Data is critical to marketers and marketing in general

Everything to do with marketing, on some level or other, is reliant on data. While there are many other areas of business that rely on data or that data can improve, there won’t be many for whom it is quite so crucial.

However, the world of data is changing and evolving – as is the marketplace and the society we live in. With this in mind, Experian recently produced a comprehensive report on the future of data.

For marketers, this is a must read (and you can access it here) but I thought I’d summarise the key points and how they affect marketers in a short post.

The report highlighted 10 key trends that will have an impact on the world of data and how business and professionals will need to react to stay ahead of the game.

Trend 1: The evolution of Big Data and the 6 Vs

The idea of Big Data is not new and the term can be misleading. Large data sets have been in existence for many years, built and used by major companies for decades. The only consistency is that there is no fully agreed definition of Big Data.

For marketers we suggest breaking the concept of data into six sections – we call them the 6Vs. These are:

  • Volume: ever increasing volumes of data
  • Velocity: the speed of data creation and the methods of processing are constantly on the rise
  • Variety: the types and sources of data are continuing to expand
  • Veracity: the reliability and validity of data and the insights derived from it
  • Vulnerability: how people feel about their data being used
  • Value: data on its own is not valuable. It’s the insights and actions derived from that data that is valuable. Similarly people expect value for the usage of their data

Trend 2: The trust factor

The opportunities presented by data are immense. Obviously. However, alongside the extensive upsides, concerns about privacy have to be addressed. The impact of data sharing on the notion of privacy is still up in the air. What is clear is that marketers must build trust with consumers, by demonstrating their integrity through better data stewardship, transparency and veracity.

Trend 3: Data freedom

We are witnessing one particularly disruptive data trend. The opening up of data and its democratisation through open source solutions and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). These evolutions bring new kinds of opportunities and challenges for marketers.

Trend 4: New data

The huge volume of digital data being generated by organisations and individuals has played a pivotal role in the growth in the amount of data as a whole . And this is only going to continue.

New data from sources like social media, connected cities, cars (90% of cars will be connected by 2020) and wearable tech, has the potential to make profound and beneficial changes to the way we all live. For marketers these sources mean there are ever more touchpoints and that the customer journey is getting more and more complex.

Data must paint a full and nuanced picture of individual customers. Achieving this means drawing on multiple data sources and creating a rich blend of insight that cuts to the heart of the customer’s needs and wants. As far as possible, marketers should therefore be looking at all the data they can.

Trend 5: More analytics – speed and agility through prediction

Data only becomes useful for marketers and beneficial to the consumer if it provides relevant and timely insights. Analysis is what extracts those insights from data making a marketer’s analysis capability utterly crucial. These insights are only useful if they generate payback for the marketer or the consumer, preferably both.

Once large datasets are analysed, trends can be revealed, correlations can be determined, and businesses can run more efficiently.

Trend 6: New identities and linkage

The proliferation of data and the variety of channels from which it comes, present a growing challenge in how to consistently identify individuals across channels. How do organisations establish and track this identity?

We’ve already noted in the discussion of data variety that a key characteristic of Big Data is that it comes from numerous silos and channels, both offline and online. In pre-digital days, when we only had consumer data records that related to a physical consumer address or postcode, it was simpler to bring separate data elements about the same consumer together.

Today, however, linking data which an individual generates across their offline and online journey is challenging.

SCV data trends
The proliferation of channels has had a profound effect on the range and volume of data available to marketers as well as hampering the ability of organisations to connect with their customers.

Trend 7: Technology – making sense of the data explosion

Unlocking value from large quantities of data goes hand-in-hand with the technology developments which allow us to more efficiently store, manage, and process it. The key is technology and its ability to ingest, process, and make sense of the volume and variety of data that consumers and businesses create.

The fundamental technologies which help to examine and interpret raw information in increasingly sophisticated ways fall into three categories – storage, computing, and analytical software. Each of these are deployed by organisations in order to realise the value in the growing torrent of data at their disposal.

The explosion in first, second, and third-party data has given rise to a surge in popularity of and an increasing need for data management platforms (DMPs). As organisations struggle with the challenge of managing disparate and varied data, let alone analysing it, a data management platform enables consolidation into a centralised platform.

The focus for businesses must be to commit investment to the infrastructure needed to support growing volumes of data. This means continuing hardware improvements, finding software innovations, bolstering security policies, and combining them all to enhance the customer experience.

Trend 8: Faster distribution

With data velocity increasing all the time, our data also becomes more perishable. Aside from making analytics software faster, how are businesses taking on the challenge of harnessing data effectively?

Rapid analysis is critical, but this comes after another fundamental step – ensuring rapid distribution. Without speedy distribution of data, fast insights and actions aren’t possible, and this is a challenge for organisations of all sizes.

To achieve the level of capability required, we need to move from batch processing to real-time and this is why we have seen the proliferation of interconnected Application Programming interfaces (APIs).

In the business world, competitive advantage relies on fast insights. Fast insights rely on fast data.  Data speed depends on the distribution technology that carries it. In a digital environment where speed is everything, and microseconds matter, APIs and blockchain technology have the potential to distribute data at the pace needed for the next generation of businesses and innovators.

Organisations need to challenge themselves by looking beyond their immediate needs for new solutions and opportunities to improve.

Trend 9: Regulation and governance in a data rich world

While data has exploded, a move towards a more appropriate regulatory landscape has emerged alongside it. On the one hand this regulatory drive aims to ensure greater protection for individuals and to impose greater restrictions on organisations around the use of data. On the other hand, regulation is also driving free movement of data, in order to support greater competition in markets deemed to be failing the consumer.

New regulatory initiatives about data are not just being adopted in Europe, but also across Asia, South America and North America, helping both individuals and businesses alike. While the regulatory landscape may be complex, the central idea of keeping consumer interests front of mind at all times mirrors sound fundamental advice for all companies. Customer-first business practices remain the way forward.

For more on regulation and how it could affect your business please read the full white paper.

Trend 10: Data driving new skills requirements

Current data trends are not only changing how organisations operate on a day-to-day basis, they’re also affecting the kind of people who are most in demand. A new collection of skills and business roles are needed to manage and unlock data, as well as minimise any risks.

Today’s organisations must look beyond the latest technologies when it comes to data. They must pay attention to a variety of new and developing skills, working out how these can be combined with technology to deliver the insights and decisions they need. This expanding skillset can’t be combined in only one person, so this means we’ll soon see a growing number of cross functional teams, across both business and technology groups.

This is nowhere more important than in marketing where good data practices are becoming part of the department’s function. Marketing leaders need to ensure all employees are familiar with basic data analysis and the department must learn to demonstrate a data-driven approach to decision making.

For more on the future of data including a greater breakdown and explanation of all the above please download and read the white paper A Data Powered Future, available here.