Since we have lots of data, we have lots of integration challenges. This is particularly true when it comes to good decision-making for digital marketing and analytics. Since so much customer and prospect interaction with brands is through digital channels (social, email, and the web), digital marketers are finding increasing attention to their efforts. That attention doesn't always translate to resources, unfortunately, so it's an imperative that marketers connect the dots between the marketing and information systems, especially when bringing customer data and marketing efforts together. Mastering that flow of data between the places that generate it (click-stream, communities, sentiment analysis, email and SMS messaging, and portals) and the systems that utilize it (marketing automation, messaging delivery, and social publishing) is creating complexity, as well as opportunity.
I love the phrase "connecting the dots" in this context. Without a doubt, the line to connect data and marketing can only be drawn by analytics that are relevant, functional, and automated, giving users the ability to find the right piece of information precisely when they need it. Of course, this is a multi-faceted challenge, capturing and utilizing data that enables segmentation and customized, multi-touch conversations.
Digital marketing and big data analytics continue to be a work in progress (more dots still being connected every day). Even so, data-driven customer connections are the future. They are imperatives for marketers because customer behavior is cross-channel, cross-business unit, and cross-device. The only path to higher relevancy, response, and revenues is to take a campaign management approach to digital marketing. Which means using all the data you have to follow and nurturing the customer journey, making better decisions about offers and timing, and being responsive in real time.
Many marketers seem to be praying at the shrine of the "Steering Committee" in an effort to corral systems and people needed to connect these dots and use the data to improve customer experiences. Frankly, the gap between "just get started" and "plan this out really well so you don't miss a step" is the biggest barrier to action on the planet. We marketers are good at doing nothing in fear of not doing everything. Why is that? (Enter Freud, stage left.) Lots of management consultants talk about the benefits of failing fast, and I believe it applies here. Start with small projects that use the data you have today more efficiently, earn some results, and then show how this could earn or save money as part of a larger analytics approach. Having taken this approach with a few marketers, I know it works, but beware: it definitely requires a willingness to be in it for the long haul.
With one retail marketer, we started by combining click-stream data with email marketing data. We focused on the gap between purchases by examining how often customers browsed. We saw distinct persona types - some people visit infrequently, but buy every time. They were the "focused finders." Others browse frequently, but buy only occasionally - the "busy browsers." The first set were sent weekly offers only for very specific products recommended for them by their purchase and session behavior. The second were sent daily offers for all kinds of popular items. The effort lifted the "focused finders" purchase rate by 10 percent, which is great - they bought slightly more frequently. The second effort increased the purchase rate for "busy browsers" by 200 percent - they browsed just as often, but purchased much more often when guided to "most popular" items.
I've written before that automation and integrating marketing management solutions can do things for you very well, but they cannot think for you. We all need these tools in our arsenals, and we all need our collective wisdom to optimize them.
How are you connecting the dots between customer activity and the marketing experience? Please share your thoughts below.
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Stephanie Miller is a relentless customer advocate and a champion for marketers creating memorable online experiences. A digital marketing expert, she helps responsible data-driven marketers connect with the people, resources, and ideas they need to optimize response and revenue. She speaks and writes regularly and leads many industry initiatives as VP, Member Relations and Chief Listening Officer at the Direct Marketing Association (www.the-dma.org). Feedback and column ideas most welcome, to smiller AT the-dma DOT org or @stephanieSAM.