Convergence Analytics in Action

As is evident from the guest lists at industry conferences across the country, business intelligence (BI) and marketing analytics are converging. What does that mean for marketers?

You can tell there’s a sea change underway in traditional business intelligence (BI) and marketing analytics just by looking at who’s attending industry conferences throughout the year. I’ll be heading to the Tableau Conference after Labor Day, so I decided to do some discovery on who’s attending.

What I find exciting is that 15 percent, or 750 people of the 5,000 people attending the conference, have marketing in their title. Industry conferences are no longer just a gathering of computer scientists, data analysts, and others in the technical end of data management and analytics, but they are drawing marketers themselves. And it offers some evidence for what many of us have been pointing to in the last year. The people, processes, and technologies of BI and marketing analytics are beginning to overlap, if not converge. And it’s the customers driving this change.

Just How Unique Is Marketing Data?

If you look back a few years, it’s clear marketing as a corporate function developed on its own track compared with other departments. The data was unique and siloed – and increasingly based in the cloud. Marketers functioned in creative enclaves inside companies. They often received little attention from IT, which was preoccupied with the mammoth financial, customer service, and sales systems used to run companies internally, and the BI platforms required to manage and store data.

That day is done in many ways, and it went with the digital revolution. Consumers leave a digital trail of data, mountains of it, created with every click, tweet, video view, or purchase. So now, regardless of the industry segment, no one argues any longer that multichannel digital data is the key to understanding the consumer in order to drive revenue and profitability in the most effective manner. However, the lingering challenge for markets is that much of this data is still in silos and resides in the cloud – not accessible by traditional BI solutions.

That’s why we are seeing so many marketers start to turn up at BI events across the country.

Multichannel Marketing – Beyond the Buzz

The terms multichannel or omnichannel are part of the new marketing lingo. But where the buzz ends and real substance begins is in the evolving relationship of BI and marketing analytics. It’s not just that consumers typically begin the road to purchase online. Their online experience also affects what they do in store, in front of the TV, and in relation to other traditional channels like call centers. No digital or traditional channel functions in isolation – consumer interactions across channels, media, and devices are highly interdependent.

What does that have to do with BI and marketing analytics? To do true multichannel marketing, marketers need to unify and integrate data from digital sources like e-commerce and media sites, ad networks, social media platforms, and mobile apps. They also need to add offline data sources like point-of-sale, customer relationship management, or sales data – all internal systems owned by IT. Any organization that aspires to true multichannel marketing must combine the data traditionally owned by marketing (mostly found outside the firewall/in the cloud) and the data owned by IT in BI platforms (typically behind the firewall). And they need to run analytics to understand what drives consumer behavior – the “who, why, when, and where.” That fact is bringing marketers together with IT, and chief marketing officers (CMOs) with chief information officers (CIOs), to mutual benefit.

It’s all part of what industry analysts at Gartner, in their latest Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms, describe as “an accelerated transformation from BI systems used primarily for measurement and reporting to those that also support analysis, prediction, forecasting, and optimization.” As we move toward multichannel marketing, it’s not surprising that a new generation of BI vendors are moving to the forefront. IT organizations dislike proprietary systems. They prefer industry standard technologies that are widely used and easily understood. BI vendors offering user-friendly access to and visualization of corporate data will be more and more popular. The next step will be to combine traditional BI data with the new marketing data to support multichannel analytics without major IT involvement.

Data Tells the Story

What we’re seeing was forecast months ago in the study “Dawn of Convergence Analytics” from Efectyv Digital, a digital marketing consulting company, and ClickZ. Tracking the customer journey across digital channels and traditional locations is what convergence analytics is all about – gaining insights required to understand consumers in a multichannel world. Data has the potential to tell a holistic story across the entire customer journey and point the way toward much more effective marketing. And it is this promise that is driving the convergence of BI and marketing analytics.

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