Stories of Analytics – Joe Megibow, Part II [video]

“All models are wrong. Some models are useful.”

Starting in Part I, Megibow tells this story:

Don’t be afraid to take from other fields.

He went to Expedia in 2009. It’s a large company. There were analysts, technology, tools everywhere. The main issue became ‘last touch.’ Each region and channel was in competition for the title of ‘last touch,’ meaning the content that finalized the sale. There were fifty valid definitions of conversion, raising some questions:

  • How is a visitor defined?
  • What happens if they’re looking for something other than a purchase?
  • How do you count it if the visitor came from an email trigger?

In the end, he put together all the reports and discovered that it was three times their total revenues. They started to decide whether it was about acquisition or navigation. For example, a paid click for the brand name isn’t an acquisition. Finally, a statistician brought up a model from the pharma industry for doing complex longitudinal studies on drug testing. The model took a series of discrete, disparate events over a long period of time and find out what the causality was. It worked. They discovered that the math was wrong. They had to redefine the budgets and methods for the whole company.

Lesson 7: Borrow, steal, and plunder from other disciplines and industries. A lot of problems have been solved in other industries in the past.

Lesson 8: You need to pull all of the data together into one data pool. If there are multiple sources of truth, you only have the illusion of truth.

Big challenges in little packages

He saw people coming to the site on smartphones and buying even though there was no mobile-friendly accommodation on the site. This is a good sign that there is demand for mobile. He decided to build a mobile app. Eventually, they got feedback involved. There was five times as much feedback as through the regular channels.

Lesson 9: New technologies require different measures.

Get your hands on the product.

They started to take over the store, particularly check-out. When you click the ‘Book Now’ button, you’d get to an upsell page. They stopped offering the option to continue as a guest. Instead, they offered an option at the end of the process that allowed them to register just by adding a password. They streamlined all of the special requests so they were less available and didn’t get in the way. They made addresses context-aware. They added constant feedback throughout the purchase processing. They put it all together and conversion went up 7%!

Lesson 10: It’s not about counting. It’s about getting things done.

Joe Megibow – VP and General Manager, Expedia

Joe MegibowJoe Megibow is currently the VP and General Manager of Expedia, the world’s leading online travel provider. In his role, Joe manages all aspects of Expedia’s US operations.

Prior to this role, Joe was the VP, Mobile and E-Commerce Optimization at Expedia, with global responsibility for Expedia’s mobile initiatives, including Mobiata, the leading provider of mobile travel apps. Joe also oversaw e-commerce optimization activities including leading-edge site conversion optimization techniques, marketing, site, and customer analytics, and site experimentation. Finally, he had product management responsibility for core eCommerce flows, including product search and checkout.