Data-Driven Marketing Is More Important Than Ever

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Data-Driven Marketing Is More Important Than Ever
Data-Driven Marketing Is More Important Than Ever

Data is like air for marketers: What marketing done today, whether B2C or B2B, is not data-driven?  Data has always been a part of marketing, but now that data is big, getting bigger, and more complex (and expensive) to manage, and it's starting to get the attention of marketing leadership.

I was lucky to lead a panel of marketing leaders at the recent Data-Driven Marketing conference.  We talked about the impact of data-driven marketing not just on how we connect with customers and prospects, but also on how we organize our marketing department and think about the role of marketing in the organization.

It was phenomenal to hear the similar lessons learned, the innovative approaches, and the differences based on brand and industry between one of the world's largest retailers (Julie Bernard, Group VP, Customer Centricity Direct Marketing & Loyalty, with Macy's), one of the largest banks (Steve Ireland, Executive Director, Head of Advertising Strategy & Platforms, with JPMorgan Chase), one of the largest hotel chains (Grazia Ochoa, Director Global Digital Marketing, with Starwood Hotels and Resorts), and one of the world's largest publishers (Charlie Swift, VP of Marketing Analytics & Operations with Hearst).

No matter the industry or market share, marketers everywhere are stewards of consumer data. It is our actions and abilities—and care and attention—that enables brands to use all the data we have to delight customers and engage them with our brands.

Here are a few highlights from the panel:

Q: Where do you see some of the greatest impact of data-driven marketing for your organization?

Julie with Macy's: We can now measure success in terms of the response of real people over time, in addition to measuring individual campaigns.  We have enough data at the customer level to see how she interacts both online and in the store, so we can tailor messaging and offers to her appropriately by channel. We strive to balance the use of customer data to inform content relevancy with the use of consumer insights to ensure that the relevancy is coupled with a sense of discovery and inspiration.  We're in the fashion business, so we have to deliver relevancy alongside a great experience, ensuring we leave room for the surprise, the “wow.”

Grazia with Starwood: There has been an explosion of data, so our biggest challenge now is to get to the data that counts. We view consumer behavior in multiple models to understand the full experience in each visit in a particular property, but also over time to see how we can improve the return rate. If I can move a guest from four visits a year to six, that's better than just optimizing the four visits we already have. We strive to do both.

Charlie with Hearst: As we move forward inventing the new world of publishing—between digital editions of our magazines and the shift to deeper consumer relationships—data is at the heart of our ability to learn and react faster to the market dynamics. Speed to learn and change is critical to our long term success.

Q: What has surprised you about the increased use of data?

Grazia with Starwood: The lack of real actionable information that we can glean.  Seriously, we have to view this as an analytics continuum: from data to knowledge to intelligence to action (and repeat). For example, global personalization is a major initiative—and it covers both “marketing” and “product” (the hotel visit) throughout the experience. We use lots of social and other clickstream data to make those personalized experiences possible. This might include reviews from like-minded travelers, requirements on beverages in the room, and offers at check in (like restaurants or spa) based on interests and experiences.

Steve with JPMorgan Chase: We're trying to be more intelligent about data. It's not about targeting the minutia; it's about trying to identify what's really important and relevant. For us, we have 50 to 60 products to present to customers, each with different value drivers and value components. 

Q: How has the role of marketing leadership changed as data drives most of the marketing?

Charlie with Hearst: We use data to drive efficiency in our marketing organizations. We try to link subscribers together with a 360degree view.  It also transforms our language, the way we connect with subscribers and advertisers and how much more able we're to understand them, to speak to both audiences in ways that resonate.

Julie with Macy's: There has been a transformation in the way that marketing is viewed throughout the organization. Marketing has always been positioned as the advocate of the consumer. Now, we're much more responsible for the entire customer experience. When we advocate on behalf of the customer, using advanced behavioral analytics to inform the experience, we still leverage our traditional marketing skills of storytelling to deliver those insights in a way that can be understood, embraced, and acted on quickly. 

From another perspective, marketers must now be versed in legal and technology conversations at a greater level of depth than ever before. Data-driven marketing is under the microscope from a variety of third parties, including regulatory agencies. As such, the marketing leaders must think about what Congress is likely to do as relates to our strategies to drive revenue and consumer value. Marketers have to stay connected with their legal counterparts, ensuring that we are complying with their advice and direction.

Lastly, marketers today are partnering with their IT counterparts to ensure that we have the systems in place to enhance and protect our customer data assets, leverage them for deep insights, and operationalize those insights into actions that benefit consumers and shareholders alike.

Q: How are your customers benefiting from the responsible use of data in your organization?

Grazia with Starwood: We use data to be more relevant in our messaging; that creates a better value for travelers.  We also use it to make sure that we use the right metrics. For example, we track relevancy in our conversion rates on both owned and paid media. We've seen some increased use of richer data—for a more finite audience in segmentation—increases the cost of the media, but not the ROI. We're still modifying the models. We can sometimes work with the publisher to raise the signal, and then we don't have to target to such detailed segment levels.

Charlie with Hearst: We have two customers: readers and advertisers. Both benefit from more relevant offers and content that hopefully provides greater value and return to each. For readers, there is the enjoyment of stories that matter more to their life; for advertisers greater engagement and targeting creates a more efficient opportunity to sell their brand and products.

Steve with JPMorgan Chase: The relationship between consumers and their bank is constantly evolving; the number of interactions is enormous, just think about the number of times you use your mobile device to check stocks or your balance or to move money around. There is an increase of digital interactions versus human interactions, which we believe consumers find beneficial because they control them.

Q: Consumer data is dynamic and perishable. How are you keeping up with the continually evolving consumer profile, particularly across channels?

Charlie with Hearst: It's the moment, not the data that is perishable. That moment you have to connect with someone.

Steve with JPMorgan Chase: We use all those digital interactions over time to create innovation, connect with customer in new ways. For example, mobile device usage was so high on our online forms that we created better, more secure apps to handle that traffic. It was incredibly shocking to us on the number of loan applications from devices.  That led us to improve the interaction with consumers, and improve our opportunity.

  Stephanie Miller is VP of member relations and chief listening officer at the Direct Marketing Association. She is a relentless customer advocate and a champion for marketers creating memorable online experiences.  A digital marketing expert, she helps responsible data-driven marketers connect with the people, resources, and ideas they need to optimize response and revenue.

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