Data, data everywhere, but time to stop and think?

With an unprecedented number of insights now available from a myriad of channels around the clock, are marketers drowning in data? Brent Banning writes about why data integration and management is crucial to a successful growth strategy.

If this heading rang a bell somewhere in the back of your mind, that was intentional – and apologies to Samuel Coleridge Taylor for such a shameless bastardisation of his famous lines from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The original couplet, of course, refers to the experience of being alone on a ship at sea with no wind and a bleak outlook. “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”

Is that how it can feel when faced with the overwhelming amount of data it is now possible to capture through the myriad channels available to you? It’s there, and in abundance, but how to drink it? How to optimise it, use it efficiently and enable it to effectively inform and drive your marketing decision-making and strategy?

We recently tallied up the connected devices in our household. One house of four people and the active connected devices numbered around 36. Each with its own data stream and information.

That’s one household and its devices. Now consider almost any organisation in either the B2C or B2B space and think about the number of channels it is utilising as marketing tools to reach their customers. Websites, email, digital display advertising, mobile apps, programmatic advertising, paid social, influencer marketing, paid search, print, out of home billboards/displays, surveys, ad servers, mobile push or SMS, traditional/linear TV, direct mail, ad verification, CRM, organic social, radio, SEO, OTT TV, content syndication.

Each one of these channels is the source of valuable data, but with data capture opportunities exploding in recent years, too many marketers are playing catch-up in their attempts to fully optimise and utilise it.

This was made clear from the results of a recent study from Salesforce Datorama in partnership with The Leading Edge, which aggregated the responses of over 1000 marketers who responded to an online survey and a further 12 who were involved in extensive one-on-one telephone interviews.

The findings of the study are reflective of the particular period in which it was conducted, with the challenges posed by a world operating during a global pandemic affecting an overall trend towards growth marketing and tying back every dollar spent to ROI. And, while marketers have always been accountable to the C-suite, approximately 94 percent of the respondents to the survey indicated they have shifted their priorities to focus primarily on marketing-led growth.

Windward ho

While agreeing that growth is the goal, what are the barriers to achieving this? When 45 percent of marketers reported their success in achieving their marketing goals as merely ‘poor’ or ‘fair’, it’s vital to drill down further to understand what is holding them back from attaining optimal growth. Many see issues related to data as key, including misalignment across teams on measurement and reporting (44 percent), a lack of a unified view of performance (41 percent) and a lack of real-time insights (40 percent).

Time and again, this desire to have a complete view of cross-channel marketing is stressed. In the APAC region, 86 percent of marketers point to the importance of this ability. On average these marketers are using 7.4 marketing platforms and the multitude of data created by each is all too frequently trapped in silos – making it challenging to compare performance across channels, which in turn affects the ability to learn which are performing the best and, most importantly, which ones are delivering the maximum ROI.

Man the rigging

The importance of effective data integration and management is certainly not lost on marketers; 78 percent of them claim that their customer engagement is data-driven. They understand that the more data they can leverage, the better their customer engagement will be – better at personalisation, better at efficiency and better for the bottom line. But to maximise acquisition, retention and engagement, they need a holistic view and this can only be achieved by effective integration. With 71 percent of APAC marketers still managing at least some of this process manually, there is clearly an issue.

Additionally, 40 percent say they are hampered in their efforts to receive real-time insights. Slowed down by a lack of automation, they are continually on the back foot in reacting and responding to trends and developments. Despite working in omnichannel environments only 32 percent report access to fully automated cross channel reporting.

Most concerning is the time wasted that could and should be used in more productive ways. When it comes to manual data harmonisation, nearly two-thirds of marketers say they spend one week out of every month on this task. That is a quarter of their time spent in an activity that could be fully automated, leaving marketers free to accomplish the tasks that require a human and creative approach – activities to drive strategy, insight and innovation.

Another pressing issue for marketers regarding their data, is the concern over its accuracy. It’s interesting, but perhaps not surprising, that there is a variance in the confidence regarding data accuracy and cleanliness depending on where in the organisation you sit. Executives and senior executives are more likely to claim they have faith in their data (54 percent); this is almost twice as much as those at the director level or below (30 percent). This confidence is also evident when it comes to the self-assessment of data integration capabilities, with 61 percent rating themselves as excellent in this department. Shifting to a more objective perspective, however, and the situation isn’t quite as rosy. When data integration is broken down into specific challenges, roadblocks rise to the fore and include sharing and collaborating on data (37 percent), connecting marketing investments to outcomes (35 percent) and using the insights gleaned from the integration to actually engage audiences and form the right content and offers at the right time (31 percent).

Land ahoy

In conclusion, it’s possible to sum up the three clear issues marketers are facing with their data integration and optimisation challenges:

  • over half of them do not have access to regular (daily) or real-time reporting
  • only a third have fully automated cross-channel reporting, and
  • nearly a half – two in five – are operating in silos by measuring performance individually and independently, or relying on spreadsheets and manually reporting.

Marketers are making progress in their journey to use data-driven decisions to power growth – 66 percent claim excellent progress in investment in marketing analytics and technology, as well as support from executive leadership. And as marketers look to the future, their top priorities over the next one to two years include a better ability to understand and engage customers (53 percent), efficiency of data management and preparation (50 percent) and creating a strategic view of overall marketing performance (47 percent). While marketers face significant challenges when it comes to data and analytics, they recognise the value in using data to drive marketing success and are on the path to creating a culture of continuous optimisation to drive business growth.

In Coleridge’s poem, the Ancient Mariner’s predicament is linked to the death of the albatross. Believing it to be the cause of the ship’s bad luck, the Mariner shoots the bird and is then left with the albatross around his neck, weighing him down. Luckily, data as a. deadweight is easy all too easy to avoid.

If you establish a data-driven organisational culture, and a strategic alignment of people, processes and technologies, a successful growth marketing strategy is all but guaranteed. And a vast and exciting horizon beckons…

Download Salesforce Datorama’s Marketing Intelligence Report Asia-Pacific here.

 

Brent Banning – Senior Director, Customer Success
Brent is passionate about all things data and technology, spending almost 15 years working with brands across the world to deliver a return on investment in data and data technology. Brent currently leads the Asia Pacific, Customer Success team for Salesforce Datorama, partnering with agencies, publishers and brands to drive the adoption of data driven decisions for marketing across organisations. Prior to Salesforce Datorama, Brent led Customer Success teams across other adtech and martech companies.

 

 

Photo by Sonja Langford on Unsplash.