Digital disruption has put a tremendous pressure on organisations across all industries. It’s disrupt or be disrupted as new entrants and new technology set the bar for customer expectations. Marketing needs big data to make more intelligent decisions – customers, boards, and shareholders all want more out of the marketing department. And big data provides that irrefutable, fact-based evidence on which to base big decisions like where marketing dollars should be spent and how customer journeys should be optimised.
Big data is the key to unlocking what makes a customer tick – what content have they consumed online? On what device? Did they then visit a physical store or call customer service? Which social media sites do they visit most often? Marketing can use that data to not only appeal to individual customers with more relevant, more in-the-moment messages and offers but also improve customer service by making customer journeys more frictionless.
How CMOs can avoid an information overload
Ironically, one of the ways is to make sure that the marketing department has access to the right data. You can’t expect to make decisions based on data that is out-of-date, or incomplete. CMOs can help their departments get better at interpreting the data. This could mean building an analytics team, which could consist of in-house talent and external consultants, with the right skills to apply the right analytical tools to the right situations at the right time. Insight should be available where and when it’s needed.
Teams should start on small projects, easy-wins if you like, to test the waters. Your organisation can learn from these projects, and build the skills and experience needed to tackle trickier, more complicated projects. Let’s take customer experience, for instance, you could start by using big data to figure out how to make it easier for customers to complete online forms. A more difficult project would be to comb through customer service chat logs and voice logs to decode customer sentiment and work out which areas your customers are getting stuck on.
A financial services provider used clickstream data to piece together the sequence and combination of the web pages a customer visited. Analysing this data allowed them to predict which customers were most likely to buy a mortgage. Without clickstream data this had not been previously obvious or detectable. The results were impressive. They achieved a significant uplift in mortgage conversion.
For an automotive manufacturer, it meant that they could sort out which online visitors to their web properties were most likely to want to buy a car. Dealers could now focus their follow up on the ones who mattered.
In today’s omni-channel world, it is very rarely the case that any one activity is responsible for pushing a customer to purchase. When an online retailer looked at every step in the customer’s path to purchase, they were able to save millions in unnecessary spend on underperforming search terms.
How is big data changing the type of skills needed in marketing departments and within the person of the CMO?
New marketing roles are emerging, like the Chief Marketing Technologist, a hybrid role that sits between marketing and IT. We’re also seeing a new breed of data scientist who has the ability to combine advanced analytical capability with business understanding. CMOs themselves need to be more data-savvy to enable them to fulfill their expanding remit of delivering the whole customer experience.
How will big data and its use by marketers change in the months and years ahead?
Marketers might not immediately warm to big data, but they are going to have to skill up and face the challenge. Big data isn’t going anywhere, in fact, it will only become more pervasive, and organisations that take longer to get stuck in will find it more of an uphill struggle. I think in five years, it will become de rigueur for all marketers to be using big data in some way in their marketing.