How to Identify Actionable Business Insights

If you want to improve the usability of your website, increase revenue, decrease customer service costs, or change any other critical business metric — there is only one tried-and-true way.

Acting on actionable insights.

What is an actionable insight?

Actionable insights are… well, they’re insights that you can act on.

Actionable insights are not:

  • How many total people visited the website? Was that more or less than last week?
  • What was the overall bounce rate for the site? Did it go up or down?
  • How many new leads or sales did we get?

Instead, actionable insights look more like this:

  • Which referrers drove the most new visits to the site and why?
  • At what point do most people stop watching our most popular videos? Is our key message / call-to-action before or after that point?
  • How many people started to complete the lead gen form or checkout process, but then abandoned it? At what point did they abandon it?

How to identify actionable insights

Actionable insights have 2 equal and essential ingredients: data and analysts (human beings).

Data can come from lots of different places:

  • Competitive analysis
  • Usability testing
  • User research
  • Web analytics
  • Error logs
  • Internal search logs
  • Customer transactions
  • Call logs
  • Social media
  • Email metrics
  • Chat logs

Analysts can also come from lots of different places:

  • Operations / Call Center
  • Product Management
  • Web Analytics
  • Information Technology
  • Marketing
  • User Experience

Look beyond the auto-generated reports in your analytics tool. As humans, analysts have several advanced features not found in Google Analytics or Omniture/Adobe. They have storytelling skills, problem-solving skills, the ability to see larger patterns and understand context. And they have unlimited curiosity.

For big insights, go small

Dive into the data, yes, but not just any data. Looking at data in aggregate is almost always useless. Total site visits? Nope. Total natural search traffic? Just say no.

To be useful, data must be segmented into smaller, more meaningful slices. Block out the noise, and instead focus only on HIGH VALUE traffic, behaviors, and outcomes.

Does it really matter how many total blog visits you had last week? Not really. Most of those visitors view a single page, then exit. Instead, focus on the posts or types of posts that drove engagement or outcomes. Your actionable insight is that certain types of posts create more engagement or outcomes than other types of posts. (So, go create more of what works, less of what doesn’t!)

Engagement and outcomes will be defined by what’s important to your business. For some, number of page views might mean engagement. For others, it might mean tracking specific pages or events.

Share insights + collaborate

Connect your analysts to your UX researchers. Encourage them talk to each other and share their findings on a regular basis.

The data crunchers can report what happened. Your UX researchers can tell you why.

Inversely, if your UX researchers spot a red flag, your analysts can quantify it.

For example, if your UX team notices that several usability test participants have trouble retrieving their forgotten password — your analysts can tell you that only 50% actually complete the password reset process (the rest abandon the site). Now, not only do you have an actionable insight, you can also quantify lost revenue.

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Author: Kristine Remer

June UX is led by Kristine Remer, a CX / UX research and strategy consultant in Minneapolis. She helps companies drive significant business outcomes by finding and solving customer problems. When she's not creating customer journey maps and user personas, Kristine is either kayaking or watching her kids play soccer.