Special to American News Report
Two recent research reports published in January paint a telling picture of how “big data” is changing the way marketers cultivate customers, members and donors.
“Big data” refers to the mountains of raw data from email, websites, Facebook, Twitter, e-commerce, mobile devices and other sources. It accounts for 2.7 zettabytes (that is 2.7 followed by 21 zeros!) of marketing intelligence annually, according to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA).
“It is clear that our increasingly data-driven world is reshaping how marketers engage consumers,” said Linda A. Woolley, DMA’s acting president and CEO, while announcing its research report, Big Data: Impact on Marketing Organizations.
According to the report, 57 percent of marketing professionals say that big data’s biggest benefit is conversion – enticing a prospective customer, donor or member to respond to a call-to-action. And over half say that personalizing customers’ web experiences is critical to their 2013 online strategy.
“Big data is the new frontier in customer acquisition and retention because with the proper rules-based marketing engine, information can be personalized with incredible specificity,” said Robert Blakely, Vice President of Business Development, for Baltimore-based, cross-media marketing firm Echo Communicate.
Blakely and his team of data analysts have taken big data to a new level by developing intelligent, rule-based systems that allow their customers to collect big data and analyze it to provide marketing executives insight into their customers’ behavior. And, that translates into business growth.
In a case study with U.S. Lacrosse – the national governing body of men’s and women’s lacrosse in the United States – Echo Communicate developed a web-based, rules-based system that coordinated a blend of personalized direct mail, email and web channels. Data as granular as a member’s exact interaction with their personalized website was aggregated into a simple reporting tool. According to U.S. Lacrosse’s Director of Membership, Sara Noon, membership retention rates rose by 26% due to the personalization of communications and the intelligence that big data provides.
Blakely is representative of a fast-emerging trend in marketing organizations: He is an engineer by trade and a skilled data analyst. According to the Data-Rich and Insight Poor research report published by Yesmail Interactive, 66% of marketing departments plan to hire new employees to oversee data collection and analysis.
This same report states that 53% of marketing professionals plan to significantly increase their use of real-time data – the immediate delivery of data after collection. Real-time data enables marketers to make instant decisions and changes to reflect their customers’ behaviors. Take, for example, the behemoth WalMart. WalMart tracks more than 1 million transactions every hour (2.5 quadrillion bytes of data) and uses that information to make instantaneous buying and selling decisions, according to the Direct Marketing Association report.
Blakely’s team created a tool for organizations to use to collect and analyze real-time data, which they call the Mirror Platform. It allows organizations to pull data from social media, print, web, e-marketing and phone conversations into a tool that delivers reports on how customers are behaving, i.e., what they like and do not like.
Big data is not only changing the landscape of how marketers interact with customers, it is changing marketing organizations, too. According to Gartner, Inc., Chief Marketing Officers will spend more on Information Technology (IT) than Chief Information Officers by 2017. Forrester Research, Inc. states that “to improve customer engagement, companies must invest in solutions to effectively manage big data.”
And, as more and more data sources are created, like Pinterest and other new mobile platforms, the trend of big data taking over decision-making and budgets is expected to continue to rise.