Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
Big data and predictive analytics have been topics of hot debate across the marketing community this year, especially as the pressure to forecast and adapt to customer behaviour intensifies.
In the next 12 months, the spotlight will be on marketing teams to refocus and leverage the right technology to keep their data houses in order. It’s also going to be a battle towards actioning the raft of customer insights at their fingertips through creative and real-time engagement.
We’ve spoken to a raft of marketing leaders, analysts and industry commentators about where the priorities will be in the New Year for big data and predictive analytics in the marketing mix.
Unlocking big data’s creative potential
Big data entered the mainstream in 2015 for marketers and decision makers and there’s a growing need to have the tools and people in place to make sense of the vast reams of data available, Phocas Business Intelligence Software’s CMO, Angela Kent, claims. She predicts unlocking big data’s true potential as a content and creative tool will be one of the biggest challenges in the next year.
“Businesses such as Amazon have had amazing big data management and as a result, using recommendation engines has enabled them to achieve higher profits and increase customer retention,” she says.
“The reality is, these guys are pioneers and hardly any business has the heritage or budget to put systems in place as Amazon has done. Being able to turn data into tailored and actionable insights for the non-technical user will continue to be a big inhibitor to effective big data management.”
The 2016 Toolkit released by Warc in association with Deloitte Digital forecasts a more active interplay of data-driven activity and creative thinking in the next 12 months. It suggests marketing success will increasingly lie in a combination of digital expertise, data analysis and creative excellence. The challenge will be delivering all three in a holistic strategy.
Marketers can also leverage smarter data analysis to drive better insights and build more creative strategies, including sharper behaviour-based segmentation models, the Warc report revealed. Programmatic buying also allows brand-building creative to be tailored to audiences at scale. And with the relationship between data and creativity developing fast, the report forecasts more powerful creative platforms will be built using real-time data feeds.
“Predictive analytics tools are becoming more granularly focused on creative ways to improve revenue,” Kent continues. “This could be through lead targeting, lead discovery, or enabling marketers to understand what leads will do next. These capabilities are simply irresistible to companies going through startup, growth, expansion or investment phases.”
Better data capture
Marketers are capturing some data, but not all, meaning they aren’t optimising their digital investments, according to group CEO of digital transformation platform Squiz John-Paul Syriatowicz. To achieve this, he predicts more digital platform consolidation in the next year.
“Although the adoption rate of marketing technology is increasing, marketers need to set clear goals and expectations on the value digital assets can deliver,” he says.
“What’s needed, more than ever, is consolidation - a complete marketing ecosystem that brings all disparate information together into one platform to provide clear and value-driven insights.”
More attribution analysis and data integration
The availability of more data is also opening up new opportunities for marketing attribution analysis, the Warc Toolkit found. For example, several brands are generating fast turnaround analysis in user-level data to complement bigger picture analysis of the role of different media.
“Terms like predictive analytics and big data can be interpreted differently, but what we do know is that the past informs the future,” Kent says. “You can use data analytics to review your structured data, such as data that’s already in the CRM, ERP and financial systems. That’s the best place to start. Then you can move on to blending with unstructured data, such as Web, social or big data.”
According to ADMA CEO, Jodie Sangster, everyone has more data today, but in order to get the scale required to accurately target the consumer on their increasingly complex and multi-platform path to purchase, brands and publishers are going to have to share it.
“Alliances like Pangea in the UK are pioneering this concept,” she says. “In addition, marketers and data analysts will have to find new and more effective ways to work together to ensure actionable insights shape whole of business strategy.”
Multi-device management and segmentation
In the age of the connected customer, engagement must be real-time and relevant. Marketers want technology to tell them who to target, when to target them and in what channels with what message. They need to make decisions in the moment based on a multi-dimensional view of the customer and that encompasses their true interests and intent, not just channel preferences.
According to CMO and co-founder of online hotel booking platform HotelQuickly, Christian Mischler, marketing automation has been around for Web, but is fairly new to the mobile space. He expects this to come to the fore in 2016 and trigger a wave of further consolidation in the marketing technology landscape.
“The mobile OS are influencing these developments a great deal, such as enabling of rich media push notifications,” he says. “However, in-app analytics SDKs are required to be able to capture user behaviour and provide a feedback loop to marketing automation software.
“There is a healthy competition going on between Flurry, Localytics, Amplitude and others, and I expect that after Salesforce’s acquisition of ExactTarget we’ll see a convergence also in mobile analytics software and possibly some integration of these providers into marketing automation software solutions by means of M&A.”
Forrester’s Predictions 2016 also advised marketers to work closely with customer insights and focus on segmenting and recognising customers across multi-device environments. This will also assist in evaluating mobile ad results and mobile campaign effectiveness.
To address these pressing issues, Salesforce recently announced Marketing Cloud Predictive Journeys, with Predictive Scores and Predictive Audiences, to deliver dynamic ‘Waze-like’ customer experiences that aim to go beyond answering the question of what content to send to each customer, to engaging customers in a smarter way by predicting their likelihood to take a specific action.
“Marketers want to put the customer at the centre of their thinking and allow them to define each moment that matters. Now marketers can create smarter journeys that deliver the right content exactly when the customer needs it,” Salesforce Marketing Cloud CEO, Scott McCorkle, said at the time of launch.
“With Salesforce Marketing Cloud Predictive Journeys, marketers can now go beyond simply meeting customer needs, to anticipating and greeting them at the next step of their journey as they arrive.”
Moving from data to action and elevating systems of insight
The ballooning scale and diversity of customer data in 2016 will provide rich new sources of insight, equipping firms with novel ways to engage with customers and even disrupt entire industries, the Forrester predictions report found. But the report also claimed customer insights pros, marketers and strategists have only scratched the surface when it comes to using insights to drive transformational customer experiences.
According to the CMO of print on-demand marketplace Redbubble, Faith Sedlin, one of the biggest issues around big data management over the next 12 months is having the right data scientists who can marry business skills with the analytics ability to draw conclusions.
“In 2016, marketers need to place more emphasis on taking analytics from a science and R&D activity to a genuine driver of decision making,” she says. “To do this, the analysts have to be empowered and moved in the central arena of decision making in the company. They are not simply theoreticians.
“Additionally, marketers should emphasise the need to integrate and synthesise data from multiple channels, whether that be acquisition cost, demographic or website and mobile usage.”
Incremental improvement for data-driven success
Continued investment in data and analytics technology will create incremental improvement in 2016, the Forrester predictions report stated. Consequently, the report predicts firms with chief data officers will generally do better, while data monetisation efforts will meet with only limited success.
“Data can be overwhelming and while many companies realise that they should be more data oriented and base their decisions on measurable KPIs, not many companies yet know which data points to focus on and how to crunch numbers effectively so that better and faster decisions can be made,” Mischler says.
“It’s important to focus on the right KPIs to make effective business decisions. However, it’s essential to ensure data consistency and stringency and to test data collection and data quality frequently.
“At HotelQuickly, often it has been helpful to have two different tools collecting the same data to quickly discover discrepancies and fix issues. If data is flawed, even the best reports and analyses are worthless.”