3 ways to be smarter with your digital data

How to be smarter with your digital data

We’ve long heard about leading companies being data-driven. Many businesses nowadays have deep marketing data stacks with tens, if not hundreds, of tools generating real-time customer data down to the most minute, niche indicators of intent. The number of available technologies in an intensely crowded market has grown at an astounding rate, from less than 150 in 2011 to a staggering 6829, as of April 2018.

With such a head-spinning plethora of tools available, and a massive amount of relevant data being generated daily, how do you begin to start weeding through the masses of information to find the right insight to inform your strategy?

Choose the right tools for your business, and action the data accordingly

Start small. Determine the key things you want to achieve from your marketing initiatives and map your Martech requirements accordingly. Once you have a list of goals/questions you want to answer and iterate on, then you are ready to research which tools can best help you to get the learnings you need. If you already have several technologies at your disposal, constantly evaluate whether they are helping to achieve your goals.

Even when you have the right tools in place, you still need to be able to interpret your data and determine what your next course of action is based on these results. Simply using historical data to make decisions about new digital experiences has diminishing returns, especially in a world where customer expectations and behaviors are changing rapidly. Brands must build and deploy experiences that are forward-thinking, differentiated, and can directly drive improvements in measurable business objectives, customer loyalty, and conversion.

Critical to this is the concept of digital experimentation, or more simply, the concept of rapidly innovating, testing, and learning which digital product features, campaigns, or commerce experiences will predictably drive the desired business outcome.

Become customer-obsessed, and quickly

Being ‘customer-obsessed’ may sound a little intense, but what it really refers to is creating a strategy, process, and a culture within your organization where the customer is truly at the forefront of everything you do (Amazon is the poster-child here). All decisions that are made, whether they are in regard to marketing campaigns, buying experiences, or the products themselves have a customer-first mindset. Forrester has dubbed these firms ‘insights-driven businesses’, those that are systematically harnessing insights across their organization and implementing them to create competitive advantage through software.

Marilyn McDonald, Senior Director of Product, Design & TPM at StubHub notes “for right or wrong, companies rely on structures that reinforce the behavior of being right. The problem with this design is that we pat ourselves on the back when the numbers go up, but when the numbers go down, we’re confused because no one is willing to own up to the facts and say, “Maybe we didn’t know what was driving those numbers after all.”

If you’re making decisions solely based on past company successes, think about what new signals you could be ignoring from your customers; even the most sophisticated analytics platforms can miss market changes happening right now.

Test, learn, iterate

Thoroughly testing every experience, be it headline copy, shopping cart functionality, or other product features is the only way to understand how customers are actually interacting with it. When done at scale, an enterprise-wide experimentation program can generate invaluable insights across the purchase funnel and even throw out some unexpected learnings. Even small improvements can add up quickly and beat competitors to the punch.

In a recent report, Harvard Business Review-Analytic Services expressed that experimentation is emerging as the next major digital capability that will separate business winners from losers. Organizations big or small must look to experimentation to drive continuous iteration and innovation across all areas of their digital business.

Determine the important questions you need to answer from your data, start with a few best-of-breed tools, and test your decisions before rolling them out fully. It can be easy to become lost in digital data, but with a laser focus on your customer and their needs, your path to efficient insight-generation at scale will become much clearer.

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