Data doesn’t lie, but it also doesn’t care. That’s the key message from marketing and analytics leaders we spoke to this month about the problems that get in the way of effective data-driven decision making.

Difficulties managing the cross-channel customer experience, taming data silos, and creating and managing cultures inside companies all rank highly as impediments that, when successfully addressed, can set a business onto stronger growth.

The views of the executives we spoke to reflect the findings of this year’s Asia Pacific Dataroma analytics survey, and they also mirror the sentiment uncovered by Gartner which found many marketers have failed to leverage their investments in analytics.

As reported at the time of the Gartner Marketing Data and Analytics Survey 2020, most senior marketing leaders are unimpressed by the results of their data analytics, despite prioritising their investments in the area in recent years.

“Though CMOs understand the importance of applying analytics throughout the marketing organisation, many struggle to quantify the relationship between insights gathered and their company’s bottom line. In fact, nearly half of respondents in this year’s survey say they’re unable to measure marketing ROI,” said Lizzy Foo Kune, senior director analyst in the Gartner Marketing practice. “This inability to measure ROI tarnishes the perceived value of the analytics team.”

Taming the channels

Karen Ganschow, the head of analytics for Aware Super, has a long pedigree as a marketing leader in the Australian financial services sector.

Karen Ganschow, Aware Super head of analytics.

She told Which-50, “Customers typically surf across channels unless you’re truly a digital business.”

That, she says, can be very inconvenient for businesses that can’t track and measure the customer interaction all the way through the end.

“They’ll start online, move toward the contact centre, pop into a bricks and mortar location. And you’ve got to try and work out which part of the journey actually helps the customer achieve the outcome that you wanted to achieve.”

And of course, complex businesses run on different technology platforms in different business units, with different KPIs, she cautions.

“So when you really want to join the dots on an end-to-end customer experience and really understand what’s a great outcome, it’s really, really hard.”

It is important to understand customer behaviour so the customer doesn’t fall between the cracks of the various parts of the organisation. 

“It is really challenging to try and bring that together for every part of the journey, and every business owner knows the role they play.”

Cross-channel

Steffen Daleng, the CMO of Booktopia, says the first problem organisations face is that they have too many platforms. “We have data sitting in so many silos that we need to try and connect them to one single customer view, as they like to call it.”

Delang says that to get data into a central point you need to contend with the fact that all of those integrations are unique integrations for every single platform.

Steffen Daleng, CMO Booktopia.

“That means that when you’re working with your team or product team to build all these connections, that’s a significant chunk out of their roadmap. You’re asking for a significant investment of the company’s time to undertake this big data-collection endeavour.”

He told Which-50, “It’s complicated and it takes a lot of resources out of the company. That means you need to move, potentially, other projects that have proven revenue or proven cost savings to the business.”

Even if all those budgets could be reprioritised and all of those integrations achieved, executives say that the idea of a single view of the customer remains more of an aspiration than a reality.

Campbell Holt, the Chief Customer Officer of Mercer, says one of the biggest challenges that marketers still face is the federated nature of data across a large enterprise. 

“The single customer view is not a reality, despite what many claim, in a federated data model.”

And he says that will remain the case for large enterprises until the federated data model can be tamed. 

Cambell Holt, Chief Customer Officer, Mercer.

“So access to the data is still a primary challenge that I’m seeing our marketers struggle with day in, day out. So you’ve got pools of data that exist all over the organisation. Those have to be orchestrated and brought together and leveraged in unison if the marketer is going to achieve their ambition of leveraging all of the organisation’s data in support of creating great experiences and value for customers.”

The implication, says Holt, is that most marketers still struggle to realise the full value of the data their organisation possesses.

“At the end of the day, know me as a customer, deliver value that’s relevant to me. And doing that in a timely way is always going to be challenging in an environment where marketers struggle to access and leverage all of the power of the data.”

Culture matters

Even companies that make a strong fist of getting their integrations sorted have only solved half the problem, executives tell us. That’s because you still need to be able to share the results of the analysis, collaborate on the results, and then act.

And all of this requires an organisational culture organised around data-driven decision making.

According to Holt, “It is about the ability for enterprises to build and maintain a data culture underpinned by data literacy.

“I still think the greatest impediment is not the technology today. It’s the way organisations arrange themselves with the technology. And again, that flows to the maturity of that organisation’s data culture.”

Ray Kloss, the ANZ Director of Marketing for networking giant Cisco, says it is important to recognise that even the way data is viewed can vary significantly within companies.

“The sharing of data is both technical and cultural.

“On the technology side, we literally will have the challenge that customers are interacting with our support organisation in matters, even around contracts, long term agreements. And we would like to be able to integrate that to our sales and marketing efforts. And yes, there will be technical issues such as those are separate data silos.

“The biggest challenge I find with data is actually silos of data. So, for instance, what you’ll experience within a brand is Marketing will have a set of data but Sales will have their own set of data, usually personal to the account manager. And then the support organisations often have a separate set of customer data.”

Beyond that, even if the intention is there and the capability to tackle the silos is too, there are often privacy reasons behind why some of that data is not integrated, he said.

Ray Kloss, Director of Marketing ANZ, Cisco.

According to Kloss, this can impede the brand’s ability to give the customer the experience that they expect. 

“They get it from some brands, but a lot of brands really struggle with those silos of data.”

Kloss says there’s a natural tension between a sales function and a support function. “Are we trying to keep the customer satisfied? Or are we looking to enable those customers to buy more? And those cultural objectives can sometimes get in the way of sharing a single view.”

Follow the numbers

There’s another issue that many marketers — and in particular data analysts — need to attend to carefully when it comes to acting upon the insights from data analysis: the extent to which executives are willing to accept what the data is telling them.

“I think one of the challenges for our more intuition-driven executives is that sometimes the data is pointing to the fact that the market has moved,” says Kloss.

Customer mindsets change and executives who have been away from the customers can miss those changes, he says, pointing to the different mindset millennials, for instance, bring to their decision making.

“Millennials are more purpose-driven in their decision making so if you have an executive who’s been away from customer contact and the millennial shift is taking place, their gut instinct for context is based on a historical experience of the customer. But the data will often show that a new approach needs to be taken.”

Aware Super’s Karen Ganschow said the best decisions are grounded in data, but she also stressed that leadership insight and experiences should not be discounted.

“Senior executives need to set the pace by asking for the data and expecting that their teams inform their strategies with as much data and insights as they can. And they should not accept any recommendation without some underpinning of data.

“The senior executives have to set the expectation around that and in doing so celebrate every part of the organisation that actually starts to use data to inform the way they’re doing business. But having said that, data is a looking-back kind of phenomenon. Yes, we use it powerfully to try and predict but it ultimately is a historical view.”

This is especially so in 2020, where the trend data can’t account for the disruption of the pandemic.

“So given that we live in a world of disruption and change, I absolutely have a huge passion for leveraging data and getting insights. 

“Good leadership at every level starts with the data, but also places a value of what’s really going on with the market, with the environment, with their consumers. It’s a good blend of data and instinct.”

Kevin Doyle, Regional VP Salesforce.

According to Kevin Doyle, Regional VP Salesforce, if a senior executive doesn’t get this right, they’re playing Jenga with the people, process, and technology required to run an efficient organisation.

“And if they are not on the lookout, someone is going to take a piece and the entire thing falls over and they’re going to be in a world of pain. Their job is to be the guardians of the game, to keep people, processes, and technology perfectly aligned, always humming and creating a mandate from the top that we all need to be respectful about all these three. 

“Otherwise,” he says, “Our customers are going to be the ones that suffer.”

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