Analytics Priorities for 2018: Informing Decisions, Achieving Results

By Evan Wood of CMA's Customer Insights & Analytics Council

In a world where products can be located, evaluated, compared, priced and purchased with a few clicks, making the right marketing decisions to influence consumers requires the right information. And the most effective way to achieve this is to embrace data and analytics, using the data to generate insight that leads to action and positive outcomes.

Given the significant investments being made in this space, expectations are justifiably high. Yet as organizations have progressed on their analytics journey, Gartner was still predicting that in 2017, 60 percent of these initiatives were expected to fail. Why? In our experience, four common issues prevent organizations from realizing the full potential of data-lead initiatives:

Lack of an analytics roadmap: Despite the best of intentions, many organizations operate without a clear short- and long-term plan on how their analytics initiatives support their business strategy.

Absence of one view of the customer: Most businesses lack a common understanding across the enterprise of who their customer is and how to engage them.

Organizational silos: Legacy rifts—intentional or not—between department and business units mean stakeholders are not aligned, databases remain unintegrated and enterprise-level analytics are elusive at best.

Methodology oversight: Companies mistake access to data with insights from data. But the value of data is greatly diminished in the absence of proper rigour around analytical methodology (e.g. what approach to use when, and why) and experienced individuals and teams overseeing that responsibility.

Does this mean that all the data and analytics investment to date has been a waste of money? Absolutely not. Companies are increasingly seeking individuals with analytical skillsets and are training their employees to be more data-driven in their decision making.  

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are being developed to encompass the effective use of data. Teams across the enterprise are being encouraged to collect, manage and leverage data where possible. Slowly but surely, the analytical “laggards” are taking steps to becoming “followers,” while the “followers” in turn become “leaders” (see Forrester’s “The State of Customer Analytics 2017”).        

As guardians of the customer experience, marketers not only have a vested interest in the successful application of analytics, but they can also be internal champions in ensuring the right building blocks are in place. At the risk of trying to do too many things and accomplishing none, we believe that a primary focus in four areas will result in a greater chance of success for realizing the potential of their data and analytics efforts:

1. Data Management

Companies have whipsawed from fretting about not having enough data to the anxiety that comes with having too much. Managing this requires enterprise data governance policies that put data management in the hands of analytics professionals who can identify what data matter and generate the required strategic insights.

2. Actionable Insight

Analytics initiatives must deliver insight that is practical and actionable. Decision-makers need to be adamant that data analysis within their organizations answers the question “now what?” rather than “so what?” That way, they can take the necessary actions and decisions to make their business more successful and address key objectives.   

3. Tell the Story

The art and science of storytelling within the enterprise is crucial to help inform decisions and achieve desired results. This is about more than simply having the business leaders communicate effectively with the data “geeks” (a term we use with endearment), although this is a good start. Every person within the company needs to be an advocate for evidence-based decision making, evangelizing the successes and sharing the learning on failures.

4. Culture Change

If there is a single element that drives success in becoming a more data-driven organization, it is a culture shift that is led from the top. Inertia is a powerful force and only with C-suite support can companies truly get all the key stakeholders aligned and strategic analytics roadmaps developed that support the enterprise at large, not just in pockets within the organization.  

Marketing success today is directly correlated not only to how well we understand the customer in all aspects of their make-up (demographics, financial profile, consumption behaviours, attitudes, etc.), but how effectively we can apply the insight along their omnichannel journey. Data and analytics strategies can help make this happen when organizations overcome key obstacles while focusing on the right foundational elements for enterprise-wide success. Only then will the ROI of analytics investments start to gain more positive momentum.

Evan Wood is Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at Environics Analytics, one of North America’s premier providers of data, analytics and consulting services.

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Tags: data management, data storytelling, data analytics, customer analytics, omnichannel, ROI, KPI