From marketing agency to software product business to data business – it is a transition that can create huge amounts of value today. I talk to Ben Harris, CEO of Decibel, about how he did it. There’s an odd side to the story. These transitions always provoke some resistance, but in this case the resistance came from an unusual direction – his management colleagues. How do you reorient a business while ” being ridiculed” by your colleagues for wanting to do it?
Alastair Dryburgh: To start off, Ben, tell me a little bit about Decibel and what it does.
Ben Harris: Decibel is a marketing technology. It’s designed to help businesses improve the experience they provide their customers on their websites or their apps. We track everything that someone sees in the screen as they see it at that moment. We collect all of their interactions, how they move their mouse and how they scroll, into one single database. And from that, we then harvest a new set of metrics not seen before that help people to understand what happens between the clicks and touches on devices.
Dryburgh: So if I were looking at a website and I moved my mouse over and hovered around a particular button and then went away from it, and then went back to it and then went away from it and clicked off to another site altogether, you’d be able to register that.
Harris: We start to learn that behavior, yes. In the past, people have relied on traditional analytics, which tend to track clicks. Our technology tracks what happens between clicks and through machine learning reveals how visitors behaved, why they behaved that way, how they feel about those interactions and automatically flags if someone had a bad experience. Traditional analytics looks at things like bounce rates, i.e., visit the site and leave again, or number of clicks. We’re looking at things like that, but also the distance someone moves a mouse and the velocity of that mouse, the number of directional changes, the angle of those changes, the amount of page they expose, and the speed in which they expose it. And those types of metrics give us a new Â picture of what’s really going on. We can decipher the user’s state of mind. We can assess whether they’re really engaged – even down to reading behavior. We can also show if they’re confused and they moment they get frustrated. And so we’re starting to gain an understanding of both why people interact in the way they do but also how they feel about those interactions, which can enable companies to create a much better, more meaningful communication.
Dryburgh: And where did the idea originate from?
Harris: Well, I started a digital agency 16 years ago. We were trying to help clients to do a better job of keeping customers on a site, helping to convert them, and also encourage them to come back again. We were using Google Analytics and we found that actually even though there was lots of interesting data, it didn’t reveal what was really happening to customers. We felt there was a better way of doing it, so we decided to build some heat maps as a starting point. And having done that, the reaction that we got from clients was so strong that we decided to develop the concept further and have launched a Digital Experience Intelligence platform. The first ever. We’re also releasing a new scoring mechanism to help businesses understand what’s going on not just by seeing but actually by having a number to understand to what degree people’s overall digital experience is improving or degrading.
Dryburgh: Technically, how easy or difficult was it to do?