What are the most important audience metrics and why?
If there was a way for companies to directly measure brand commitment right from a wearable that measures pulse rates every time a customer sees a logo, it would be at the top of this list. Alas, we’re not there yet (but the long-term mechanisms to get there are coming together, dystopian as it sounds).
Now this is a question that really splinters depending upon the vertical industry you are trying to get measurements for—a broadcast TV network probably needs to consider time-shifted viewing and how many people don’t skip through the commercials as a critical metric whereas a bank would feel that breadth of products consumed by a customer (checking, savings, investment accounts, etc.) and longevity of accounts might be superior stats to measure to. Retail always has to be about sales volume (for location and per customer) and how many of those customers come back to buy again. The point is the world is too complex for one set of metrics.
That said, if someone had to rise above the specifics of the day’s spreadsheet or dashboard and declare a few, these would be my three favorites that could apply to ANY brand or company:
Willingness to Evangelize the Brand
I would say the sharing of the brand with others in the first place is pretty key. Research shows that Millennials are more inclined to purchase when their peers positively weigh in. Hey, forget that Millennial buzz-word stance, we ALL are more inclined to buy the things that people we like tell us to. This is a sure sign that the brand is doing the right things and that the product experience in market is one that is not only resonating, but most likely exceeding the expectations of its customers.
The Whys of Abandonment
Knowing as soon as possible why people are turning their backs on you is also critical in our “always-on” culture. It’s one thing to know the numbers (the quantification), but it’s another thing entirely to actually reach out to customers and take the time to truly understand why (the qualification). This is data that I would conceptually pay $5.00 to get from customers that walked. We often talk about cost per acquisition (CPA) as a primary business metric and are willing to take a profit hit to experience those possible audience gains. It’s incredible how much churn companies are willing to withstand without actually finding out why people leave them in the first place! Re-contacting ex-customers and paying them to relay their disaffection seems counterintuitive, but it could be the most important audience metric of all for a company trying to defend itself against upstarts.
For Services: As Little Time Spent As Possible
I don’t know about you, but the less time I spend logged into my bank accounts and fiddling around, the better. The same applies to time with my insurance company, cable provider or grocer. Most often, we see a metric of time spent as a positive thing, as if hanging around is something we spend our work weeks looking forward to doing. (Okay, this does not apply if you are an ad-supported content provider or Facebook, because if you can make an experience so sticky that people forget to pick up their kids at school because they are too busy posting pictures of their gardenias, you are really nailing it). But services and retail brands need to consider a different kind of metric: shorter time to task. If I can locate a shirt that I love in half the time, I am coming to your store (and then coming back). If I can buy a new smartphone and get it set up in one-third of the time, I’m yours! The pretense that people want to be hanging around under your shingle is a fallacy. Design systems that help people get it done and move on so they can do more important things like read Atlas Shrugged again, or help their kids with homework (after they finally go pick them up). They will love you for it and tell their friends (see #1). By respecting people’s time, you will make a lifelong customer (and friend).