If the coronavirus crisis has reminded brands of anything, it is the value of data as a catalyst for efficient, effective marketing and as a foundation for future business growth.
With no previous experience of marketing during a pandemic, organisations are relying on marketers to be on top of the data to understand corporate performance, target areas for expansion and improve brand performance.
Data is the guiding truth for marketing teams, who more than ever need to unlock the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ behind their brand story.
Businesses have had to speed up their digital transformation and respond quickly to changing consumer behaviours. Those marketers armed with actionable data have played a key role in charting their organisation’s path through the uncertainty.
The need to adapt
Brands are looking closely at their media planning, for instance. Viewability and verification metrics can demonstrate if paid media is delivering what was planned; while campaigns may need to move at a different pace to reach the initial goals set with the media owner.
By drawing on data insights rather than any previous experience, businesses can still focus on customer experience, test and innovate, and see first-hand how a data-driven approach ensures the marketing budget is spent efficiently. And it’s crucial these insights come from a single source of truth, rather than disparate, competing signals.
Two thirds of marketers claim they have shifted their priorities to focus on marketing-led growth, yet there are still challenges. Datorama’s ‘Marketing Intelligence Report: Data, Growth and the New Marketing Mandate’, cites the main barriers as a lack of a unified view of performance, a dearth of resources and talent, misalignment across teams on measurement and reporting, an absence of real-time insights, and poor data management.
Many also need to get better at integrating and optimising siloed data from multiple sources. This is despite 54% of marketers rating their own success at data integration as ‘good’ and 33% as ‘excellent’.
Crucially, only one third of marketers are more automated than manual in their data processes. This means 57% of marketers are spending around one week every month harmonising data rather than generating insights.
Independent media agency the7stars is very familiar with clients’ data challenges. As an agency that is founded in the principles of transparency in media planning, buying and evaluation, the7stars have been at the forefront of providing clients with full visibility on their plans, buying schedules and reporting methodologies in an evolving media landscape. Data and insights are key to this.
“In the past, data challenges have been barriers to making the most of the volumes of information we’re managing on behalf of clients,” says Helen Rose, head of insights and analytics at the7stars. “With client data in silos, we were spending too much time and resource connecting and unifying it to gain insights. We now have a single system of record for all marketing data.”
This single system of record, provided by Datorama, a Salesforce company, means the7stars can help clients working cross-channel to ensure campaigns resonate with audiences at the right time. The agency can also set short-term goals by adapting campaigns and plan longer-term.
Rose cites an example of one client, Warner Music, and the work the7stars did to reimagine which data sources needed to be connected to get the best value for their media spend. Warner Music’s client, media, and industry music data was ingested through the Datorama Data Lake to process more granular data and access advanced analytics.
“As businesses continue to pivot and adapt to the evolving landscape, we must be efficient and effective in how we’re monitoring and optimising client campaigns and media spend, while also preparing for future growth,” says Rose.
Building a cross-channel picture
The cornerstone of any marketing success is accurate, validated and connected marketing and sales data, supported by real-time insights.
With this in mind, most marketers have adopted a cross-channel approach to connect with customers and achieve personalisation; and better targeting, measurement and optimisation to fuel business growth.
Some 87% agree that having a complete view of cross-channel marketing is ‘very important’ or ‘important’ and they are using on average 13 marketing platforms.
However, only 16% of marketers are very confident about the accuracy of their data and 80% do not have access to real-time data. Instead, they still receive weekly or monthly data reports and analyse results retrospectively, which is not ideal during a crisis when consumer behaviour can change daily. Most, it seems, would benefit from being able to combine all these resources and processes in a single place.
One brand getting things right during the pandemic is online food delivery marketplace Just Eat. UK marketing director Matt Bushby says the business has become even more data-led so it can respond in a responsible and effective way.
He says Covid-19 has created new challenges around customer ordering, eating habits and how restaurants can operate. “The power of data for marketers is undeniable and we created cross-functional squads, bringing together team members from insights, data science, product, delivery, comms and marketing.
“We interrogated millions of survey responses from customers and restaurants to understand their view, as well as millions of ordering data points to appreciate the business context around what was happening. The fact we could access this quickly was fundamental in how we ended up executing the timing and content of campaigns.”
In May it launched a global campaign featuring the US rapper Snoop Dog, who appeared in a humorous teaser advertisement moaning about the Just Eat jingle before deciding to create his own version.
Role of technology
Of course, cross-channel marketing can be powered by technology such as artificial intelligence (AI), which enables companies to see in real-time what is and is not working.
With marketers juggling an overwhelming number of data sources across the cross-channel ecosystem, AI is helping them tell the brand story behind the data. In fact, 51% of marketers are turning to AI-powered solutions – such as Datorama’s Einstein Marketing Insights feature, which creates an always-on pipeline of AI insights for marketing KPIs in just a few clicks. Another 27% plan to adopt AI within two years.
Katie King, author of the book Using Artificial Intelligence in Marketing: How to harness AI and maintain a competitive edge, says AI can generate incredible data and valuable insights, but humans are still needed to make sense of it.
“AI is not omniscient,” she says. “AI software achieves a specific function, whether it is tracking customer activity or drafting optimised copy, but human manpower makes sense of what is uncovered.”
AI software also enables a deep-dive into the touchpoints that are most effective. Using anonymised customer data, it can advise on which audience segments are most likely to respond positively to certain messages and reveal distinct customer traits and behaviours.
“Adding deeper insights can maximise sales and conversion by enabling marketers to paint a clearer picture of their customers and tailor the journey,” says King.
Brands are certainly open to suggestions to help them access actionable insights that drive business outcomes.
At Dugout, the digital media company co-owned by global football clubs, vice-president of marketing Rachel Powney says great data analysis should make marketers rethink and push them in a new direction.
“Having insights that are actionable means you can use them to make strategic, well thought-out decisions,” she says. “When any changes to consumer behaviour patterns have occurred during the crisis they have been quickly flagged then investigated further. Brands can use additional information from NPS scores, online reviews, social media and third-party data sources to understand more about the context and reason behind any changes before acting.”
Powney says the current crisis is forcing brands to unify their data from different business units and teams. Dugout has been developing its customer data platforms, which connect its data and provide a better understanding of football fans in real-time. It can reveal what content they are likely to consume and how they will behave online.
“Data is an inherent part of marketers’ language and part of understanding performance, target growth and room for improvement.”
Combining data into a single source of truth provides the insights that ensure businesses make the smartest and most efficient decisions. This is particularly true when the economic and social environment is so uncertain, as marketers need confidence to mitigate the risks while still exploiting the opportunities.