Predicting the Unpredictable in Analytics

  |  December 23, 2008   |  Comments

Are you ready to sail your marketing boat into the storm?

Like me, you're probably wondering what 2009 will bring. At this time of year, I often wish I had the attributes of the Roman god Janus, who could look backward and forward simultaneously. It's easy to look back and review a year, but it's harder to look forward and see what might be.

This time last year I wrote in this space, "If I'm to make one more prediction for 2008, it would be that I don't think it's going to be a dull year!" Sometimes you can wish that you were less prescient! It's been anything but dull. For a lot of us, this is the first time we're experiencing anything other than relative economic stability and growth.

If you're in the forecasting business, you mostly identify patterns and extrapolate trends. When you suffer shocks to the system that radically changes the way the system works, it's hard to extrapolate any trends because the trends have been broken or disrupted.

We can only look back to the last time such events occurred (decades ago in this case) and try to get some signals from all the noise. The problem is that looking back to the last occasions when our economy went into recession isn't likely to help much.

Circumstances were very different in the late '80s and early '90s. For a start, technology didn't impact our lives in the same way and the Internet was in its infancy. Fax and telex were still the primary forms of immediate communication.

With such a difference in our technological capabilities, what can we marketers learn from previous recessionary environments? Probably not a lot.

The other difference is scale. Historically, one global economy might be in recession while others might be stable or in growth. Multinational companies could play a portfolio game, managing losses in some markets while seeing compensating growth in others. This time round, there are no safe harbors.

If there's one prediction I'd make about 2009, it's that 2009 will be unpredictable. The degree of turbulence and volatility will make it difficult to separate the signals from the noise.

One outcome is that planning horizons will get shorter, from years to months, and from months to weeks. As a result, measurement cycles will get faster. In turbulent times, people want more frequent information and better insight delivered more quickly.

Analytics and insight teams (if they still exist) will be under pressure to produce more goods in less time of a higher quality. This will inform how organizations use the human and technological resources they have at their disposal.

Whenever I write or talk about this subject, I always get the same mental image: a boat sailing in a storm.

On a calm day, you can see for miles ahead and you probably don't need to check your maps and equipment that often. You have the time to plan and plot your course, and the navigator has time for a coffee break.

In a storm, you have to be much more reactive to the circumstances you find yourself in. You can't see that far ahead, so you need to rely on your equipment to tell you where you are and what to do next. You need to quickly communicate your decisions to those around you, and the navigator is chained to the desk.

It's the same for organizations as we head into 2009. We know the storm is coming, but we may not know exactly when or where it will hit or how bad it will be. As a result, we can't predict how we may need to react.

We must get prepared. For analytics and insight teams, now is the time to make sure the technology is working properly, the data is sound, and the business processes are in place. If you're in the right kind of organization, you'll have a very busy, very challenging, but hopefully rewarding year.

I wish you all the best for 2009.

ClickZ Live New York What's New for 2015?
You spoke, we listened! ClickZ Live New York (Mar 30-Apr 1) is back with a brand new streamlined agenda. Don't miss the latest digital marketing tips, tricks and tools that will make you re-think your strategy and revolutionize your marketing campaigns. Super Saver Rates are available now. Register today!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Neil Mason

Neil Mason is SVP, Customer Engagement at iJento. He is responsible for providing iJento clients with the most valuable customer insights and business benefits from iJento's digital and multichannel customer intelligence solutions.

Neil has been at the forefront of marketing analytics for over 25 years. Prior to joining iJento, Neil was Consultancy Director at Foviance, the UK's leading user experience and analytics consultancy, heading up the user experience design, research, and digital analytics practices. For the last 12 years Neil has worked predominantly in digital channels both as a marketer and as a consultant, combining a strong blend of commercial and technical understanding in the application of consumer insight to help major brands improve digital marketing performance. During this time he also served as a Director of the Web Analytics Association (DAA) for two years and currently serves as a Director Emeritus of the DAA. Neil is also a frequent speaker at conferences and events.

Neil's expertise ranges from advanced analytical techniques such as segmentation, predictive analytics, and modelling through to quantitative and qualitative customer research. Neil has a BA in Engineering from Cambridge University and an MBA and a postgraduate diploma in business and economic forecasting.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Analytics newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

UPCOMING TRAINING

Featured White Papers

Google My Business Listings Demystified

Google My Business Listings Demystified
To help brands control how they appear online, Google has developed a new offering: Google My Business Locations. This whitepaper helps marketers understand how to use this powerful new tool.

5 Ways to Personalize Beyond the Subject Line

5 Ways to Personalize Beyond the Subject Line
82 percent of shoppers say they would buy more items from a brand if the emails they sent were more personalized. This white paper offer five tactics that will personalize your email beyond the subject line and drive real business growth.

WEBINARS

    Information currently unavailable

Jobs

    • Lead Generation Specialist
      Lead Generation Specialist (The Oxford Club) - BaltimoreThe Oxford Club is seeking a talented writer/marketer to join our growing email lead-generation...
    • Health Marketing Editor
      Health Marketing Editor (Agora Inc.) - BaltimoreCome flex your intellectual muscle as part of Agora, Inc’s (http://agora-inc.com/) legal team...
    • Technical Business Analyst
      Technical Business Analyst (OmniVista Health) - BaltimoreOmniVista Health is looking to add a Technical Business Analyst to our expanding team...