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Is this the year that data finally changes marketing forever?

10th Feb 2015
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The coming year presents some stiff challenges for marketers working with enormous quantities of data. According to recent figures, over 90% of all the data in the world has been created in the last two years. That shouldn't be too much of a surprise to us, given the digitalisation of the world we now live in.

However, what is promising is that companies are increasingly switching on to its strategic and commercial value. They are realising that more emphasis needs to be placed on data management and strategy to ensure that they are able to satisfy burgeoning customer expectations, both now and in the future. This will have wide-ranging impact on the way that brands interact with customers, but it will also change marketing strategy significantly in the year ahead.

The advance of data-driven marketing

Technology and predictive analytics will create huge opportunities for better performance - following customer journeys and giving marketers a great deal of detail to work with. The market is awash with new technology, but it’s important to carefully consider your business’s needs before you embark on any sizeable financial outlay.

Another interesting development is the switch of emphasis from traffic quantity to traffic quality. Instead of aiming for volume the advancement of online analytics will put the spotlight firmly on the quality of traffic you are getting. You are always better off with 500 good-quality, relevant browsers than 5,000 random visitors who are unlikely to ever become a customer.

Because of this (and because of the high-level analytics available) brands will need to intensify their focus on understanding conversion rates, rather than overall traffic - placing greater emphasis on analysing the key customer pathways.

As a result, I would expect to see more investment on online analytics, as businesses try to make sure they have the data to make the right decisions. These analytics will enable precise segments to be drawn-up and audiences defined.

Brands will have to be strategic with marketing investments to make the most of the data that they gather from customer interactions. There are a lot of ‘hot’ marketing technologies out there and it’s not usually possible to have all of them. Making sure decisions are based on potential value to business goals will prove a huge challenge in 2015.

Marketing and IT – marketers will be analysts

If marketers are going to be able to harness the power of data to drive customer relationships, they need to get tech-savvy very quickly. With marketing being more and more data-driven, new skills will become important as campaigns will rely more and more on data insight and analytics to underpin communication strategies and put the customer at the core of strategy.

The cascade of data that is impacting the role of the marketer can also be expected to significantly impact the way that marketing teams interact with other groups in a business. With the range of technological requirements such as content management systems and tracking platforms in play the marketing department’s relationship with the IT department is going to have to get closer to ensure that processes are optimised and efficient.

If they aren’t already, SEO and social teams should be fully incorporated into the wider marketing team. These are no longer separate channels and, in my view, should be approached holistically.

To make this a reality, brands need to invest in training to ensure they are making the most of insights across departments. Where the talent is should be where the resource is. Likewise if there are shared technology subscriptions then closer relationships between IT and Marketing will be required to ensure all aspects of the business have access to the data and insight involved, not just via system requests. Day-to-day usage across the business is required.

The rise of the ‘data force’

The above outlines the growing need for collaboration between Marketing and IT teams within the business, but this is likely to also change the make-up of senior leadership at businesses. 2015 will see the rise of the data professionals who will work to oversee the use of data within organisations.

Alongside the chief information officer (CIO) as the point-person for guiding the use of data within the business, the relatively new, senior role of the chief data officer (CDO) will be expected to navigate an increasingly complex landscape, using this abundance of data to deliver the best results for brands and customers.

This new ‘data force’ will have a key role at the heart of businesses. We can add chief digital officer, alongside CDOs and Director of Insights, as emerging new roles which have come about in response to the pressure and opportunity presented by big data. To get the best results, these new data professionals will need to be able to make sharp decisions, alongside CMOs, marketers, CIOs and the business leadership, ensuring that the emphasis is always on what’s in the best interest of their customers.

The data deluge has hit – what to do now?

Marketers have always aimed to build great brands and boost growth by engaging with and acquiring new customers. They have looked to retain existing customers and sell more products to them. However, in the last few years these objectives have become far harder to achieve.

Understanding the importance of data in providing customers with relevant communications has never been more important as we look ahead to another busy year. 2015 will be about learning how to make the most of this data for the brand, and, in turn, the customer.

By working side-by side with data-professionals, tapping in to their expert knowledge of technology and the insights that it can provide, whilst utilising new cutting edge systems, marketers can accelerate ahead of the pack in customer relationship management this year.

Regardless of what industry you are operating in, your marketers are only ever as good as the data that underpins their plans, ensuring data quality is one important element of getting your interactions with the consumer right. Any successful marketing strategy will utilise consumer insights to better understand who their customers are, what they do and what motivates them. It should also seek to connect with people across all channels, effortlessly and rationally – utilising the right channel at the right time to ensure the conversation is a responsive experience.

Tom Blacksell is UK managing director of Experian Marketing Services

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