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Spartan Insights: Featuring Senior Consumer Insights Manager (Marketing Research Professional), Molly Ziske

This week’s Featured Spartan was Molly Ziske, Senior Consumer Insights Manager, Marketing Research Professional (See her LI profile.) Molly had agreed to answer questions about her industry, career background, and anything else she can help you learn to further your career. This discussion was open from 05/18/15 until 06/01/15.

Spartan Insights is a regularly scheduled LinkedIn discussion thread inside of the MSU ALUMNI LinkedIn group. Each discussion is meant to give you the opportunity to ask questions regarding one Spartan’s experience within a specific company, industry, or occupation. Answers will be given at the convenience and discretion of the featured Spartan and will be answered from the Spartan’s own personal experiences and opinions which are not meant to be representative of his/her company’s official position. Questions regarding a person’s applicant status at the featured Spartan’s place of business will not be answered in this forum. Interested in being a helpful Spartan? Contact me at isbelld@msu.edu.

Molly Ziske – Hi everyone! I’m so excited that Dave asked me to participate in this forum. I’m a two-time Spartan, having earned my BA in Advertising and PhD. at MSU. I currently work at McCann Worldgroup in Birmingham, MI where I lead digital analytics for the GM.com team. I have experience with Omniture and Google Analytics, using both to understand why people behave the way they do in a web environment. Most of my background is automotive, but I have worked with new business pitches for a variety of clients as well as print media insight/analytics generation. I’m happy to answer any of your marketing research questions or just talk Spartan football if you’d like (Are you following @MSUDreamTeam16 on Twitter? you should….). Go Green!

Dave Isbell – Hi Molly, thanks for being here! I’ll kick off this discussion with the first question and hope that other people chime in as we go. I wonder if you can give people a basic rundown on how analytics work? Is there anything that you can speak about regarding what you are finding out about people’s behavior online?

Molly Ziske – Well, right now I work primarily with web analytics which shows us people’s behavior on a specific site. What pages did they visit, how long did they stay, where did they go after visiting our site, etc. What we always need to do is couple that with qualitative information to complete the story. Analytics is, at its heart, about building a narrative. So, for example, one of my clients has seen a spike in traffic to its investor section year after year on the exact same date. We have to not just report the spike in traffic to that section, but dig deeper to understand-do we have earnings releases on that same date? PR that just happens to fall on that date? So, it becomes kind of a dig in various locations (news, stakeholder’s own knowledge, etc.) to complete the story. That is when analytics becomes very interesting for someone like me who is naturally curious about how and why things work.

What I find most interesting about people’s online behavior is how impatient we get – more so over time. We don’t want to wait for pages to load or new tabs to open up, we want everything now. This, of course, has implications for building sites (which I’ve also done) and reporting on user’s satisfaction with a site.

Jodi – Hello Molly. What are key Google Analytics metrics that I should be tracking on my company’s website to measure customer engagement (community bank)? I’m sure that answer can vary significantly based on key strategies, so I mean just generally. Further, I’m fascinated by the “Bounce Rate”. Intuitively, you’d want that to be low, but if your customers can get their answer quickly, then a high Bounce Rate is a good thing. Thoughts on this?

Molly Ziske – Thanks, Jodi – great questions. I think your key performance indicators from GA will depend largely on if you have conversions you track. For example, for you it might be filling out a “more information” form or applying for credit. If you have those kinds of forms on your site, you will want to look closely at abandonment. For example, does there seem to be a consistent place on a form people leave your site. If so, it might be due to the form being too long or asking for information they’d rather not share online.

In addition to my day job, I also run a small business and that is where I use GA. I look primarily at bounce rate, geography and which products/pages people are looking at. Geography is important for my business because I can tailor messages in social media as well as my Google AdWords to specific geography. I like to look at my Acquisition data too as a secondary check on how my paid search is performing.

You are exactly correct about bounce rate. I have this argument with people all of the time – some sites offer the answer to a question on the home page so a high (over 45-50% ) bounce rate isn’t particularly alarming. Of course, this comes back to what the strategy of the site is. One of my clients was alarmed at a 60ish% bounce rate but what we discovered is that the site was doing a really good job as a gateway to other properties and, therefore, fulfilling the needs of the customer and ultimately garnering more revenue. Based on this and other insights, they are redesigning the site entirely. Like any other metric, bounce has to be looked at in context of what your visitors need and what you want to accomplish.

Kris – Jodie, it might be good for you to track time on site and then marry that up with your Webmaster tools keywords and then look at new visitors versus returning visitors separately. If you can also separate out logged in customers then you can get a better picture of how your content is performing to help you get new accounts/customers to convert. Since a lot of the services a bank provides are done through 3rd parties, its also important to get metrics from those providers so you can understand the customer journey and where you are missing opportunities. When I was with McCann in Salt Lake I helped build the First Niagara site, feel free to reach out to me with questions.

Molly Ziske – Kris – thanks for the reply! I’m a bit jealous of you, I went to school at Utah for a couple of years (DESOB as a matter of fact!) and I loved living there. Say hello to Squatters Pub for me if you are ever nearby!

Kris – Thanks Molly, totally love living here and the EMBA program at Eccles. Proud of my Spartan heritage too. Please say hello to Marriane Fey for me. I loved working for her.

Dave Isbell – What a terrific conversation! I love to see Spartans helping Spartans! Thanks for chiming in Kris.

Alejandro – Hi Molly, I am currently a creative advertising sophomore, specializing in copy-writing. While I love the intrinsic nature of my work, I have a great respect for the ingenuity within the analytical sphere of the advertising field. Do you think you could give me an example or two from your own work, in which research or analytics were the catalysts to a spectacular campaign?

Thank you!

Molly Ziske – Hi Alejandro – thanks for the question & comments. Glad you appreciate the influence of analytics on creative.

I know a lot of the Pure Michigan messaging (handled here at McCann) is heavily influenced by our research & strategy team. We have to understand how people are talking about vacations, for example, and how Michigan destinations specifically are discussed on social media and in blogs.

However, one campaign I worked directly on that is still my favorite is from the early 2000s and was a pro bono campaign Campbell-Ewald did for the American Cancer Society. We relied heavily on focus groups to make sure the approach was not offensive and still got the primary message across. The campaign was Polyp Man for colorectal cancer which was a humorous approach to get a very serious topic discussed. In this CNN article, you can read more about the campaign and how it was groundbreaking for the time.


Here’s a link for one of the actual ads, too! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5vqlMS747g

Dave Isbell – Molly, I’m wondering if you can give a few pointers to the “layperson” on how to use data to “sell” an idea to a decision maker such as a boss or a corporate board?

Molly Ziske – One of the great things I’ve learned here at McCann is to start any data pull with this question: “What are we solving for?” which leads us to pose the data ‘journey’ if you will as a problem solving quest versus a data dump. It also gets us to focus on alternative ways to look at both the question and the answer. For example, if we get a data request for site visits by day for the month of March there is nothing to solve for. However, if we force the requestor to answer what we are solving for, we have more to work with. So, let’s say we are solving for this simple question: “we introduced a new product on our site March 3 and wanted to see if more people visited the site or a specific page,” we can pull the site visits data and also pull data on PR press releases around that, company emails, intranet messaging, etc. to explain any spikes in visits around the new product introduction. So, if we don’t see, for example, a spike in visits March 3-5th but later in the month, we can intelligently talk to the bigger picture. I guess what I’m saying is to try to use data to answer a question, if possible AND develop a story around the data that includes more data than the decision maker might be expecting, showing that you approached the selling of the idea intelligently and covered all of your bases.

Dave Isbell – Thank you Molly for your insights and to each of you who joined in to the conversation. This discussion is now closed but new ones start every week in the MSU Alumni Association LinkedIn group.


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