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Marketers Struggle with Big Data
Nearly half of marketing executives don't use big data to understand customers.
For the rest of the September 2013 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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As the amount of customer interactive data continues its tremendous growth each year, marketers are finding themselves paralyzed by the sheer amount of available information, and admit that they are unable to use it effectively.
According to a survey conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and released by digital marketing solutions provider Lyris, 45 percent of marketing executives are failing to use big data to understand consumers.
Key survey findings demonstrated that 50 percent of marketing executives have inadequate budgets for digital marketing/database management, and despite the advantages of using data to influence conversions, only 24 percent always use data for actionable insight. Forty-five percent of executives also view marketers’ limited competency in data analysis as a major obstacle to implementing more effective strategies, according to the survey.
Though somewhat troubling, the results are not entirely surprising. According to Dale Renner, CEO of Redpoint Global, a marketing campaign and big data management software provider, today’s marketers have an unprecedented challenge on their hands: “Marketers are constantly dealing with a variety of channels and a significant amount of information coming out of each of these channels, and because this data is so spread around, there’s isn’t what we call a ‘database of record,’” he explains. “One person can have five email addresses and three separate Twitter handles, and for this information to be usable, it has to be brought together. There’s got to be one version of the truth.”
To make data usable rather than overwhelming, Renner suggests taking it through a cycle of four steps: data capture, distillation, integration, and cleansing. “You have to gather data from all your sources. Anything the customer touches is fair game,” he says. “What you’ll end up with is some usable material and some unstructured big data, such as photos and videos. This has to be distilled and turned into something usable. Only then can you integrate it by linking it together and cleanse it—create a persistent customer key and assign all of that specific customer’s data to that key.”
Renner also points out that the challenges marketers face stem not only from the difficulty of effectively collecting and analyzing an increasing amount of data, but also from an outdated data philosophy. “There’s no longer such a thing as a single view of a customer. Data has to be collected, analyzed, and used from a multidimensional standpoint. This is because the question that marketers ask tomorrow is different than the question they’re going to ask today. And the question that they ask tomorrow might require different data than the data they need today. So, if they don’t save all the data, then they won’t be in a position to answer it,” he says.
As time goes by and more customers gain access to existing as well as new channels, the big data challenge will only continue to grow, Renner believes. “Until marketers find a way to organize data in a way that’s accessible and relevant, or prioritize it, the problem will persist and worsen,” he says.
Marketers can begin to identify the most meaningful data signals that influence conversion and use those insights to take action in real time. “This can start at [a] basic level. For example, how are your consumers responding to email promotions, what products are they browsing, what content are they sharing and liking?  It’s critical that marketers not be paralyzed by data, but instead, identify the signals that inform the action they can take,” suggests Alex Lustberg, chief marketing officer at Lyris. “Marketers need to ensure they are engaging with their customers in the ways that they demand, and in this way begin to bridge the digital gap.” 


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