From speeding up your site for improved conversions, to forming a deep understanding of your sales funnel, today’s tracking technology is moving beyond its traditional function and can now dig considerably deeper. This brings marketers some great new opportunities – and with free web analytics, it’s easy to take advantage of them. The insights that result can equip you with a true competitive edge.

Consumer technology is changing the way people interact with businesses at an unprecedented pace. For years now, marketing technology has been used to create a competitive edge online, and businesses which are able to translate data into insights fast are gaining ground.

That’s why pretty much everyone uses tracking. In a dataset of nearly 3200 URLs operated by the UK’s largest advertisers, we found that 93% of URLs use a free web analytics package to answer questions like: Where do your visitors come from? Are they returning visitors or new? What do they do when they visit your site?

Now, however, tracking technology is moving beyond these traditional questions to address bigger challenges. What does the customer journey look like across channels and devices? How profitable would an incremental investment be? Can I cut my data by product or campaign or in other ways specific to my business?

These new insights are not the preserve of expensive and tailored web analytics packages: everyone has access. In our dataset, the proportion of sites using Google’s Universal Analytics service shot up from 25% in June 2014 to 67% in August 2015, meaning that it’s the most commonly found piece of marketing technology in use in the UK.

New insights are not the preserve of expensive and tailored web analytics packages: everyone has access

Michel van Luijtelaar, Performance Manager, Google

Here are five ways in which marketers at the UK’s largest advertisers are starting to take advantage of today’s tracking technology.

1. Manage tags for a a faster, more secure site

More and more companies are adopting tag management solutions as they deploy new marketing tools. Almost 70% of the URLs in our dataset use free or enterprise tag managers (or both), up from 46% in the previous year.

However, tag management can be challenging for businesses.

In particular, we found a lot of legacy tags in our research, which have no benefit to either the user or the business. They slow down websites, and they leak data to third parties. Almost two-thirds of the sites in our dataset have at least one legacy tag; and 6% have ten or more. Managing your tags well really helps to speed up websites - crucial in a mobile world - and raise conversion rates.

By using a tag management solution you and your IT function can easily agree on your tagging priorities and get rid of long development cycles.

2. Tailor your analysis with customised measures

Your business is unique, and you need to capture and analyse specific visitor data. For a holiday company, that might include dates of departure and return. For a TV broadcaster, it might mean a particular channel package that a user has ordered, or the contract renewal date.

Today most analytics packages now enable you to capture custom dimensions that make sense for your business. Having that sort of data in analytics then means you can target your visitors with greater precision and customised messages.

3. Build a bigger picture by breaking down silos

Does your business process customer calls and emails? Do you have a CRM system? Do you also have shops? There’s a world of other customer data and interactions away from your site, and you don’t have the whole story until you bring it all together.

Today’s tools such as Google’s Universal Analytics help you to bring together behavioural and visitor demographic data, so that you can treat it all as a single, integrated data management platform. For example, you could use the Google Analytics Measurement Protocol to create a much fuller contextual picture, by adding purchase history and your own customer categories.

When you DO have the whole story, it allows you to understand, analyse and predict customer behaviour in much more detail than ever before.

4. See deep into your sales funnel

Online analytics have already transformed the sales funnel from a useful theory to a hard-edged practical tool.

It’s now possible to build a much more complete analysis of your sales funnel. How does a user move through the funnel? What affiliates or coupons or promotions brought them there – and with what effect on profitability? Which pages led them to add products to their carts? With what margin? And at what points did they abandon their transaction?

Or you could choose other perspectives: Which offers are most effective in generating new customers? Which categories convert fastest? Which marketing channels generate the most profit?

5. Target your best prospects

Not all visitors are equal. Some are more engaged than others; some are more likely to convert; some are potentially much more profitable. How do you attract and convert the best prospects?

You may already know who you want to focus on, for example through the custom dimension data you collect. In this case, you can segment and export audience lists for targeting with Search, Display or Email.

But you can go much further. Using machine learning technology, Google’s Universal Analytics can now also identify the highest quality visits to your website, and generate lists of your most engaged visitors. This is a powerful way to focus your marketing efforts where they will have most success.

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Marketing technology is breaking free of many of its traditional limitations and making new insights possible. For marketers, 2016 is the year to make the most of the opportunities the technology provides.