Today, marketers have access to more data than ever—thousands of data points across multiple channels generated multiple times every second. With that increase of data has come more sophisticated tools to store and measure it. But while the data and tools have exploded, marketers' ability to develop meaningful insight and solve business challenges hasn't improved at the same rate.
In our recent study with Advertiser Perceptions, a survey of 152 marketers in the US and UK conducted in April 2018, we found that although 93% of marketers agree that applying data science and analytics to marketing processes is important, fewer than half (45%) actually consider themselves advanced in their implementation and use of data science. Most troubling was that even among these advanced marketers, nearly half (43%) said their biggest barrier to the further use and investment in data science was a lack of accurate measures of business impact.
This is an all too common challenge in our industry: More technology hasn't led to more insight, nor to a clearer picture of how marketing is helping accomplish business goals. As a result, rather than applying customer data to drive real business outcomes, digital marketers have remained reliant on traditional KPIs such as clicks, time spent or conversions, despite knowing better—that clicks are as worthless as they are easy to measure, that time spent is just a proxy for other useful metrics and that not all conversions are of equal value.
Many marketers begin their work without asking themselves the most important question: "What are the goals we need to achieve?" They haven't stopped to consider what those core business outcomes are, and how they can drive and measure them. It's rare that a marketer's sole goal is driving conversions, whether in the form of leads, sales or action. Here are a few questions marketers should be asking about their goals:
- Am I properly measuring—and optimizing toward—customer value?
Did my conversions come from customers who bought a single small item, or customers who bought dozens of items? Did I bring in one-time buyers or recurring customers who will make multiple purchases per year? Did I drive a sale from a new customer, or an existing one? Is my new customer a good target for cross-selling or up-selling initiatives?
- Am I reaching the right type of customer for my long-term business goals?
Depending on the brand, there's more to determining the right customer than just measuring Customer Lifetime Value. Some brands need to get younger. Some need to get older. Some need to branch into new markets. Some need to convert customers of competitors' brands.
- Are there breaks, speed bumps or challenges in the buying journey that I can measure and optimize against?
Some brands and products may have unique barriers to purchase that have to be overcome, or unique challenges that may affect customer value. Consider rental car groups that need to find a way to predict whether a customer will actually show up to rent the car they booked and optimize accordingly. Or airlines that prioritize customers who will book more seats per trip, helping fill planes more quickly.
Each of these questions can be answered. By connecting the right data sources and applying a mix of machine learning and human intelligence, marketers can identify the key differences in their customers that predict relative value. Once a marketer has done this and determined their true goals, the next step becomes auditing the brand's available data and identifying what's being measured and how it can be connected to those key outcomes. Only then can the marketer build the appropriate processes to extract, transform and load that data so it can be processed upstream and turned into action downstream.
Accomplishing business goals starts with identifying what those goals are and how marketing can help achieve them. If you don't start thinking critically about the audience you're reaching and the value of the customers you're bringing in—if you're still relying on clicks as a measure of success and treating all conversions the same—then all the technology in the world isn't going to take your business to the next level.