Cloud-based applications give businesses routine access to vast volumes and a variety of data literally at their fingertips. However, greater accessibility to data has, unfortunately, not always yielded greater usability or value. Despite the oceans of data furnished by a flotilla of vendors at their disposal, deciphering return on marketing investment (ROMI) still remains that elusive Holy Grail of measurement for today’s marketers.
A recent survey by Black Ink (a division of the marketing firm Winsper) revealed that more than three-quarters of respondents who believe ROI is “very important” cited marketing data integration as a primary challenge to measuring it. This is consistent with a Forrester Research finding that 86 percent of marketing decision-makers surveyed believe successfully integrating multiple channels under a single, integrated marketing strategy is critical to long-term success.
That’s one reason for the high interest in a groundbreaking research report, “Convergence Analytics: Digital Measurement in Transition” from Efectyv and ClickZ. Released at the recent SES New York conference, the report from authors Andrew Edwards and Rand Schulman, Efectyv founders, described a new paradigm in marketing defined as: “everybody is measuring everything – or at least they want to.” How – and whether – some of these measurements should be handled is of course fodder for much debate.
The report defines convergence analytics as the “confluence of digital marketing, big data, cloud computing, data connectors and sophisticated presentation-layer capabilities.” As the report aptly highlights, there also is a brisk growth of technologies and vendors in the analytics space with a confusing array of features, functions, and capabilities.
The end-goal of convergence analytics, of course, is to give marketers a holistic view of customer behavior in the context of financial, market, and other related information. That’s exactly why I really like how the Efectyv team defined the convergence analytics stack as extract, transform, and load (the basis of all traditional business intelligence), augmented by analyze, visualize, and – last but not least – predict. The marketing team needs tools that connect to and normalize data from vendors, including social media stats, web metrics, call center details, CRM data, results from marketing campaigns, and third-party research, such as financial or market data. Visualization tools add a further layer by reporting data on these customer touch points in various types of dashboards. However, dashboards alone do not deliver the insights needed to drive marketing decisions. In a single word, they are not all that actionable because dashboards only capture data on the state of the system and often fail to describe the system itself and its potential levers.
Here are some basic questions to ask in evaluating critical analytics capabilities in this evolving world of convergence analytics:
- Can you ask the data ad hoc questions? An analytics platform should provide more than dashboard reporting. Ad hoc data discovery is key to uncovering new trends and hidden correlations. The report stresses, “It is safe to say that without an action plan based on discovery, there’s not much reason to engage in measurement at all.” Too true! After all, you need to be able to analyze and ask any question of the combined multichannel data in real time, including ones that enable you to identify how consumers are likely to respond to a variety of paid-, owned-, and earned-media efforts.
- Will the tools give you predictive capabilities? Marketing teams need to be able to analyze the data for patterns and correlations to determine predictors-to-purchase by buyer segment. These capabilities are fundamental to right-time marketing – microtargeting the right consumer segments at the right time with the right offers. Predictive analytics is also essential in identifying what the future holds if marketing activities remain as is, as well as optimizing the marketing mix to deliver the desired future.
- How can you get the most out of your analytics platform? It is still all about people, process, and platform. Professional services remain a key ingredient for businesses to leverage the full power of these emerging technology platforms. To gain the full measure of benefits that an analytics platform can provide, you need to configure and integrate analytics tools with marketing processes and business needs. Implementation of data connections, analysis, reporting, and predictive modeling all need to relate to your specific business and marketing goals, and not be based on a generic model. As co-author Andrew Edwards stresses “having a method for deploying convergence analytics applications, and taking action on the data, is as important as having the tools themselves.”
There’s no question that technology advances and the growth of data are moving at lightning speed. Marketing teams now have an even greater requirement to showcase their analytics prowess in the form of better engagement with buyers across all marketing channels. So, what will it take to discover truly actionable insights that deliver predictable top-line and bottom-line results? As I watch the tools and processes continue to evolve, convergence analytics appears to be a pretty good place to start.
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