Analytics Fireside Chat

Becoming an Online Product Analyst: A Talk With Ciara Adkins

Ciara Adkins, Senior Online Product Analyst at a Fortune 50 enterprise, talks about her product analytics career, the importance of data governance & more.

Diana Daia
February 22 · 5 min read

Considering a career in product analytics? Get inspired by Ciara Adkins, Senior Online Product Analyst at a Fortune 50 enterprise, and learn about product analytics strategy and the importance of data governance in retail.

Ciara, you’re an established digital analyst that has transitioned from consulting company Search Discovery to the enterprise retail industry. How would you explain your job to a taxi driver? What does an online product analyst do?

I make sure that we are able to accurately and strategically gather data on how you use our website, so that we can ensure that you’re getting the best possible site experience now and in the future. If we know how you’re using the site today, we can make better decisions on how we’re going to improve the site in a way that will improve your experience.

If we know how you’re using the site today, we can make better decisions on how we’re going to improve the site in a way that will improve your experience.

What do you love most about your work as an online product analyst?

Being the online product analyst at a Fortune 50 enterprise, I work with an amazing team. We each own our separate pieces of the puzzle but we come together to make sure the way we are tracking is consistent across the board. It feels kind of like a hive mind. You’re never really alone making decisions or working towards a goal. Everyone has a different batch of knowledge that they can contribute and they’re always super willing to help out.

What are some of the marketing analytics challenges that the retail industry is currently facing?

Anomaly detection and any sort of year-over-year (YoY) reporting are getting increasingly difficult. Since most companies are seeing record volumes on their sites, I feel that it can be harder to detect if there are issues on the site or if the changes are just due to the unusual influx of customers.

In the light of Covid-19, capitalizing on product analytics and marketing data has become more important than ever. Why should companies invest in building a strong data foundation?

You have to or else how do you make decisions? Intuition?

If you want your customers to convert then you have to create an optimal shopping experience. In order to create this experience, you have to understand how they’re using the site. A lot of this can be trial and error. You add a new feature to the site, is it helping/hurting conversion, are people actually interacting with the feature, etc. The only way to truly know what your customers are doing on the site is to capture insightful data on them. Strategic data capture is a lot more than using out of the box solutions or having someone doing this as a part-time role. You have to have a plan, build a framework, and have strong data governance for scaling product analytics.

The only way to truly know what your customers are doing on the site is to capture insightful data on them. Strategic data capture is a lot more than using out of the box solutions or having someone doing this as a part-time role. You have to have a plan, build a framework, and have strong data governance.

Digital analytics has grown in popularity. Many millennials are uncertain about how to become a product analyst and what path to take: the subject-matter expert, the manager, or the consultant route. What have you learned from working both agency-side and client-side?

It’s totally up to you and the type of person you are. At this point in my career, I do not necessarily see myself being a people manager. I’m much more interested in depth of knowledge rather than breadth. I think that’s what things get most interesting. When you know something really well so that people come to you when they have really difficult questions to get answered and your work becomes more like a puzzle. So I’ll personally be going the subject matter expert (SME) route at least as of now.

In general (based on the 2 companies I’ve worked with) I’d say if you want to have knowledge of many different subjects but don’t care as much about getting really in-depth with them then the consultant route is for you. If you’re more interested in molding and nurturing the same data and infrastructure over a long period of time I’d say work with a larger company.

What are your tips for landing the dream job in digital analytics or online product analytics?

I mean I’m still early in my career but I do know that it is very rare to land directly in your dream job right after graduating from college or changing industries. So I think it’s most important to start out in a role where you can get a lot of exposure to different parts of the analytics ecosystem. That was something I loved about starting as a digital analytics consultant. I learned SO much. Apart from the actual subject matter, I was also learning which parts of the role I enjoyed and which I didn’t. So I think being honest with yourself about which parts of analytics interest you - whether it's online product analytics or something else, and then finding roles where you can do those things is the best route you can go. Whether the new role is within the same company or a new one.

There’s a lot you can do within the confines of analytics UIs, but SO MUCH MORE is possible when you get your hands on that raw data. It’s a little more work to get up and running that way but the insights are incredibly powerful, especially when you can join it with offline data.

Continuously building the skillset is essential for digital and product analytics. What are you looking forward to learning about this year?

SQL! I’ve been getting into it a bit in my role now but I would love to just get incredibly good at SQL and build some really neat data sets for THD to use. Working in SQL feels a lot like playing a video game. You know your objective, you have all of the tools you need to achieve your objective, you probably fail a lot in the middle, and then you eventually get this beautiful output and it feels like you just won something even though it’s work! I can lose a lot of time in Google BigQuery.

If you were to predict one of the upcoming analytics trends, what would that be?

I’m thinking that the coolest uses of analytics data are going to be outside of the user interfaces provided to us. There’s a lot you can do within the confines of analytics UIs, but SO MUCH MORE is possible when you get your hands on that raw data. It’s a little more work to get up and running that way but the insights are incredibly powerful, especially when you can join it with offline data.

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