A Marketer's Guide to Navigating the Data Deluge


The connected enterprise is accelerating the data deluge started by cloud, mobile, sensors and social media — providing organizations and marketers with a greater ability to understand customers by mining their information and better serve them by sharing that knowledge.

The payment processing industry provides great examples of this strategy in practice. These organizations serve numerous merchants of varying sizes and process up to hundreds of millions of transactions daily.

They use analytics to understand detail level transaction activity to truly identify customer behavior, sales volumes, etc., to optimize customer pricing.

Benefitting from Data Monetization

Many of the leaders in that market have also realized their merchant clients want to gain direct insight from that data, so they are providing a new online customer experience in the form of analytic applications.

These systems provide interactive reporting and dashboards to help the clients better understand their business and how they benchmark against various dimensions.

These applications provide tremendous competitive advantage for customer retention and acquisition. This is also a very real example of data monetization.

Building Customer Loyalty

Other marketers are leveraging the plethora of unstructured data to build customer loyalty.

There has been a great deal of focus on social media analytics to identify customer sentiment towards manufacturers, retailers and their products.

One problem is that this data is often looked at in silos, while it needs to be correlated with financial performance, customer retention and other metrics. This provides management with a clear understanding of the actual impact of events, crises, product launches and more.

Customer Social Networks Add Value

Another potential source for direct customer feedback and sentiment can be obtained by creating your own customer social network.

Customers appreciate the experience and feedback from other customers directly. This obviously works best for companies with strong product quality and excellent customer service.

Many companies are reluctant to approach this vehicle due to concerns of exposing overwhelming customer complaints. Marketers can learn a great deal from these conversations, leveraging word frequency and sentiment analysis to drive new products, education and more.

Bottom line: data is a powerful tool for marketers that want to improve the customer experience.

Add IoT Data to the Mix

Now add the Internet of Things (IoT) and you introduce a brand new dynamic to your marketing mix and campaigns.

For manufacturers of equipment, cars and aircraft, it may take the form of real-time analysis of sensor data regarding wear and tear of parts that can be used to market timely replacement parts and preventative maintenance programs.

For retailers and those in the hospitality industry, it may have more to do with customer location data to offer timely promotions.

Tap New Marketing Opportunities

The original thought here was to provide timely coupons based on historical customer purchases, but why give discounts for products they will probably buy anyway?

The more progressive thoughts here are about providing real-time cross-sell and upsell opportunities based on current products on display and recent prior purchases.

With all of these new marketing opportunities, it is apparent that success requires that we leverage all of these sources of existing and new data and create an analytic strategy that allows us operationalize and monetize those data investments.

The “golden rule” for success is to focus on the four major requirements: harmonize, visualize, operationalize and monetize.

Harmonize: Get Your Data House in Order

Before marketers can take advantage of all the data that social, mobile and the IoT has to offer they must first ensure that their data is integrated, accurate and consistent.

These are strong requirements for gaining meaningful insights through the use of analytics. The ultimate goal is to gain a 360-degree view of the customer. This is comprised of internal customer data, prospect sources, research data sources, public internet data and now, social, location and the IoT data.

All of these sources must be accessible to marketers. This means that customer data warehouses, production systems, data lakes and public internet data must be brought together, physically or virtually.

Data must be cleansed to ensure accuracy and completeness. And ultimately, a Master Data Management (MDM) strategy should be employed to create a consistent view of customers, products, suppliers and more.

MDM addresses a key challenge for many marketers by bringing together data from a variety of sources and multi-channel customer touchpoints to ensure there is a single view of that customer. From loyalty card information to payment methods and website interactions, MDM will help to put together a holistic picture of your consumer.

Visualize: Make Data Meaningful

Data usability is the key driver behind the focus on self-service analytics with visual data discovery.

Providing marketers with clear data visualizations empowers them to use their expertise to identify trends, risks and opportunities even if they have limited experience in using data analytics technology.

Software is becoming smarter, helping marketers gain insight without complete dependence on highly skilled data scientist for all requirements. This is particularly valuable for smaller organizations that may not have the budget for an in-house data scientist.

With these new data discovery software tools, it is important that marketing and IT work together to create strong data and analytic governance policy to ensure success.

Operationalize and Monetize: Put Data to Work

The number of people who have access to information multiplies the power of that information. No longer does data access stop with analysts or the c-suite. Rather, it’s in the hands of those who are working with customers or in the hands of the customers themselves.

Armed with real-time data, marketers can measure and predict trends and demands, improve the customer experience, and make data-driven recommendations on pricing and promotions.

As new IoT data sources such as wearables, RFID tags, in-car analytics and healthcare apps become mainstream, the value of putting analytics in the hands of marketers will become even clearer.

However, it is important to remember that everyone that interacts with the customer, including marketing, sales, customer service, etc., needs access to analytics.

It is even more important to remember that most of these people will not adopt these tools. Tools are blank piece of paper to someone looking for quick answers to operational questions. Tool adoption typically ends at 22 percent adoption.

The analytic functions need to be baked into intuitive, interactive analytical apps for most of these employees to be successful.

Create Analytic Rich, Interactive Customer Experiences

The last and most important stop on the journey is to include the customers themselves in this analytic empowerment strategy. Savvy marketers know that the new battle for customer loyalty is won online.

The new online customer experience must be analytic rich and highly interactive through web apps and interactive e-statements. Information becomes the driver for cross-sell, upsell, and community-influenced sales.

You may even find the opportunity for data to become your next revenue-generating product line. This will drive customer loyalty to a new high, especially with newer generations of consumers. If you don’t live online, you don’t live in their world!

Marketers that can successfully master the golden rule for data success hold the keys to bolstering the customer experience and improving their overall marketing strategy while paving the way for new technologies, data sources and opportunities in the years ahead.

Title image by Jared Erondu

Michael Corcoran is the chief marketing officer for Information Builders. With more than 20 years’ experience in the software industry, he is responsible for working with the executive management team to develop and communicate corporate and product strategy.


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