It never ceases to amaze me how reporting can be set up to either inform people of actionable data events (actionable analytics) or to merely check a box ... or worse, push an agenda.
When sitting down to design a reporting solution, think first about how the reports will be used. Will they serve to optimize campaign performance, track costs, ensure that there is no fall off as items flow through a fulfillment process? You may need reports that do all of these things and you may be inclined to have one report that covers all of these issues. However, you need to take into account who will be looking at these reports. If it’s just you, you may be able to get away with a complex report that covers specific details on various topics. However, if it will be shared with others that aren’t as knowledgeable about your area of the business, ensure that you make it simple to read and easy to understand what’s relevant. As you’re designing the reports, make the exercise iterative and dynamic, getting feedback from your audience along the way.
Once you’ve figured out what you want to report on and which KPIs (key performance indicators) make the most sense to track, think about how the design of the charts will impact the perception of performance.
Consider the charts below that were part of a "Digital Dashboard" created by a reputable website-hosting firm. The dashboard was designed in conjunction with many parties, so it’s hard to say what influenced the design choices, but looking at the two charts, you may have the following thought process: "Hey, we kicked off our paid search, and although bounce rates went up as expected, it’s working great!!!"
However, when this data is presented another way, as seen below, your comments may be a bit different. Something more like this might go through your mind: "Well, we kicked off paid search, but for the money we’re investing, it seems we are underperforming and should be trying to optimize it further."
The bottom line is, when designing reports, think about what’s meaningful to monitor and how you might use it to inform marketing decisions. Depending on the design set up, you may help or hurt yourself.
In the scenario outlined above, the search team was influencing the reporting and touting the results of their program. Although the results were positive, they may not have been as impressive as what was being portrayed. For additional perspective, feel free to check out our blog post on how to improve search for lower bounce rates.