Customer Experience, IBM's Mark Heid Talks Digital Marketing, Big Data Hype, The Role of Context
It was the best of digital marketing times, it was the worst of digital marketing times. The opportunity for marketers to know their customers has never been greater and the potential is growing by the day. Between social media, online forums, purchase histories, mobile data -- customers are practically (and literally) drawing a map to their doors. But how do marketers unravel this mass of data to derive actionable insights?

We asked IBM's Program Director of Social Analytics Solutions, Mark Heid how digital marketers can keep up with this flow of information and what strategies they should employ to get the most of big data; this is what he had to say: 

Siobhan Fagan: What key marketing areas can most benefit from big data?

Mark Heid: Big data allows businesses to understand each customer as an individual, in a way we haven't be able to do before. Marketers get a better understanding of individual preferences by micro-segmenting their addressable markets.

Having this perspective makes it easier to develop highly targeted promotions, anticipate individual behaviors and determine the next best action for each customer. With those insights, marketers can deliver a tailored experience that maximizes the customer’s perceived value in the relationship and keeps them coming back for more.

SF: What are some of the biggest challenges in turning big data into actionable insights?

MH: There are two major challenges for marketers: first, they need to figure out how to act on insights gained through analysis of anonymous data where the identity of the individual is unclear or unknown.

Second, when they’ve bridged the anonymous insights to actionable 1:1 marketing plans targeting known consumers, they need to select or optimize the best approach for that consumer.

SF: What best practices do you see for businesses as they confront those major challenges? How can businesses maximize their results from finite marketing resources?

MH: It starts with a deep understanding of the interaction channels and devices that your target customers are using, including: traditional in-person, call center, point of sale transactions and email communications as well as blogs, microblogs, online forums and other types of social media.

Customers are using various platforms and channels to engage with marketers’ brands to ask questions, make purchases and to share their preferences with friends. This data is rich, but ambiguous -- particularly when the identities are unclear. Successful reconciliation of the identities and optimization of marketing outcomes requires integration and modeling across the structured and unstructured datasets.

Typically, a deep understanding of the context is required to curate the data. Roles like data scientist and marketing strategy are often key in fully exploiting the diverse, cross-channel “big data” set to achieve key marketing priorities like media mix optimization.

SF: Are some data sources more valuable than others? Can you give an example of a good source of data that marketers today are ignoring?

MH: The “best data” depends on the context of the marketing objectives. Frequently, marketers are using data in silo’d fashion when if they integrated it, the insights and value rise dramatically.

For example, an installed base campaign with CRM data can be enhanced by incorporating segmentation insights from unstructured social media conversations. Even though individual identity is unknown in the social sphere, the segment profiles can be very helpful when gauging how a specific customer in the CRM database will respond. Geospatial social data is currently under-utilized and we see increased use of it among marketers. With it, their local and regional campaign planning can be dynamically planned and adapted as circumstances change.

SF: In your opinion, what’s the biggest misunderstanding surrounding big data?

MH: Big data is sometimes dismissed as a hyped-up marketing term created by data management companies. In fact, the term “big data” expresses a strategic change in the global context in which consumers carry out their daily lives. Big Data captures the logical confluence of pervasive media digitization, massive growth in network bandwidth and the network effects inherent in social communities.

SF: What do you see as the next opportunity for marketers with big data analytics?

MH: Leading marketers are using data to not only optimize their multi-channel campaigns with personalized marketing, but also to model micro-segments and predict key outcomes. The next marketing opportunity is to incorporate geospatial information to drive precisely the right customer engagement at the right time at the right location. 

Title image courtesy of Bruce Turner (Flickr) via a Creative Commons Attribution License