The Data Dilemna: Challenges of Leveraging Big Data Marketing

Big Data is the rising tide that'll lift some marketers to new heights...and leave others dog-paddling furiously just to stay in business. Or worse.

I've had the opportunity to write about how the personalization allowed by Big Data affects just the email marketing universe, and study how marketers are coping with the evolution as they shrug off the pond scum of spray-and-pray and begin to walk upright down the sunlit path of personalized, data-driven marketing.

First off, the proven advantages of Big Data leave zilch room for doubt:

  • Experian’s 2013 Email Marketing Study showed personalized subject lines delivered 26 percent higher open rates, with travel companies seeing the biggest lift from personalized subject lines – 65%!
  • The same study showed personalized promotional emails drive transaction rates and revenue per email six times higher than non-personalized emails.
  • According to Aberdeen, personalized emails improve click-through rate by an average of +14% and conversions by +10%.
  • Listrak found that 77% of consumers are likely to make additional purchases if an option that matches their preferences is presented to them in a personalized email from a merchant or retailer.
  • 80% of marketers define dynamic personalization in emails as highly important, according to a study by Abode and the DMA.

But despite that last stat, Experian also found that…

  • 70% of the responding brands admitted they’d failed to personalize email messaging.
  • Only 35% asked customers how often they wanted to receive emails.
  • 60% didn’t present customers with options on the types of emails they wanted in their inboxes.

Why are marketers behind in adopting Big Data best practices?  Hey, there are stats-a-plenty around that, of course: a 2014 study found 33% of marketers cited poor or incomplete customer data as the biggest roadblock to personalization, 53% were constantly or regularly struggling with personalizing marketing on a large scale, 26% found it tough to turn data into action, and 15% were having a hard time identifying customers across disparate devices.

In other words? Adopting Big Data is tough going for a lot of marketers.

Their dilemna lies in being caught up in that tide I mentioned: future success, even survival, will demand Big Data adoption, but that may require levels of transformation that go beyond any sophisticated API or new marketing campaign.

The Adoption Knot

190552That's not to say marketers aren't sold on Big Data. It's the opposite, as this chart from a recent Direct Marketing Association/Winterberry Group study shows.

It's what's driving their planning. It's what's keeping them up at night. In fact, a Gartner study indicates that in five years, CMOs will spend more on technology adoption than their counterpart CIOs in the same organizations.

But it's never as simple as having good intentions. Enterprises have to think Big Data adoption through, thoroughly, and confront a host of choices.

  • Integrating new tech with their existing tools was a challenge acknowledged by more than six in 10 of the respondents to the DMA/Winterberry poll, though most had already outlaid for new marketing tech or were planning to invest in the next year. But determining what the right technology solution is for your marketing is a whole curriculum in and of itself in an era of multiplying options.
  • Moreover, training employees is a significant commitment, too, as those new technologies get adopted. New tech is great, so long as you've invested in the human skills necessary to optimize it.
  • Yet before any of that happens, many marketers will have to force a sea-change in culture, too. The bigger the organization, the rockier the transition might be if you're not getting universal buy-in, leaving your customer or consumer data segregated in multiple fiefdoms, and flummoxing  adoption of compatible tech or processes across teams and divisions.

There are ways to ease the transition into Big Data marketing: one is to do a pilot adoption in one area of your business, using it as a learning guide for rollout across the entire operation. The key, of course, is to not only take that first step but all the steps thereafter, difficult as they may seem.

Solve For Big Data...Or Else?

It's undoubtedly "or else."

Commitment to Big Data adoption offers rewards galore, though it'll force some marketers to re-think and re-work their structure, strategies and outlook.

But it's not as though they've got any choice.

Consumers demand increasing levels and layers of personalization and customization, an irresistible current that'll push prepared and proactive marketers forward, to strain another nautical metaphor, and leave others watching from the shore...if not swimming for their lives.

Life Preserver

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