Solving the Big Data Challenge

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

By Jon Baron

A newcomer to the world of digital marketing could be forgiven for thinking we’ve never had it better.  New media platforms, multi-screen viewing, real-time advertising and vast quantities of customer data could all be viewed as exciting new developments that give marketers so many more ways to access and influence customers.  And indeed they are; analysis by McKinsey over the past five years has revealed that companies that put data at the center of the marketing and sales decisions improve their marketing return on investment by 15% to 20%.

But for those within the industry, it can sometimes feel like they’re drowning rather than swimming.  When confronted with ever more complex customer journeys and so much data, a marketer’s task can be daunting.  If it’s not easy to measure a channel’s effectiveness across your entire marketing mix how can you respond quickly and appropriately?  Sounds obvious, but it’s a surprising number of marketers who are still struggling with this challenge.  A recent study Tagman ran with Marketing Finder found that 41% of marketers surveyed said accurate reporting on all marketing activity was their primary challenge, followed closely by mastering the operational management of marketing systems.

Big Data  – The Right Way

Accurate and hassle free reporting is the key to mastering big data.  It also enables marketers to take on a more agile approach in combating wasted digital ad spend.  The first step is consolidation of customer data in order to get a unified view across all channels. A technology solution that increases transparency into channel activity and enables a marketer to easily test and learn will create an agile environment in which to maximise your data potential.  A good marketing data platform should allow you to analyse the efficiency of all the channels within your digital marketing mix so you can re-allocate investment to those areas previously undervalued.  Combined with a dashboard that enables the easy manipulation of this data to be able to respond quickly, it will give marketers the confidence to move from ‘marketing austerity’ to ‘marketing agility’.

A good example of this is the value placed on online display advertising which has traditionally been viewed as a poor performer when measured by last-click attribution (where the sale is credited to the final touch point before purchase).  Relying on last-click as a metric can lead to errors of judgment: it is the marketing equivalent of the running back strolling into the end zone ‘untouched’ once the way’s been paved by his offensive line.

air-new-zealandBy unifying channel data and getting a better view across the full customer journey, marketers, with the help of the right solutions providers, are learning that display shouldn’t just be judged on the last-click and that they need to look at other stages before purchase.  Airline business Air New Zealand set up their channel data to identify their customers’ “look to book” window, which showed how long it took for a customer to make a booking.  The window reduced when a display ad was present, showing that increased display spend may reduce the number of marketing touch points needed to drive conversions.

Collaboration between technology solutions not only reduces the number of systems marketers have to learn to use but also enables more accurate data gathering and manipulation.  Take social media which is gaining importance as a marketing channel.  43% of marketers surveyed in the previously mentioned study said they were not confident that their investments in the channel were delivering revenue.  This shows that while social can provide marketers with an abundance of customer data and a rich opportunity for effective ad targeting, the reality of acting on this data is not yet being achieved.  Not because the channel cannot provide it, but because of a lack of accurate tracking and reporting. 

An agile marketing approach should not be siloed within the marketing department.  Good marketing should service business needs and reporting should be shared across the business.  If you have the ability to demonstrate impact on the business as a whole, it becomes easier to report into the boardroom.  Rapid response to changing market conditions requires quick decision making.  Without clear and accurate reporting that can be accessed at all levels, it can prove difficult to get board level approval for greater marketing investment.

The inherent promise in data-driven marketing has always been that brands can, in real time, reallocate budgets to drive better results through the channels that work best.  Big data should help not hinder this process by affording marketers with even greater clarity of their marketing activity.   With marketing clarity, comes marketing agility.

Jon Baron is CEO of TagMan.

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