“Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is by Stacey Hawes, president of data practice at Epsilon.
No doubt, 2016 was the year of data. There was the good: Data-driven principles were at the forefront of conversations across industries, versus guesswork.
There was also the bad: Social media giants and ad platforms came under scrutiny for their measurement practices, leading to marketers receiving incorrect data for decision-making. And then there was the ugly: Sophisticated data models in the presidential election were downright wrong.
Bringing together the good, the bad and the ugly of data reveals a great truth, no matter the scenario: All the data in the world is useless if you can’t properly measure it, understand it and act on it.
In the last five years, there has been a shift toward unprecedented data volume and velocity. Marketers are leveraging data in ways they never thought imaginable and collecting more information than ever before, in order to learn as much as possible about consumers. The goal is to improve customer experiences through personalized and relevant marketing communications that ultimately drive business growth. But for marketers to be successful, the focus on the pure data volume and velocity needs to morph into a “right and ready” approach.
Just as marketers have started to grasp big data’s impact, it’s already time for them to change their mentality. It’s no longer about gathering countless data points from offline and online interactions and third parties. Rather, marketers should focus on making data small and absorbable again. This starts with setting a strategy and identifying the right data that matters most for their business.
Customer identification across devices, time and media is one of the biggest challenges facing marketers today. More than 50% of marketers say that cross-channel measurement and attribution occupied the most time and resources last year, according to a report by the Winterberry Group and the IAB. Marketers need to leverage data to recognize consumers across all channels, using various types of identifiers, no matter where brand interactions are happening.
This has gotten complicated and requires an investment in data management, which may include working with a data management platform to help marketers understand who their consumers are, their customers’ online and offline behaviors and their interactions with marketing tactics.
Making Data Fluid
Data must become more fluid and real-time to complement the digital journeys that many consumers are taking toward purchase decisions. Customer profiles must not only contain the right data; the profile must be ready to reach consumers in real time. Marketing technology needs to enable microdecisions in milliseconds to reach customers in the moments that matter most, while maintaining accurate connections in the face of always-changing activity, both online and offline. The key to marketing success is anticipating the experience your consumers are looking for and delivering it before it’s even requested.
Marketers are starting to really pay attention to what is driving growth for their businesses. Data is one of the most vital differentiators today, trumping many other marketing tools, channels and resources, and it’s a key enabler of connecting consumers and brands at a deeper level to drive business growth.