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Turning Detailed Audience Data into True Customer Desire

May 2, 2013

The perspective of today’s data-driven marketer has been an area of focus for IBM over the past few years. Through acquisitions and research, we’ve engaged in conversations with CMOs around the world to learn how they are interpreting this extreme focus and challenge regarding big data analytics. We believe this convergence is leading a major transformation in marketing today.

CMOs, CIOs & CEOs are seeing big data as a resource of incredible potential to change the way they market and drive value for their organizations, yet they struggle to effectively tap it. Some view it as an opportunity while some view it as a threat. Others struggle to define it at all.

The opportunity, if we get it right, is to turn detailed audience data into “true customer desire” – a deep understanding of what consumers want, when and where they want it. This goes beyond a coupon or marketing tactic pushed at the right moment. The goal is to effectively and efficiently offer consumers much deeper value by providing a new expertise or new set of peers, new connections, enhanced experiences and knowledge or advice that can be offered to enrich their lives.

I would view this deeper data-driven value as the holy grail of marketing.

This is an era in which CMOs are on a quest to find that holy grail – to find the optimal way to market to “me” as an individual. Once again, marketers that understand individual value and get it right see it as a competitive advantage; those that are late to the game see it as a threat.

Consider for a moment what’s happening in traditional retail vs. Internet shopping beyond the basic price shopping convenience and delivery. For years, Amazon.com has been gathering a massive amount of insightful user and consumer data. They know our likes, dislikes, our opinions, what we browse for and buy or don’t buy, what triggers we respond to, and much, much more. At its core, this represents highly sophisticated technology and analytics systems and processes. It also represents information about “me” that traditional retailers would love to get their hands on.

Why? Because they already know that amassing this same level of data about “me” is a strategic competitive advantage for Amazon and major threat for everyone who lacks that insight. Of course, this doesn’t mean that finding those insights is easy to do from the get-go.

The fact is that most organizations and their CMOs aren’t where they need to be. They are drowning in data and they are not prepared at all to address it in a manner that converts raw data into measureable actions. It’s a growing challenge that many of us are aware of but we don’t always fully understand what’s required to overcome these challenges.

For example, in the 2011 IBM CMO Study, we surveyed over 1700 CMOs globally. We asked CMOs what are the top factors impacting marketing and what are they least prepared to deal with. The top 3 issues identified are: The explosion of data, the rise of social media and the growth of channel and device choices – mobile devices and smartphones. In our 2012 CEO study, 73% of CEOs identified customer insight as the most critical investment area.

All of these points represent areas in which big data is being generated; that, in turn, creates opportunities for new analysis and deeper understanding. And yet, we know that CMOs around the world feel underprepared in these critical areas required for relationship deepening. Even now, almost two years since the initial study, we don’t think there has been enough technology and process adoption to see those top factors change. We think they are still very much at the top of the CMO’s “to do” list.

Despite the dilemma, very few are putting on the brakes. They know they can’t afford to. The bottom line is that there is clearly room for CMOs to adapt to a whole new strategy.

We’ll explore some of those key areas for big data adoption in my next post.