Everywhere we look, we find data — smart devices, watches, mobile apps, connected devices, even networks are providing data streams that brands must account for.
But many organizations still haven't succeeded at harnessing and mastering the power of analytics to turn this data into valuable, impactful insight. Ultimately, it comes down to having all the right tools, processes and people.
Analytical tools run the gamut — from simple channel based analytical tools offered for free, to reporting, measurement, attribution and business intelligence tools that claim to have analytics embedded everywhere. Then there are the analytical heavyweights that provide the ability to execute more complex processes and capabilities like forecasting, optimization, simulation, pathing and journey analysis, and predictive analytical modeling.
Technology drives marketing — marketers have more tools available, with new categories of tools emerging on a regular basis. Scott Brinker, ion interactive CTO and marketing technologist, illustrates this growth via his marketing technology LUMAscape. The number of vendors alone, much less the capabilities they cover inside of marketing technology is mind-boggling.
But do marketers have the specific tools they need? This is obviously a matter of opinion, based on what they’re trying to accomplish, but I would say no. Not all major brands globally yet have the ability to analyze millions if not billions of data points across so many marketing touchpoints.
I can attest to this as a customer of many major brands — and a digitally empowered consumer. I seldom receive analytically infused marketing offers. An analytically infused offer would use in-depth analysis of data — transaction data, online session data, demographic data and offline channel data — when formulating a more contextualized offer for me.
In today’s complex and chaotic customer environment, anticipated, relevant and personalized offers are the ideal end state.
Typically, company processes are fractured due to culture, siloes and plain old human nature. Analytical processes could probably be deemed even more difficult because of their complexity and the surrounding data management and orchestration requirements. Organizations have invested millions in analytics and the changes that must occur around them, but many have failed to develop truly effective processes that withstand the test of time.
In order for analytical processes to be effective, they must include the best and most varied data — which can be difficult to source if processes aren’t in place to support. If an organization can’t get data quality, management and categorization processes in place, then the resultant analytical processes can’t be executed to their full potential.
In September 2015, the ANA survey research report on marketing disruption uncovered that marketers still show the most concern about the following disruptive forces effecting their organization:
- The pace of new technology,
- The complexity and fragmentation of marketing,
- And consumer expectations for personalized and relevant experiences.
To overcome these competitive challenges, marketers are adopting a more central role in driving business growth and showing an increased focus on delivering a personalized customer experience. Room for improvement will always exist inside of organizations as analytical processes continue to advance.
“Data scientists” — the analysts often responsible for shepherding analytical processes — are considered to have one of the “sexiest jobs of the 21st century” by Harvard Business Review. HBR defines a data scientist as “a hybrid of data hacker, analyst, communicator and trusted adviser” — a combination extremely powerful and rare. This new, high-ranking profession has only been around for a few years (coined in 2008), and its introduction reflects how companies are now tackling large volumes of data from a large variety of sources. Despite the crucial need for data scientists in today’s organizations, there is a large deficit in talent. McKinsey estimates that by the year 2018, the US alone will face a shortage of 190,000 data scientists. This is only in the US, so imagine what that number would be globally!
Despite todays’ jobs being increasingly data-driven, multi-function and matrixed teams lack the ability to effectively use analytics. Cross-functional teams from finance, planning, supply chain and operations staff are often unable to perform complex and frequent analytical tasks, serving as a bottleneck in the flow of information. Leveraging analytical talent and creating a force of professionals skilled in analytical techniques across departments will solve the deficit and increase the ability to turn data to insight.
The end goal of many organizations is to be omnichannel, after working their way through single channel, cross channel and multichannel initiatives. When I ask where brands consider themselves to be along this journey, they often identify themselves as cross channel or multichannel, but never omnichannel.
This, in itself, validates that many marketing departments realize that they lack the analytical tools, processes and people to master the large volumes of data that bombard their organizations daily. To be truly omnichannel, you have to have a complete grasp on the data management and analytical processes that underpin your marketing programs and initiatives. As we continue this journey towards omnichannel, there is room — and the ability — to improve on all three fronts.