E*Trade

E*TRADE’s Analytics Team Delivers Insights with Heap

Who is E*TRADE?

E*TRADE was founded in Palo Alto, California in 1991 to allow users to perform stock transactions through the internet. Now, almost three decades later, E*TRADE helps millions of users manage their stock portfolios, bank online, receive advice from financial advisors, and more. They also provide products for investment professionals and companies compensating their employees with equity.

High TCO Legacy Implementation: Cumbersome and Prone to Bloat

The E*TRADE Analytics team serves as a central product analytics team serving other business units when questions arise. Prior to Heap, they used a variety of legacy analytics tools that were inflexible and demanded many hours of maintenance. While the team preferred to spend their time answering questions, they instead found themselves spending most of time managing analytics implementations.

The process of gathering requirements and working to deploy the relevant analytics code with an engineering team was extremely cumbersome because of E*TRADE’s large product portfolio and various business units. According to Mike Grounds, Head of Customer Experience Analytics, the team’s attempts to ensure implementations could be “as comprehensive as possible” and cover all the possible business needs often caused analytics projects to bloat. He estimates managing the implementation process of their legacy tools “ate up over half” of the analytics team’s bandwidth, in large part due to the “sunk cost” of implementing tags that weren’t necessary for the exact business question at hand.

Before, it was a lot of ‘Give me the big dataset and let me sift through it’, but with Heap, it’s ‘This was what I really wanted to know’

As a result, E*TRADE’s analytics team was facing an endless battle in the implementation and on-going maintenance of their toolset. They found themselves  constantly implementing or re-implementing tracking on various parts of their products. Ultimately, the time it took to generate insight left the team very dissatisfied. Alex Welch, Director of Business Analytics, explains: 

“We were in a world where we could get there, but it took a lot of time. And most of the time when we finally did get there, we had lost the opportunity to actually engage and take advantage of that situation.”

With this in mind, Alex and Mike searched for a better solution that would enable them to respond quickly to requests from product teams and take immediate action on insights.

Owning the Entire (Better!) Process

In Heap, the analytics team found the perfect solution to the lack of agility imposed by legacy solutions. With Heap’s Autocapture technology, Mike saw a path forward where his team could have “entire ownership over the events and tags that they had to report on.” Instead of spending hours every week meeting with multiple engineering teams to manage the on-going maintenance of their analytics toolset, the team could be empowered to take on that responsibility for themselves. They could have the product data they needed without coordinating with multiple teams in the drawn-out process of requirements gathering and QA’ing.

In addition to owning the process without relying on external teams, the retroactivity that Autocapture provides was an obvious benefit of choosing Heap for product analytics. Rather than writing code for a tag and then waiting to collect data, Heap would allow the analytics team to have retroactive data immediately on hand when a new request came in. What previously would take weeks or months to answer, could now be answered immediately thanks to the retroactive data access provided by Heap. As a result, E*TRADE’s product teams no longer have to slow down to get the insights they need to release features and updates that improve their user experience.

Finally, the integration with various cloud storage providers – like Amazon, Snowflake, and Google – was a major factor in the decision to go with Heap. Like other enterprise customers, E*trade is taking steps to modernize their data architecture, which means they are transitioning to the cloud.

The flexibility of Heap Connect allowed the analytics team to integrate Heap with their current on-premise architecture while giving them the peace of mind that Heap will play nicely with the planned future cloud architecture they deploy across the business. All this enables the behavioral data captured by Heap to be used alongside internally stored user and usage data to create a complete picture of the millions of E*TRADE customers.

The Agility to Focus on What Matters

As E*TRADE deployed Heap across their portfolio of products, the process “mimicked” the implementation projects of their previous analytics solutions. The analytics team had to coordinate with the various product and engineering teams to ensure Heap was installed. However, there were two key differences. One, regardless of the complexity of the product or the framework with which the application was built,  the implementation of Heap remained simple – it was always just one snippet of Javascript. Secondly, when the project was over, it was actually done. After this one time set up, the analytics team had complete access to data across the various platforms and user experiences in E*TRADE from that point on – no more need to coordinate with engineers.

With Heap deployed on all of  E*TRADE’s digital products the analytics team is more productive and focused than ever before. Without the constant resource drain of maintaining their toolset, the team is now able to “more accurately forecast what our bandwidth constraints will be over the next coming weeks, months, and even further out.” 

This has allowed them to take on more ambitious analytics projects that were not feasible in the past. Instead of just reporting on various metrics, E*TRADE’s analysts can spend more time working with the data they have available and actually deliver meaningful insights to the teams they support. What’s more, they are now able to easily service more ad-hoc analytics requests from various teams. According to Remi Adeleye, Senior Business Analyst, time from analytics request to answer has been reduced from “weeks to days”. This decreased turnaround time has been met with joy and surprise from the various product teams and business partners Remi supports. 

Internally, the data culture within E*TRADE is evolving. Teams now have access to usage data they didn’t have before, allowing them to “design, restructure, and even remove” features in a much more informed way. Previously, analytics requests would center around creating “data pools.” But with Heap enabling data availability, business units are adjusting their requests of the analytics team. As Alex Welch puts it:

“Before, it was a lot of ‘Give me the big dataset and let me sift through it’, but with Heap, the focus is now ‘This was what I really wanted to know’ and ‘Tell me what’s happening with these kinds of users.”

They are now able to answer questions as they come, without slowing down to implement and QA tracking code. Because of the increased access to data, E*TRADE has the information they need to build a better product that will retain customers and grow their business. Thanks to Heap, E*TRADE’s analytics team is delivering on its promise of providing valuable insights and driving impact to the entire company.

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