Marketing tech spend needs to be balanced with staff investment

Marketers from LeapFrog, J Crew, Sage and WW Grainer discuss their journey to adopt a more data-driven strategy and understand customers

From left: Sophie Leguillette, vice-president of marketing, Sage; Parvel Patel, Grainger; Brad Rodrigues, the senior vice-president and general manager of digital and community development, Leapfrog Enterprise; Shannon Smith, vice-president of retention marketing, J Crew; Oracle Marketing Cloud's Andrea Ward

Marketing leaders need to ensure their investment into staff skillsets keeps pace with investments into new technologies if they want to succeed as customer-oriented marketers.

Speaking during a customer panel at the Oracle Marketing Cloud Interact conference, Brad Rodrigues, the senior vice-president and general manager of digital and community develop for consumer electronics company Leapfrog Enterprises, said one of the challenges of bringing on new marketing technologies is the change in skillset required to best utilise them.

“It’s easier to sell technology to the executive team –software can be capitalised – but there is also the headcount that must follow,” he said. “Getting that hired is a different story.”

Rodrigues also stressed the importance of people in balancing the increasing preference for data-driven marketing, warning organisations not to let the pendulum swing too far towards science over creativity and risk losing a long-term view.

“Marketing needs to be a combination of data and science, but I have seen people paralysed by not having the data to make a decision,” he told attendees. “ You have to recognise there are some things you can’t measure, and that there is an inherent bias in data to be more short-term and focused on conversion.

“If you want that longer-term thinking, don’t be afraid to make gut decisions on what is right for customer experience in the long term.”

During the customer panel, Rodrigues, along with representatives from J Crew, WW Grainer and Sage, discussed how they are approaching data as part of their customer engagement strategy, and the challenges and opportunities in becoming more data-oriented.

At UK-based business software vendor, Sage, the data-driven journey really kicked off three years ago when the group invested in the Eloqua campaign management platform, and implemented revenue performance management, its vice-president of marketing, Sophie Leguillette, said. This was followed by new processes between sales and marketing 18 months ago to better utilise its centralised data repository.

“We spent a lot of time last year cleansing the data and setting up a database, which is something we’re always now working on,” she said. “Now we’re focusing on the dashboard piece, and visualising the dashboard for data for people to access and talk about data. This then helps us implement campaigns and use customer data to be more customer specific.”

US-based retailer, J Crew, is tapping into its data stores to do highly personalised email marketing, its vice-president of retention marketing, Shannon Smith, said. This includes creating customer segments based on email engagement behaviour, website browsing, and using all data to set-up more robust triggers for its marketing programs.

“We have always used purchase data to get the right product content to people,” Smith said. “Now we’re trying to bring more engagement data into the mix of how we target our marketing.”

At LeapFrog, data is not only utilised to drive business decisions, it’s a content offering in its own right. Rodrigues explained the company pushes out anonymised and collated data on how kids are using iPads as learning devices to parents via an email newsletter, suggesting activities and recommendations for other learning experiences based on these insights.

“We’re framing data back to those consumers in an insightful way,” Rodrigues said. Content is also broadcast out to the company’s mobile app, website and social channels.

He added LeapFrog’s data-driven journey started with measuring KPIs and defining dashboards that could showcase the data that mattered most to the organisation. The company has also replatformed its ecommerce and website experiences and deployed Responsys to manage email communications, Monetate for testing and targeting, and Google Analytics.

On the data warehouse side, Leapfrog has a strong central repository and like Sage, spends a lot of time cleaning data.

“Unless you get people to focus on the data that matters, you lose sight of what you’re trying to do,” Rodrigues claimed. “Then it’s about investing in people and the data side.”

WW Grainer vice-president of ecommerce marketing and merchandising, Parvez Patel, agreed one of the big challenges in becoming more data-driven is getting people to think differently about how they operate as well as interact with customers.

“A significant amount of change management needs to happen,” he said. “My search guy historically thought about maximising our wares at a channel level, but now needs to focus more on customers.”

A very tactical challenge with data is creating that universal profile of the customer, Patel said.

“We want to create that universal identification so if I meet that customer in any channels, we can identify them and quickly present the next best offer,” he said.

More from the conference: Oracle: Marketers are overwhelmed by complexity of technology
Virgin America's CMO and CIO come together with 'techmarketing'

Nadia Cameron travelled to Oracle Marketing Cloud Interact conference as a guest of Oracle.

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