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Three of the top four spots at the Adobe Digital Analytics Competition, including first place, went to teams from Kellogg.

Adobe analytics competition

Big data, big win

Three Kellogg teams place at Adobe Digital Analytics Competition

By Paul Dailing

11/22/2013 - Kellogg students took three of the top four spots—including first place—in a national competition to build a digital strategy for using the tech magazine’s site data.

More than 90 teams from 11 universities submitted presentations to the Adobe Digital Analytics Competition, hosted by Adobe and Condé Nast. Northwestern, in Adobe’s words, “dominated” the competition, taking first, third and fourth place in the finals in Utah Nov. 15 through 17.

“There is little doubt today that big data create huge value for businesses and consumers alike,” said Esther Fang ’14, who was part of the first-place team. “We hope that the combined success of all the Kellogg teams that participated in the competition proves Kellogg’s expertise in developing data-literate business leaders.”

Fang, Jason Shangkuan ’14 and Susmita Saha ’14 took first place and $15,000 in the competition, which challenged students to capture the tech magazine a sizable, sustainable, high-value audience using the lowest cost investment.

Lauren Edmonson, Nathalie Rollandin and Michela Wilde, all ’14, took third place and $3,750. Iris Chae, Trinh Nguyen and Alejandro Navarro Garcia, all ’14, took fourth place and $1,500.

Big data the future

The students used Adobe’s digital analytics tools to look at how visitors interact with the site—how readers find articles, which articles they're reading, how they’re sharing information, how often they return and even who the visitors are.

“Ultimately, learning how to sift through chaos, essentially, and finding the needle in the haystack and saying, ‘This is where you need to focus’ and ‘This is where your opportunities are’ is what we need to do,” Shangkuan said.

Shangkuan's team took the top spot for a plan that included more articles on new technology, as their analysis of Wired’s analytics, Twitter followers and Facebook likes showed those articles helped build a repeat audience, rather than just one-and-done clicks on interesting articles.

The fourth-place team’s plan involved a focus on mobile users—people reading on an iPhone or iPad instead of a laptop.

“The big trends in media right now are mobile, social, local,” said Chae, who came to Kellogg from a consulting background at Accenture. “What we can do with data, the way we can tackle challenges that we have, is fascinating. This is something that couldn’t be done a few years ago.”

Teaching Kellogg students to be at the forefront of the data analytics frontier might seem obvious. Market decisions should, after all, be based on an understanding of what the current conditions are, not what people would like them to be. But the move toward making quantitative decisions instead of qualitative ones has been a big shift, one more and more businesses are making.

“Companies nowadays put more emphasis on a data-driven conclusion than on a decision made by a gut feeling,” Saha said.