Too often organisations only pay lip service to big data analytics and fail to leverage a data-driven marketing strategy, according to Dr Melanie Van Rooy, marketing director, of South African retail chain Makro.

Melanie van Rooy
Melanie van Rooy

In tough times data analytics strategies are often some of the first cut, to the detriment of the marketing department, she told Which-50 in a recent interview.

“The threat then becomes that big databases are watered down to weak, targeted email campaigns that are not based on proper customer insights,” Van Rooy said.

“In some instances companies might view the implementation of big data analytics, both from a capability and a capacity point of view, by seeing it as an expense to the bottom-line rather than a profit generator.”

Van Rooy will be speaking at the ADMA Global Forum 2017, held on the 24th and 25th of August, where she will discuss how a rich data set forms the foundation for all omnichannel marketing decisions.

When organisations do have the foresight to invest in big data analytics and construct an accurate database the payoffs are there, Van Rooy said.

At Makro customers can only shop with Makro card. This program provides Van Rooy and Makro with rich data to inform marketing decisions.

“It is much more than a mere loyalty program. Every transaction of every customer is recorded and it hence allows an amazingly rich set of data for analysis,” she said.

“This certainly gives Makro a competitive advantage in the SA retail sector.”

These accurate, first hand customer insights are what allows Makro to implement data driven marketing strategies, she said.

“An accurate database allows the analytics team to do proper segmentation and other analytics, without which data-based decision making would not be possible.”

Key to implementing these strategies is involving the right people right from the initial planning phase, Van Rooy said.

“Make the marketing folk part of the planning right from the start as they are the ones that will be using it after all. I often find that the IT department builds a database to suit their requirements without consulting the teams that will actually be using it.”

It’s also important that the databases contain as much customer information as possible which can be added to over time, she said.

While Van Rooy is adamant about the benefits of an accurate database and data-driven decision making, she concedes it is not always easy to demonstrate its impact on the bottom line and counts “keeping the management of the company convinced of its value” as one of the top challenges to data-driven marketing.

“We have not found the silver bullet yet, but certainly thorough pre- and post-campaign analysis is assisting us in doing this,” she said.

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