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Marketing leaders are searching for — and failing to find — customer experience strategies to effectively apply data and analytics. They're looking to data to help improve customer journeys and deliver more valuable (and profitable) experiences through personalization.

This is true across industries.

And while Google Trends can’t explain everything, it can give compelling insight into areas of collective interest and/or disinterest. 

Looking Through Google Trends Glasses

A search on five terms related to these CMO’s interests — “big data,” “digital marketing,” “personalization,” “consumer journey” and “consumer experience design” — reveals how interest in these concepts has developed over the past five years. 

google trends

These trends help explain the current struggle that marketing and customer experience leaders are facing.

Not surprisingly, the greatest growth in interest (or at least discussion) over the last five years has been for big data. While big data ranked lower in interest than digital marketing and personalization in January 2011, by January of this year it rated 37 percent higher than digital marketing and 475 percent higher than personalization. 

Big data's applications go beyond just marketing and personalization, so the disparity between these is to be expected. And its gain in no way implies a decreasing interest in digital marketing, which also grew over the last five years. 

Big data and digital marketing's growth is to be expected. What's unexpected is the very stable pattern of seasonal interest in “personalization.” 

Is it Personalization Season Yet?

I assumed that interest in personalization would grow concurrently with the interest in big data and digital marketing. Instead personalization shows an amazingly stable trend — it spikes every year in December from 2011 to 2015, then flatlines for the rest of the year. 

The explanation for this is easy. Personalization topped many end of year predictions for the last five years, but never gained traction beyond those predictions. In other words, marketing and consumer experience leaders get high expectations of the potential for personalization year after year, then fail to see this potential realized. 

Data is growing, digital marketing conversations are increasing, but the promise of personalization never manifests. Why is that?

My theory is based on the patterns for the last two search terms: consumer journey and consumer experience design. Both of these topics are essentially undetectable in the context of the other search terms — and therein lies the problem. 

We will never effectively apply big data to digital marketing and personalization without understanding and well-informed strategies around the consumer journey and consumer experience design.  

Marketing and consumer experience leaders have had their attention pulled too much toward the technical side of data. They've heard promises related to personalization through data, but haven't seen their data usage move beyond increased granularity in backwards looking batch process-based analysis. 

One Last Step

Technology vendors offer silver-bullet AdTech and MarTech solutions, but the application of data and analytics to guide cross-channel experience delivery and personalization still seems unattainable. Even cutting-edge marketers, who have taken the step of developing customer journey maps find themselves at a loss in how to translate that knowledge into data-driven experiences that create new value for customers and the business. 

With data, analytics, technology and even customer journey insights in place, there is still one last step required to turn big data into smart data — consumer experience design. 

This topic received the least attention in Google Trends, which explains the issues so many marketers are seeing. 

My next few posts will give tips on how consumer experience design bridges this gap, and will also be my topic of discussion at CMSWire's DX Summit 2016 — hope to see you there!

Title image by Redd Angelo