I came across a post written by a fellow Seattle web analytics guru Anil Batra on the same topic I plan to write about today – Individual visitor tracking vs aggregated statistics. Great post Anil! So, rather than re-writing the topic, I will just go from there.
I wouldn’t say which one is the way to go, simply based on my product offering. -:)
I want both, both are important and useful, but I would give more weight to individual visitor statistics.
When you want to see things in general that are non-individual specific, such as trending, overall site traffic, aggregation would be enough. If you want to conduct A/B testing, funnel analysis and see conversion rates, data in aggregation might work just fine.
However, to truly drive revenue and see results, I would argue individual-level tracking statistics work far better. Ultimately, data are numbers created by people. therefore, it is important to understand how these numbers are defined and generated.
An obvious benefit of individual level tracking as Anil mentioned is personalization, which lets you do targeted product campaign, such customized emailing or presenting a personalized offer when your visitors return next time. However, this is only a small part to it.
More importantly, you get to understand how visitors are engaging with your site and what are the golden features on your site that keep bringing them back; or what page/feature sucks. You are actually getting to know what customers want. These require tracking your visitors over time (cohort analysis) and learn their experiences. By doing so, you gain the ability to calculate your customers lifetime value (CLV). These actually put you one step ahead of direct usage of individual customer data, you are actually analyzing individual behavior in aggregation and revealing powerful trends and patterns that grow your business. None of these can be done by just doing simple counting.
I recommend tracking at both individual level and aggregated level from day one of your business. The benefits will come.