Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed. 

(Dan Zarrella) 

In 2013 award-winning marketing guru Dan Zarrella, who is also a multiple-author and inventor of revolutionary online apps, told Forbes ‘it’s a scary thing’ how many marketers don’t use data analytics!

But fortunately, the trend was busy improving, he said. The slow take-up was due to the inertia of the old-school non-data marketing approaches still having an effect Zarrella concluded.

Fast forward to current times. Seven years later we are now in the year 2020. What has changed? To what extent are marketers using data analysis these days? What business intelligence trends or also called as BI trends are chief marketing officers (CMOs) following? Let’s take a closer look.

To What Extent Are Marketers Leveraging Data These Days?

 

Numbers reported in The CMO Survey® show that the use of data-driven marketing in companies has reached the highest point in years.

In the year 2013 marketers spent about 30 percent of their time analyzing data for business intelligence purposes and decisionmaking in their enterprises. By 2019 it had grown to over 43 percent.

 

But there are still major challenges and much room for growth:

  • 12.9% of CMOs still lack data overall -both qualitative and quantitative for their decisionmaking.
  • As few as 36% of CMOs use quantitative data.
  • At 50.7% just more than half of CMOs have access to qualitative data.

While in addition to the disappointing statistics quoted above it’s also a sobering reality that more than 60 percent of companies don’t know for sure how successful their marketing is. They simply lack the metrics to track and prove it!

Which Are The Key Data Problems Faced By Marketers?

There are several major hurdles that are slowing down the mass adoption of BI solutions by marketers.

 

CMOs are drowning in data!

 

Estimates by the International Data Corporation (IDC) reflect that global data creation will skyrocket from the more than 33 zettabytes (ZB) currently to around 175 ZB by the year 2025. Note: 1 ZB equals 1 trillion gigabytes (GB).

 

The IDC writes “Mankind is on a quest to digitize the world.” It continues, “Consumers are addicted to data and more of it in real-time.” They want to access services and products 24/7, regardless of their location, and on any connected device, IDC says.

 

While, at the same time enterprises everywhere are busy leveraging data for competitive advantage, to improve customer experience, and to offer real-time and non-stop personalized interaction with consumers.

 

It is getting more and more challenging for marketers to continue turning the sheer amount of data that the world is busy generating into meaningful and actionable information.

 

The data is busy coming from anywhere and everywhere. CMOs are struggling to continue finding meaning and emerging trends in the unfathomable seas of data from smart devices, computer networks, the Internet of Things (IoT), and data-rich user-generated content which includes both text and media, e.g. photos and videos.

 

Poor Data Quality

 

Unfortunately, only a minor percentage of the mountains of data that the world produces daily is ready for analysis. IDC estimates that number to be as low as 23%. For data to deliver real business intelligence benefits it needs to be verified, complete, cleaned, and credible, to name just a few of the critical requirements. Of course, substantial resources and time are required to prepare the data prior to analysis.

 

Data Privacy and Security

 

The unauthorized use of personal information and corporate data security breaches have been in the global spotlight continuously during recent years. Many large corporations have also faced massive penalties and fines in that regard.

 

CMOs need to continuously get permission to access and use various datasets. They also have a duty to ensure that data is handled securely and applied lawfully.

 

The responsibilities are getting larger and larger in line with the massive data growth trend that the world is experiencing. Strict and strenuous regulations are also at the order of the day, for instance, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which came into effect in 2018.

Which Latest BI Trends are CMOs following?

 

As can be imagined in a modern world where data is often dubbed the ‘new oil’ that keeps economies going, there is a plethora of analysis regimes, strategies, and approaches in use by the business community to try and make sense of it all.

 

A survey report titled ‘Top Business Intelligence Trends 2020: What 2,865 BI Professionals Really Think’ lists twenty BI solutions that companies at large are embracing to ultimately derive actionable information from the vast masses of data in their vaults. Narrowing it down to the marketing space, two BI Future Trends -i.e. predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI)- are such clear leaders that the others pale by comparison.

 

Predictive Analytics

 

A subdivision of Advanced Analytics, Predictive Analytics identifies patterns from existing data and makes forecasts based thereon. While Predictive Analytics is a popular way of ‘plotting the future’ in just about every and any business activity imaginable, marketers use it to fathom the probability and potential dollar values of future events in their own space. Few predictive analytics examples are:

  • Future customer values.
  • Customer success forecasts.
  • Prevention of contract termination.
  • Potential new business.
  • Sales forecasts.

Predictive Analysis is by no means an emerging trend. It is a tried-and-tested, popular BI approach that is stable and separate from the ‘hype and FOMO’ which are commonplace in today’s climate of disruptive innovation.

 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)

AI and ML are undoubtedly the stars of the show! In February 2020 Duke University’s Professor Christine Moorman wrote, “Marketing leaders report a 27% increase in the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in their toolkits over 2018 levels and expect this level to increase another 60% within three years. These rates are even higher for larger companies and for companies with a larger proportion of their sales through the internet.”

 

Professor Moorman lists the following top three uses of AI & ML by marketers:

 

  • Content personalization – thanks to the thorough understanding of customers that AI offers, it assists marketers with assessing the ‘right’ data for personalizing content. Statistics and research by Accenture show that misguided personalization causes customer frustration and even mistrust. It caused 41% of customers to switch companies in 2017 alone!
  • Customer insights – AI-focused customer insights assist marketers not only to get the content right but also the timing thereof and the chosen delivery channel. In that way, companies can deliver the appropriate offer to the right customer and at the best time. By getting things right it boosts customer loyalty, retention, and acquisition.
  • Targeting decisions – by segmentizing customers and markets smartly, AI assists marketers to target advertising optimally and to manage campaigns more effectively for increased market penetration.

Further key AI trends are customer segmentation, programmatic advertising and media buying, improving marketing ROI by optimizing marketing content and timing, and conversational AI for customer service.

While minor trends include next-best offer, augmented and virtual reality, autonomous objects/systems, facial recognition & visual search, and biometrics/chipping.

 

AI is such an effective and popular approach because:

  • Huge datasets can be analyzed in a shorter time.
  • It detects trends expertly, also by mining unstructured data.
  • Even large-scale personalization is done effortlessly.
  • Top influencers can be found in unstructured data.
  • Unclear and unfocused data can be mined to determine competitive analysis and identify KPIs and various marketing insights.
  • It undergoes machine learning (ML) by working with unprepared data. AI therefore gets ‘smarter’ and ‘better’ the more you use it!

AI is also a favorite by both CMOs and other business executives because it makes marketing results measurable! By using marketing analytics and data, AI can compare actual financial results against marketing KPIs and business goals thereby providing invaluable and actionable metrics to business leaders.

 

Conclusion

In a world where 90% of the data that exists has been created in the last two years alone, it is no mean feat to try and keep making sense of it all! With unfathomable amounts of data streaming in endlessly from all directions, marketers have a tough job deriving meaningful and actionable information from it.

 

Furthermore, traditionally data needs thorough preparation before it can be used efficiently. No surprise, therefore, that a significant percentage of marketing professionals are not deriving business intelligence benefits to their full extent.

 

However, with revolutionary and popular emerging BI market trends such as AI and ML that solve many of the historic industry pains, take-up is projected to skyrocket by a staggering 60% during the next three years!