What the world has seen is an incredible shift from the way people used to make purchases in the past, to the way they do it today. This change was ushered in by the information and the digital age; when consumers became increasingly and constantly connected to various communication networks, the Internet and powerful devices like the smartphones and tablets. And since then the digital world has become progressively complex. Organisations have also strained to keep pace by trying to communicate with their digitally omnipresent consumers who are constantly interacting with their products through various touch points in an intricate consumer journey. And despite these continuous efforts tracing digital footprints of prospective customers have become increasingly difficult and cumbersome. The volume of metadata and behavioral data created and collected with every digital interaction is at once intimidating and staggering. However on a positive note, this digital information is also opening up a plethora of data-driven opportunities that remain the under-pinning of a successful digital strategy.
Many organisations are successfully encashing on these opportunities and creating incremental profitable revenue or reducing cost, while many others are still struggling due to misplaced prioritisation of factors that are most important in data-driven decision making. In our experience of working with marketing professionals from various organisations, we have witnessed many growth inhibitors that cripple companies from achieving the greatest results. These growth-inhibiting factors can be condensed into five main obstacles that companies must learn to avoid, and concomitantly focus on factors that discreetly play a big role in real success.
1. Obsession with tools and technologies and data collection: Who does not like shiny toys? But marketers should realize that there is lot more than looking at new fancy products, and be very careful while investing in various tools and technologies that are available in the market for digital analytics. It is a common fallacy that the expensive tools deliver greater results while the truth is sometimes simple tools can do a much better job. Thus before investing in any tool, every marketer must first analyse the level and the depth of data management and implementation required to meet their business objectives.
They must also consider the return they are going to get from such investment. Obsession with tools is most often than not the biggest threat to most companies. It’s overwhelming to find the sheer numbers of tools companies’ use these days for simple data processing. And most of these companies fail to understand that although technology and tools that support analysis are critical and necessary, they are inadequate by themselves in creating business value. Humans create the real value in analytics. It’s the analytics team, which analyses and interprets raw data to create actionable insights, and in turn help marketers make informed decisions that architect their growth. It’s thus extremely important to invest in, educate and empower a great team of analysts who can make intelligent decisions, ask powerful questions and take advantage of each morsel of data they collect. Smart data thinkers will be the true panacea for all challenges an organization will face in this dynamic and complex digital environment.
2. Lack of Measurement Planning: Marketing professionals in most organisations and agencies are in a perpetual hurry to launch campaigns without paying any heed to the data planning process required to measure the success of any such initiative. And if in case they do talk data; they most inevitably fail to comprehend the scope and importance of measurement planning in strategic decision-making. In today’s complex digital space, companies should stop being myopic by concentrating on stand alone one-off efforts, and start thinking about the best strategies that would help them achieve their business objectives.
We believe analytics and strategy should work in synergy, and companies must encourage the involvement of their analytics team in helping business leaders in chalking out growth plans. Because, creating a thorough and continuous measurement plan in line with the business objectives is extremely critical for the success of a business. In order to bring change within an organization, analysts must work together with business leaders and technical experts to raise questions that define a successful measurement plan for a business objective. As the famous American Statistician, W. Edward Deming rightly said, “If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.” In the process of data planning and implementation, analysts must learn to provide context to their data – marrying performance with expectations is the best way to analyse the effectiveness of any campaign, and hence learn consumer insights thorough optimisations. So, understanding of not just what we should be tracking but how we fair in comparison to internal and external benchmarks is extremely crucial in the planning process. In the analytics fraternity, we often call this as setting goals.
3. Drowning in Data – Too much data is no good; on the contrary, fewer data yet more meaningful data can create much bigger impact. Drowning in data is the biggest risk, so every analyst must master the art of filtering, processing and reporting data. An intelligent analyst can remove the noise and isolate and analyse the data that matters the most. Companies can gain immensely by solidifying their approach to data, reading data effectively and transforming the data that matters to actionable insights. Also reading data by cohorts, and segments can help analyst isolate data sets and study inherent characteristics within each subset in order to identify key factors that can inform business decisions. An analyst must always seek answers to the following questions, before structuring large data into more specific and objective data sets. What are we going to do with this data? Do we have the right signals from this data? And have we filtered and refined them in the proper ways and organised them?
4. Data without a Language – We have often come across situations within agencies, and while interacting with other companies, that data when not communicated in a language that resonates with most people in an organization, falls flat no matter how groundbreaking the findings could be. Thus, it is extremely crucial to give data a common language; it’s often useful to use basic business parlance and examples to define and explain the insights derived from data findings. Most agencies are sending out monthly and weekly reports with a data dump of performance indicators that most often than not fail to tell a story that the client would like to hear. Data enthusiasts must be mindful of the fact that, not every business decision makers speak and understand the data language. And hence they must give due importance to data reporting that adds maximum value to their clients from diverse backgrounds by simplifying the language. As Albert Einstein wisely said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
5. Lack of Creativity: Creative ability to look beyond the obvious, adapt to changes, and find out creative solutions to complex data problems will become the only means for survival in the challenging and dynamic digital world. With businesses working towards integrating offline and online mediums, the onus of creative data visualisation and segmentation will become extremely crucial for business decision-making. Also, creative ways to communicate insights and point of views by making it visually appealing to people with short concentration spans will help analysts create meaningful impact on those people. An analyst must be a creative innovator to look into data as an artist, slice and dice it, and go deeper than surface-level information to uncover the hidden truffles that would create the maximum impact, and then present it beautifully!
With our experience of working with various big and small companies in various industries, we have come to understand that Big Data is a truism, and if not transformed into Big Actions, it holds little importance. And for Big Actions companies need effective digital analytics, which in turn need a competitive and creative team that can seamlessly decipher complex problems and innovate their way to business success. The world of digital analytics is mammoth and growing exponentially year on year, ever expanding to include increasing number of people and enterprises doing everything online.
International Data Corporation (IDC) projects that by 2020 the digital universe of data we create and copy will double in size every two years and reach 44 trillion gigabytes, which means 5,247 gigabytes for every person on Earth in 2020. And in this complex digital space, it will be extremely important for companies to focus on the right factors that architects business growth. It will also be equally important to tread wisely and avoid the obstacles that curb their potential to harness the true power of this data universe.