The average consumer in 2012 is very different than the average consumer 10 years ago. For that matter, consumers today are a lot different than they were 10 months ago. Empowered by technology and with instant access to vast quantities of information, people have new rules for shopping, communicating and even relaxing. The bottom line is that consumers are now data-driven, which means marketers have no choice but to dive even deeper than their customers and competitors into the information goldmine.

Tweets, in-store purchases, QR codes and other tags, online searches, Facebook posts: all of these (and many, many other interactions) leave digital information trails that tell us how consumers interact, what they consider important and more. These sources add up and create what’s called “big data,” a repository that last year added up to 1.8 zettabytes of information in the U.S. alone.

But how do you harvest this information and analyze it to make marketing decisions?

Real Time Responses to Complex Data 

The answer is Integrated Marketing Management (IMM). Since customer behavior is cross-channel, cross-business-unit and cross-device, the IMM approach uses software solutions to combine all traditional and digital channels -- even departments beyond marketing (sales, IT, etc.) -- into a single, cohesive effort.

IMM provides a path to increased revenues, customer responses and relevancy by aggregating and analyzing all available data to nurture the customer journey with personalized offers and real-time responsiveness.

A great example of these analytics in action comes from International Speedway Corporation (ISC), the world leader in motorsports entertainment. This company used IMM to transition from old-school mass marketing to targeted, innovative and compelling fan experiences both on and off the racetrack.

While many marketing analysts regard NASCAR enthusiasts as the most brand-loyal fans in all of professional sports, ISC had not been able to leverage that devotion. The company had transactional information from its 12 racetracks, but the data was not analyzed effectively or translated into marketing strategy. As a result, ISC was losing out on valuable opportunities to create customer touch points and drive purchasing decisions.

Racing Towards Customer Insights

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All that changed when ISC revamped its marketing analytics by replacing outdated collection methodologies and built a program with companywide buy-in. ISC started out by spending an entire year analyzing customer trends. This new data empowered the company to create thousands of unique customer segments, each with its own behavior pattern. Using this analysis, ISC developed all-new dialogue strategies, ranging from drip marketing and target up-sells to new loyalty programs and prospect nurturing.

The results of this data-driven, customer-centric approach were extraordinary. The first year after implementing its new program, ISC achieved a 153 percent of its prospect collection and purchase conversion goal.

According to Jim Cavedo, the company’s senior director of consumer marketing, 

The more data you can get into your CRM system and the more data you can use to help guide your decisions, the smarter you’re going to be, the more effective your marketing spin is going to be, and frankly, the more valuable your communications are with your customers. That lets them say, ‘Alright, I’m going to engage with you because clearly you know who I am, and you’re communicating with me the way I want you to communicate with me.’”

There is only one certainty about the future of the marketing industry: marketers can no longer be grounded in selling to large, mostly amorphous demographic groups. While marketers have no crystal ball, we know that the customer is now in control more than ever before, and the old way of doing things won’t cut it any longer.

What part will IMM play in the future, the “age of the empowered buyer?”

Going forward, dependence on analytics will grow as marketers work to better understand the expanding -- and increasingly interrelated -- global digital ecosystem. The relationship between buyer and seller is evolving dramatically, which means that revenue growth will increasingly depend on offering a personalized customer experience, complete with relevant interactions and strategic data-driven engagement that benefits both sides.

And, like a NASCAR race, it’s happening FAST!

Image courtesy of Doug James /

Editor's Note: Read more thoughts from this month's look at turning data into marketing actions.