Global Data, Local Impact: Mastering Personalization With a Centralized Data Hub

Posted on by Krishnan Venkata

There are well-documented intersections between marketing and psychology—both fields involve the study of human behavior, both require empathy, and both gather data to form insights. However, while psychologists can spend years on certain subjects, marketers are selling on a deadline, with myriad unknown variables that can influence outcomes. Given these pressures of time and circumstance, marketing has always been more of a “test-and-learn” industry, reliant on voodoo science that combines careful sales analysis and customer segmentation with elements of guesswork, instinct and pure luck.

Big Data, Big Challenges and Big Opportunities

As technology has improved, marketers have been able to harvest huge quantities of data about individual user journeys and cater their content to specific audiences, a process known as personalization. McKinsey research shows that 71% of consumers now expect companies to deliver personalized interactions, and 76% get frustrated when this doesn’t happen.

Done right, personalization can lift revenues by upwards of 15% and reduce customer acquisitions by as much as 50%—but the expansion of consumer protections (like GDPR in the UK/Europe, and various US privacy laws) is making it harder to track every shopper’s move, creating frustration for marketers who need to keep pace with consumer expectations.

Marketers might need to adjust their data-gathering strategies moving forward, but personalization isn’t going anywhere—it’s been around in practice for hundreds of years, and people enjoy the feeling that something was made just for them. In fact, instead of privacy laws limiting access to data, the real challenge for marketers in our hyper-connected global economy will be how to handle the sheer volume of data headed our way.

By next year, global data creation will soar to more than 181 ZB (181, followed by 21 zeros), and even the biggest brands appear to be failing in their efforts to keep up. A recent survey of C-suite executives at mainstream companies like American Express and Walmart suggests that even with record levels of committed investment, “firms are continuing to struggle to derive value from their Big Data investments and to become data-driven organizations.”

The Big Re-Think: Establishing a Centralized Data Hub

Acquiring data is one thing, but breaking down data silos to form usable insights is quite another. For example, consider the cultural differences between different sales environments (B2B vs. B2C), or the different goals between different functions (Product vs. Marketing), or just the different capabilities between different parts of the world. That’s a whole lot of different, and to align all of the resulting data will require the most advanced machines ever created—humans.

The Wrong Question“Do we have the right skills and experience within each department to analyze global data?” 

  • That’s a good start (and where most companies are focused nowadays), but it’s an inherently flawed question that assumes talent acquisition is the ultimate tool for unlocking data value. Don’t forget, you can have the best analysts in each department and still arrive at incomplete insights if data is siloed. To effect change, companies must collaborate.

The Right Question“How can we build a singular, cross-cultural team to solve complex global marketing challenges at scale?” 

  • By establishing a centralized data hub (CDH), companies can ensure all critical global marketing data flows through one central location and is aligned to serve overall company goals, not just individual department objectives. A marketing CDH allows organizations to analyze global data from multiple sources while serving as a central data powerhouse and a single source of truth. That way, data is untethered from a specific function and can be analyzed holistically to ensure accuracy and provide business value.

Considerations for Building a Marketing CDH

  • Embrace Global Collaboration & Interdisciplinary Insights. Trends cross boundaries quickly—what’s popular in Southeast Asia might soon catch on in Southeast Arkansas. An effective CDH must leverage insights from diverse teams with global perspectives. It’s crucial to understand that valuable insights often come from observing trends, not just from owned data. Train your team to keep their eyes and ears open, and shortlist those with the capacity for interdisciplinary insights to join the marketing CDH.
  • Keep Customer Needs at the Core. While it’s important to stay ahead of macro-trends, the essence of marketing lies in understanding and meeting the individual customer’s needs through every stage of their life. See customers as people rather than personas, and design your strategies around their real experiences and requirements.
  • Foster a Culture of Continuous Learning. Assumptions are the death of data, and the success of a marketing CDH hinges on its ability to function without ego, similar to scientists or psychologists. Cultivate a team that is curious, knowledge-driven, and excels in collaborative environments.
  • Evolve Methods of Measurement. Align your team on what defines success before adopting new marketing models. Understand that return on innovation differs from traditional ROI—it should aim at improving long-term efficiency through data-driven strategies. When reporting metrics to leadership (especially early on), look for ways to share information visually and always focus on areas that provide direct value to the business.

The Right Steps Right Now

Redefining the marketing approach has its fair share of challenges. Even the smoothest transitions cause a little disruption, so it’s important to consider how you’ll manage the change. Rapidly changing customer expectations and data overload also add a layer of complexity to the process. As you map out the process, don’t forget the value in the following strategies:

  1. Empowerment Through Education. As is true in life, there will always be someone with more experience than you in a particular subject matter. Look to those leaders, even if they are outside your organization, to train your teams on the most current methodologies. Emphasize upskilling and reskilling and work to provide your employees with the right access to the right people.
  2. Collaboration is Essential. An internal cross-functional approach to knowledge-sharing adds value to partnerships with clients. Hackathons don’t have to be reserved for dev teams. Consider dedicating time to innovation and invite all teams to participate.
  3. Embrace Adaptive Leadership. To ease the burden of change, urge your marketing leaders to become champions of adaptability, bringing in outside counsel when necessary. When leadership is comfortable with change, it invites supporting teams to embrace it as well.

Follow Your Data and Chart Your Own Course

Remember, while data can be global, it is not always universal. Meaning, that only your company will be able to align, analyze, and assign value to your own data. It’s yet another way marketing is like psychology—you can know all the right theories and read all the right case studies, but there are no shortcuts to putting in the time, understanding your audience, and working together to solve tough problems.

Krishnan Venkata is Chief Client Officer at LatentView Analytics.


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