Turning Big Data Into Smart Data

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A journey is defined as the act of traveling from one place to another. With that in mind, it's arguable that the customer journey or path to purchase no longer exists in any kind of linear, quantifiable sense.

Well, let's rephrase: The customer journey is no longer linear, but it is quantifiable—It's just going to take some work, says Matthias Hartmann, CEO of market research firm Gfk.

Direct Marketing News caught up with Hartmann at the Advertising Research Foundation's 2014 re:Think conference in New York City to talk about integration, new rules for measurement, data privacy, and the difficulty of a CMO's job—and why that's a good thing.

What are the new metrics marketers need to be paying attention to?

More and more the customer journey and the purchase journey are encompassing multiple channels, which is why it's obviously very important to truly understand—for all segments—where consumers go and how they inform themselves so that [brands] can be there for the decisive click. Thus it becomes vital for marketers to leverage integrated data. In the past, marketing was more focused on the creative, and shall we say intuitive, side. But now marketing has become very fact-based and measurable. Creativity needs to be informed and fact-based, and then creative can have a role. That's the way the pendulum is swinging.

So integration is the name of the game?

It's all about integration and fusing the various data sets. What it's not about is the quantity. Marketers need to draw the right conclusions from their data. It's not enough to get a social media data stream and think you know everything about your consumer. To truly understand the consumer across channels and across datasets marketers have to combine those datasets.

What's the chatter about data privacy?

Early data indicates that consumers are becoming more wary and more aware about what happens with their data, which is a call-to-action back to the industry to do something about that concern. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. There has been a lot of innovation in the data space, but now we have to step back and ask ourselves what proper was is to collect data.

Gfk is releasing market research at ARF this year related to brand sentiment among millennials. How do millennials feel about brands?

We're finding more and more that millennials have a very specific attitude towards brands, a more personal attitude. So, how can a brand turn itself into a friend? For one, brands need new ways to understand consumers and measurements that go beyond classical segmentation.

It seems like the CMO's job is harder than ever. Would you agree with that?

The CMO finally has a chance to really step up. On one side, the CMO role is very business-oriented, and on the other side, the role can be very complex and data-related—but I look at the opportunity in that statement. The job is becoming richer as more technology and data science skills are needed, and that makes the CMO role more relevant, promising, and interesting than ever before.

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