Data marketing: The new normal

Tracking the data behind the customer journey has become very important for marketers as - more than ever before - information is power.

Companies are increasingly relying on sophisticated tools - on average they are using 12 platforms on a regular basis - in order to get a clear picture of the habits of their target audience.

While this new era of data marketing presents a unique opportunity, as marketers who embrace the medium can make informed decisions and draw up more nuanced campaigns as a result, there are still plenty of organisations that are slow to adopt to the new technology.

Is data-driven the way forward?

Brands embracing data are improving their customer loyalty, engagement and market growth, according to research by Forbes Insights and Turn. Indeed, these digital leaders are three times more likely to have a competitive advantage when it comes to customer engagement/loyalty than those lagging behind (74 per cent vs 24 per cent).

Both the travel and retail sectors are faring well in using data-driven marketing to achieve a competitive advantage, and the majority of executives are planning to increase their efforts in the future.

This underlines just how profitable data can be, as these organisations are seeing a noticeable upturn in their fortunes. With growth based around globalisation only set to continue, marketers have to seize the advantage wherever possible.

But why is data becoming so important? In short, the convergence of tools and technologies means marketers can now get access to individual transaction-level information, which can then be used to influence marketing activities and ads.

For those keen to take full advantage, however, developing a collaborative working environment is essential. "Effective data-driven marketing draws on resources from across the enterprise, not a single department," said Bruce Rogers, head of the CMO Practice for Forbes Media. "And without data, marketing is not based on customer intelligence."

Finding the right solution

It's clear data-driven marketing works, so brands should be looking for a bespoke solution that suits their needs. Data has a vast inherent value, but unless there is an in-depth assessment of this information and what it means, marketers will fail to stay masters of their own destiny.

A joint report by IAB and the Winterberry Group has found that marketers have broadly embraced emergent advertising and marketing technologies in the past ten years as they seek to find the best way to harness and deploy customer data. However, many marketing professionals do not know whether to opt for integrated or independent solutions, as they are split nearly 50/50 on the best course of action for developing best-in-class performance.

The days of Mad Men-esque gut feeling decision making is gone, as the more data that marketers have, the better.

Writing in Digital Marketing Magazine, chief marketing officer of Tableau Software Elissa Fink is unequivocal about the benefits of data - stating that all marketers need to "learn to leverage the value it brings".

"From analysing campaign revenue and survey responses, to tracking social mentions and assessing buying behaviour, organisations need a foundation of agile management systems that handle streams of complex, often unstructured data from multiple sources," she added.

Ms Fink also believes that 2015 will be the year when social media data is finally analysed properly in an effort to develop smarter strategies. For example, knowing when a topic is about to trend offers brands the opportunity to react to - and exploit - this through content creation and promotion.

The need for an enterprise-wide approach

Truly collaborative data-driven marketing has to be enterprise wide, meaning digital initiatives and marketing campaigns should be aligned. The adoption of big data, cloud, social and mobile should has to be unified if it is going to be as effective as possible.

Another area that many brands are still lacking in is training, as Forbes found the majority are not currently upskilling their employees. There's no point in developing these technologies if they cannot be used properly.

Data marketing is here to stay, as the technology will be refined and improved over time to make it an even more useful template for success. As such, the future of brands depends on how well they can adopt to these new solutions.