Eye Tracking & Applied ML: Soapbox Validations

Anyone who has read my blog (shameless self-plug: http://www.lauraedell.com) over the past 12 years will know, I am very passionate about drinking my own analytical cool-aid. Whether during my stints as a Programmer, BI Developer, BI Manager, Practice Lead / Consultant or Senior Data Scientist, I believe wholeheartedly in measuring my own success with advanced analytics.  Even my fantasy football success (more on that in a later post) can be attributed to Advanced Machine Learning…But you wouldn’t believe how often this type of measurement gets ignored.
eyetracking
Introducing you, dear reader, to my friend “Eye-Tracker” (ET). Daunting little set of machines in that image, right?! But ET is a bonafide bada$$ in the world of measurement systems; oh yeah, and ET isn’t a new tech trend – in fact, mainstream  ET systems are a staple of any PR, marketing or web designers’ tool  arsenal  as a stick to measure program efficacy between user intended behavior & actual outcomes/actions.

In my early 20’s, I had my own ET experience & have been a passionate advocate since, having witnessed what happens when you compound user inexperience with poorly designed search / e-commerce operator sites.  I was lucky enough to work for the now uber online travel company who shall go nameless (okay, here is a hint: remember a little ditty that ended with some hillbilly singing “dot commmm” & you will know to whom I refer). This company believed so wholeheartedly in the user experience that they allowed me, young ingénue of the workplace, to spend thousands on eye tracking studies against a series of balanced scorecards that I was developing for the senior leadership team. This is important because you can ASK someone whether a designed visualization is WHAT THEY WERE THINKING or WANTING, even if built iteratively with the requestor. Why, you ponder to yourself, would this be necessary when I can just ask/survey my customers about their online experiences with my company and saved beaucorp $$.

Well, here’s why: 9x out of 10, survey participants, in not wanting to offend, will nod ‘yes’  instead of being honest, employing conflict avoidance at its best. Note, this applies to most, but I can think of a few in my new role who are probably reading this and shaking their head in disagreement at this very moment.

Eye tracking studies are used to measure efficacy by tracking what content areas engage users’ brains vs. areas that fall flat, are lackluster, overdesigned &/or contribute to eye/brain fatigue. It measures this by “tracking” where & for how long your eyes dwell on a quadrant (aka visual / website content / widget on a dashboard) and by recording the path & movement of the eyes between different quadrants’ on a page. It’s amazing to watch these advanced, algorithmic-tuned systems, pick up even the smallest flick of one’s eyes, whether darting to or away from the “above-fold” content, in ‘near’ real-time. The intended audience being measured generates the validation statistics necessary to evaluate how well your model fit the data. In the real-world, receiving attaboys or “ya done a good job” high fives should be doled out only after validating efficacy: eg. if customers dwell time increases, you can determine randomness vs. intended actual; otherwise, go back to the proverbial drawing board until earn that ‘Atta boy’ outright.

What I also learned which seems a no-brainer now; people read from Left Top to Right Bottom (LURB). So, when I see anything that doesn’t at LEAST follow those two simple principles, I just shake my head and tisk tisk tisk, wondering if human evolution is shifting with our digital transformation journey or are we destined to be bucketed with the “that’s interesting to view once” crowd instead of raising to the levels of usefulness it was designed for.

Come on now, how hard is it to remember to stick the most important info in that top left quadrant and the least important in the bottom right, especially when creating visualizations for use in the corporate workplace by senior execs. They have even less time & attention these days to focus on even the most relevant KPIs, those they need to monitor to run their business & will get asked to update the CEO on each QTR, with all those fun distractions that come with the latest vernacular du-jour taking up all their brain space: “give me MACHINE LEARNING or give me death; the upstart that replaced mobile/cloud/big data/business intelligence (you fill in the blank).
But for so long, it was me against the hard reality that no one knew what I was blabbing on about, nor would they give me carte blanche to re-run those studies ever again , And lo and behold, my Laura-ism soapbox has now been vetted, in fact, quantified by a prestigious University professor from Carnegie, all possible because a little know hero named Edmond Huey, now near and dear to my heart, grandfather of the heatmap, followed up his color-friendly block chart by building the first device capable of tracking eye movements while people were reading. This breakthrough initiated a revolution for scientists but it was intrusive and readers had to wear special lenses with a tiny opening and a pointer attached to it like the 1st image pictured above.
Fast forward 100 years…combine all ingredients into the cauldron of innovation & technological advancement, sprinkled with my favorite algorithmic pals: CNN & LSTM & voila! You have just baked yourself a popular visualization known as a heat/tree map (with identifiable info redacted) :
This common visual is  akin to eye tracking analytics which you will see exemplified in the last example below. Cool history lesson, right?

Even cooler is this example from a travel website ‘Travel Tripper’ which published Google eye-tracking results specific to the hotel industry. Instead of a treemap that you might be used to (akin to a Tableau or other BI tool visualization OOTB), you get the same coordinates laid out over search results in this example; imagine having your website underneath and instead of guessing what content should be above or below the fold, in the top left or right of the page, you can use these tried and true eye tracking methods to quantify exactly what content items customers or users are attracted to 1st and where their eyes “dwell” the longest on the page (red hot).

So, for those non-believers, I say, become a web analytic trendsetter, driving the future of machine design forward (ala “Web Analytics 3.0”).

Be a future-thinker, forward mover, innovator of your data science sphere of influence, always curious yet informed to make intelligent choices.

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Is Machine Learning the New EPM Black?

I am currently a data scientist & am also a certified lean six sigma black belt. I specialize in the Big Data Finance, EPM, BI & process improvement fields where this convergence of skills has provided me the ability to understand the interactions between people, process and technology/ tools.

I would like to address the need to transform traditional EPM processes by leveraging more machine learning to help reduce forecast error and eliminate unnecessary budgeting and planning rework and cycle time using a  3 step ML approach:

1st, determine which business drivers are statistically meaningful to the forecast (correlation) , eliminating those that are not.

2nd, cluster those correlated drivers by significance to determine those that cause the most variability to the forecast (causation).

3rd, use the output of 1 and 2 as inputs to the forecast, and apply ML in order to generate a statistically accurate forward looking forecast.

 ml

Objection handling, in my experience, focuses on the cost,  time and the sensitive change management aspect- how I have handled these, for example, is as such :

  1. Cost: all of these models can be built using free tools like R and Python data science libraries, so there is minimal to no technology/tool capEx/opEx investment.   
  2. Time: most college grads with either a business, science or computer engineering degree will have undoubtedly worked with R and/or Python (and more) while earning their degree. This reduces the ramp time to get folks acclimated and up to speed. To fill the remaining skill set gap, they can use the vast libraries of work already provided by the R / Python initiatives or the many other data science communities available online for free as a starting point, which also minimizes the time due to unnecessary cycles and rework trying to define drivers based on gut feel only. 
  3. Change: this is the bigger objection that has to be handled according to the business culture and openness to change. Best means of handling this is to simply show them. Proof is in the proverbial pudding so creating a variance analysis of the ML forecast, the human forecast and the actuals will speak volumes, and bonus points if the correlation and clustering analysis also surfaced previously unknown nuggets of information richness.

Even without the finding the golden nugget ticket, the CFO will certainly take notice of a more accurate forecast and appreciate the time and frustration savings from a less consuming budget and planning cycle.

KPIs in Retail & Store Analytics

I like this post. While I added some KPIs to their list, I think it is a good list to get retailers on the right path…

KPIs in Retail and Store Analytics (continuation of a post made by Abhinav on kpisrus.wordpress.com:
A) If it is a classic brick and mortar retailer:

Retail / Merchandising KPIs:

-Average Time on Shelf

-Item Staleness

-Shrinkage % (includes things like spoilage, shoplifting/theft and damaged merchandise)

Marketing KPIs:

-Coupon Breakage and Efficacy (which coupons drive desired purchase behavior vs. detract)

-Net Promoter Score (“How likely are you to recommend xx company to a friend or family member” – this is typically measured during customer satisfaction surveys and depending on your organization, it may fall under Customer Ops or Marketing departments in terms of responsibility).

-Number of trips (in person) vs. e-commerce site visits per month (tells you if your website is more effective than your physical store at generating shopping interest)

B) If it is an e-retailer :

Marketing KPIs:

-Shopping Cart Abandonment %

-Page with the Highest Abandonment

-Dwell time per page (indicates interest)

-Clickstream path for purchasers (like Jamie mentioned do they arrive via email, promotion, flash sales source like Groupon), and if so, what are the clickstream paths that they take. This should look like an upside down funnel, where you have the visitors / unique users at the top who enter your site, and then the various paths (pages) they view in route to a purchase).

-Clickstream path for visitors (take Expedia for example…Many people use them as a travel search engine but then jump off the site to buy directly from the travel vendor – understanding this behavior can help you monetize the value of the content you provide as an alternate source of revenue).

-Visit to Buy %

-If direct email marketing is part of your strategy, analyzing click rate is a close second to measuring conversion rate. 2 different KPIs, one the king , the other the queen and both necessary to understand how effective your email campaign was and whether it warranted the associated campaign cost.

Site Operations KPIs / Marketing KPIs:

-Error % Overall

-Error % by Page (this is highly correlated to the Pages that have the Highest Abandonment, which means you can fix something like the reason for the error, and have a direct path to measure the success of the change).

Financial KPIs:

-Average order size per transaction

-Average sales per transaction

-Average number of items per transaction

-Average profit per transaction

-Return on capital invested

-Margin %

-Markup %

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions.

You can reach me at mailto://lauraedell@me.com or you can visit my blog where I have many posts listing out various KPIs by industry and how to best aggregate them for reporting and executive presentation purposes ( http://www.lauraedell.com ).

It was very likely that I would write on KPIs in Retail or Store Analytics since my last post on Marketing and Customer Analytics. The main motive behind retailers looking into BI is ‘customer’ and how they can quickly react to changes in customer demand, rather predict customer demand, remove wasteful spending by target marketing, exceeding customer expectation and hence improve customer retention.

I did a quick research on what companies have been using as a measure of performance in retail industry and compiled a list of KPIs that I would recommend for consideration.

Customer Analytics

Customer being the key for this industry it is important to segment customers especially for strategic campaigns and to develop relationships for maximum customer retention. Understanding customer requirements and dealing with ever-changing market conditions is the key for a retail industry to survive the competition.

  • Average order size per transaction
  • Average sales per transaction

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BOTHER – Adding Value through Effective Relativization and Rationalization of KPIs

I posted a comment to a blog about KPIs:

  • http://mybibeat.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/how-to-define-and-select-good-kpis-for-your-business/#comment-10
  • and I thought it cited a perfect next step in my series on how to revamp your investment or the BOTHER program:

    I am typically the consultant of KPIs, so I found it humbling to have a need for some relevant information on KPIs. I say this with the greatest of respect for your posting. While I agree on most points, I wanted to challenge one area, and hope you will take this with a pinch of salt…
    You cite an example for a professional services company: "The survival of a professional service provider depends on the number of ongoing and new projects the company handles" and go on to mention revenue. The follow up you provide is great for measuring the $$ impact yes, but you do not mention the satisfaction of the ongoing client. While measuring revenue of the ongoing client is meaningful, it isnt wholly satisfying – Here’s why:

    In order to grow a professional services company, one must be able to project the likelihood of growing within existing company where ongoing revenue is currently being realized. And why a company may continue to use a services company because they either havent the time to find a new one, or the energy to fire them, it doesnt necessarily mean they will give the next big project to said consultancy because they may actually be dissatisfied, though their continue use of the company for ongoing support may give the feeling that ‘we are ok; they havent fired us after all’;
    In reality, they may be unhappy and as I mentioned for the reasons above, just havent changed the ongoing work to someone else, but certainly is not planning on signing over any new work.

    Instead of just measuring revenue, I would counter that for KPIs to be effective, one must rationalize and relativize by looking at qualitative and quantitative measures like satisfaction points lost or gained by project over dollars (revenue), thus, quantifying the average revenue per satisfaction point gained or lost. One must use statistical analysis to get this metric accurately (Partial Least Squares modeling is a wonderful tool for this), but boy it is powerful. A) You know how satisfied a given client actually is and B) you know that if you start to lose or gain satisfaction points though retention programs or client appreciation, or inversely through lack of attention or project dissatisfaction, you start losing points, how much it means to your bottom line, and where to drive some of your business development resources.
    It takes what you stated very well to the next level of efficacy which analytics is where I believe the true value of BI starts to become realized. Thank you though for your point. I will certainly link my blog back to yours!