time reports in Adobe Ana­lyt­ics allow edi­tors and oth­ers see what is pop­u­lar (and why) but also what is emerg­ing and what is becom­ing stale. Each report­let in the real-time report has three modes:

  • Most Pop­u­lar: which pieces of con­tent (or prod­ucts, key­words, etc.) accrued the most page views (or other met­ric) over the selected time period. This a raw mea­sure of pop­u­lar­ity, where more [met­ric] equates to a higher rank­ing on the list.
  • Gain­ers: which pieces of con­tent are increas­ing in pop­u­lar­ity at the high­est rate, defined as per­cent­age of growth from the start­ing point in the time period to the most recent point. There might be a story that isn’t pop­u­lar enough yet to crack my top 10 over the last 15 min­utes, but at the rate it’s increas­ing in pop­u­lar­ity, I can tell it’s about to blow up.
  • Losers: which pieces of con­tent are decreas­ing in pop­u­lar­ity at the high­est rate, defined the same way as Gain­ers. I always want my con­tent to be fresh; when a story starts to lose its momen­tum, it’s time to get it off the home page. This view allows me to do that.

The reports are also fil­ter­able. If I’m the edi­tor of the sports sec­tion on my site, I only want to see and drill into the pop­u­lar­ity of sports sto­ries. I can fil­ter the report by search­ing for “sports” if that is part of my page name or arti­cle name tax­on­omy, and then my results will be far more rel­e­vant to me.

One great ben­e­fit of the real-time reports gen­er­ally is that, because you have up to three of them, you can cre­ate dif­fer­ent views for dif­fer­ent per­sonae. I might cre­ate a generic “Con­tent Real-Time Report” for my edi­tors, but the video team needs some­thing dif­fer­ent. I can cre­ate a spe­cial report just for them that shows Video Name, Site Sec­tion, and Video Type, with Video Views as my met­ric. This will allow both teams to meet their needs using real-time data to make deci­sions in their own sphere.

As one pub­lisher told me, “Christ­mas is com­ing early for our edi­to­r­ial staff.”

Retail­ers

When I demoed an early ver­sion of the real-time reports at Adobe Sum­mit 2013 (yes, this counts as another “sneak” that has been released!), I used a retailer exam­ple. The retailer was made up, but the use case was not. Among the many uses of real-time data for retail­ers is the abil­ity to quickly iden­tify mis-listed prod­ucts or run­away coupons that have been picked up by sites like slick​deals​.net so that the issue can be rec­ti­fied before thou­sands of dol­lars are lost. This is the clas­sic case of “unknown unknowns,” things that mar­keters can’t pos­si­bly know to look for on their own. Using a real-time report, I can see when a prod­uct unex­pect­edly shoots up the list of pop­u­lar or fast-gaining sell­ers on my site, and then break down by refer­ring domain to see what is dri­ving those users to my site to purchase.

In many cases, sim­ply know­ing which prod­ucts are sell­ing in real-time allows a mer­chan­diser to make impor­tant deci­sions that can be the dif­fer­ence between hit­ting a num­ber and miss­ing it. On Black Fri­day and/or Cyber Mon­day, retail­ers are often glued to their reports, either to pro­vide real-time updates to man­age­ment on the suc­cess or fail­ure of cer­tain pro­mo­tions or the move­ment of online inven­tory. In the past, these mar­keters needed to know what they were look­ing for, but with the vol­ume of pro­mo­tions and deals being offered, and prod­ucts being pur­chased, it’s easy to miss an oppor­tu­nity (or a prob­lem). Not only will the real-time reports keep a retailer up to date on prod­uct pur­chases or response to pro­mo­tions, but it is great at detect­ing errors or out-of-stock mes­sages and sur­fac­ing those. Sim­ply imple­ment a cus­tom event for either of these two issues, and then select those cus­tom events for use in real-time reports.

I love this quote from a mar­keter who was an early adopter of the real-time reports: “With the addi­tion of some of the other dimen­sions it has really helped give it some util­ity in the mar­ket­ing depart­ment. And hav­ing prod­ucts in there brings our sales team in to be able to use this tool. Before, we were look­ing at just editorial—now we’re bring­ing in mar­ket­ing and sales. That’s great.”

What Else Do I Need to Know?

  • API Access: Is there an API already avail­able to all cus­tomers so that I can pull this high-granularity real-time data into my own appli­ca­tion? There sure is!
  • Time Ranges: Four time ranges of real-time data are pos­si­ble in the report: 15 min­utes, 30 min­utes, 1 hour, and 2 hours.
  • Clas­si­fi­ca­tions: In this build of real-time report­ing, clas­si­fi­ca­tions are not avail­able. How­ever, we antic­i­pate adding them very soon, so that you can report on cam­paigns rather than track­ing codes, and prod­uct names rather than SKUs.
  • Per­sis­tence: One thing to note with the real-time reports is that there is no per­sis­tence with the vari­ables that you choose. Con­ver­sion vari­ables (eVars) are not avail­able in this phase, and dimen­sions like Track­ing Code, Refer­ring Domain, and Search Key­words do not auto­mat­i­cally per­sist and there­fore can­not be tied to down­stream con­ver­sion in real-time. To use those dimen­sions, you can “set and per­sist” them into a Cus­tom Traf­fic vari­able, or pass them into a Cus­tom Traf­fic vari­able at the time of con­ver­sion. All of these dimen­sions are avail­able with the Instances met­ric, so traf­fic trends are eas­ily obtained for any dimen­sion; con­ver­sion can require a bit of imple­men­ta­tion work. Rev­enue, orders, etc. on prod­ucts is avail­able out of the box since those met­rics are always set on the same call as the prod­ucts variable.
  • Real-time and Adobe DTM: Adobe Dynamic Tag Man­age­ment can greatly enhance real-time report­ing. For exam­ple, I once wanted to track Device Type in the real-time reports. I used DTM’s built-in _satellite.browserInfo object to cap­ture the device type and the oper­at­ing sys­tem in a Cus­tom Traf­fic vari­able, which imme­di­ately became avail­able to me in the real-time reports.
  • Enabling reports: When you first con­fig­ure the real-time reports, it can take a few min­utes for them to start work­ing. How­ever, once they start work­ing they will remain avail­able and cur­rent in perpetuity.
  • Chang­ing con­fig­u­ra­tions: You can always change the con­fig­u­ra­tion of real-time reports. This means that if you build a real-time report and then you real­ize you wanted a dif­fer­ent met­ric, or dif­fer­ent dimen­sions, it is easy to swap them out. I like this fea­ture a lot, because you are never locked in to one con­fig­u­ra­tion; it can change as your busi­ness needs do. For exam­ple, you may need to “com­man­deer” one of your real-time reports to use met­rics and dimen­sions spe­cific to a live event that you’re spon­sor­ing or con­duct­ing. You can set up to use dur­ing the event, and then change it back to its pre­vi­ous set­tings after the fact.

I’m sure I’ll come up with more points that are worth men­tion­ing in con­nec­tion with the report, but this post is long enough already!

As I men­tioned at the begin­ning of this post, the real-time reports in Adobe Ana­lyt­ics are an early step toward empow­er­ing mar­keters and oth­ers to use real-time data to drive real results in their cam­paigns, their mer­chan­dis­ing, their con­tent opti­miza­tion, and more. You’ll def­i­nitely be hear­ing more about this soon, but for now, check out these real-time reports and enjoy!

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