Marketers are still struggling to glean valuable insights from data, says Forrester

Marketers awash with data are still struggling to unearth valuable and actionable insights from it, according to a recent report out of Forrester Consulting.

The study, which was commissioned by marketing intelligence company Velocidi and includes responses from 273 marketing decision makers in the US, found that nearly one-third of firms lack experience when it comes to translating their data into insight and action.

The report pointed to a number of reasons as to why marketers are struggling in this area, one of them being that 74% of companies have yet to implement a senior role like ‘chief data officer’ or ‘chief analytics officer’ to lead their organization’s marketing intelligence initiatives. According to the study, data is still “controlled and applied by a select number of specialized, siloed entities within the organization.”

It also found that marketers tend to prioritize access to data over data analysis: while 69% of respondents said that “easy access to all media and customer data” is an extremely or very important component of marketing intelligence, only 47% said the same for “tools to enable activation of insights.” Less than one-third cited “advanced analytic capability” as extremely or very important when it comes to marketing intelligence.

“The conclusion from these findings is that while the vast majority of firms understand they must bring marketing intelligence capabilities to bear, they still think of marketing intelligence as a reporting dashboard — a source of information, more than insight and actionable recommendations,” the study states.

In addition, more than 60% of firms surveyed stated that their current marketing intelligence tools take a more backward-looking view than forward-looking.

“Effective marketing intelligence not only measures past performance, but enables a full view of the customer journey enabling real time optimization for improved performance,” said David Dunne, founder and chief executive of Velocidi. Dunne defines marketing intelligence as “the ability to translate customer and media data into marketing decisions that grow a brand.”

A maturity model utilized by the study assigned companies an average grade of C-minus for their marketing intelligence efforts to date, with firms scoring particularly low in the area of data management. The study found that firms are struggling with many aspects of data management, such as the degree to which they have contractual control and ownership of data, their ability to automate data intake and auditing, and how well their data auditing, practices and standards are helping ensure data quality.

Overall, more than 40% of those surveyed reported “inadequate data science tools and applications” as one of the most significant barriers they face when trying to develop or improve marketing intelligence capabilities, which Dunne believes is why marketers are struggling to make the most of their data despite having large quantities of it.

“Data volumes and sources are growing exponentially, making it increasingly difficult to quickly and easily uncover insights and opportunities to optimize marketing for a brand. As a result, analysis is often time consuming, cumbersome, prone to error and unreliable, forcing intuitive decisions instead of data led decisions to be made,” he said.

He recommends that marketers take charge of their marketing intelligence efforts by prioritizing data management and making advanced analytical capabilities widely available.

“Marketers need to control their data, just like any other enterprise data. This begins with getting all their data in one place, organized for analysis, and then equipping their team, so they can find insights in real time,” he said. “That will help brands and agencies win against competitors who don’t have the same ability to react quickly and effectively to the market.”

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Minda Smiley

Minda Smiley is a reporter at The Drum covering creativity and advertising. Based in Philadelphia, she primarily covers independent agencies and B2B marketing. She also oversees The Drum’s “Independent Influence,” a weekly series that spotlights the work, perspectives and inspirations behind independent agencies. During her time at The Drum, she has covered industry events including SXSW, ANA Masters of Marketing, 4A’s Transformation and C2 Montréal. She is a graduate of the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.

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