One of the major emerging trends in digital marketing is the use of big data to drive marketing decisions. Not long ago, many marketing departments had only a general idea of how they used the money allocated to them, because they weren’t expected to track what each dollar achieved. However, things have changed with the advent of big data, which makes it easier to track the impact of marketing campaigns and complete in-depth analyses that can inform future efforts. For this reason, marketing executives are held more accountable for their budgets today than ever before. Big data can even connect in-store traffic to online campaigns to judge their efficacy.
According to IBM, more than 90 percent of the data in the world was created in the past few years, and this trend will only continue as people use more devices connected to the Internet of Things. Marketers can access this information in a variety of ways. For example, web mining extracts data from servers and web documents, while search data includes browser activity. Social networks are an incredible source of information for marketers, since the average Internet user spends more than two hours on social networks every day. Marketers can also examine transactions to look for trends or make use of crowdsourcing tools to gather information directly from the public.
A few misconceptions surrounding big data continue to exist in the digital marketing community. For example, people tend to think that investing in big data and the associated analytics involve significant expenses and/or a steep learning curve. Neither of these beliefs is necessarily true. Many analytics tools are now available through software-as-a-service (SaaS) packages and processed through remote service applications. In addition, an increasing number of data visualization tools help marketers discover actionable insights from large streams of data, and significantly reduce associated learning curves.
Big data is increasingly important for marketing success. Some of the major uses of big data include:
Real-time customer insights.
Data analytics tools help marketing teams respond immediately to changes in consumer preferences, incomes, and habits. Adapting to these changes helps marketers avoid wasting time and resources. In addition, personalizing a user’s experience encourages brand loyalty. More than ever before, companies need to focus on maximizing user experience because it’s easier than ever before for customers to turn to competitors.
Some of the real-time data available to marketers includes the amount of time spent on a particular page on a company’s website, the total number of pages visited, and bounce rates, among other pieces of information. This data can be used to see how changes to the website or other digital channels affect people’s engagement, and figure out which tweaks actually boost sales.
The difficulty in arriving at these insights is making sense of the large amount of data available. Larger customer bases ultimately mean more data to sort through and analyze. However, many analytics tools are currently available and these can be implemented through the assistance of database administration experts. These tools can be customized to focus on the most relevant data for a business.
Marketers who can look to the performance of past campaigns are in a better place to make the best decisions about future ones. Through big data, marketers can get a better sense of what has worked well in the past and leverage this knowledge when designing future campaigns. Analyzing data can help companies ensure that they are meeting customer needs and making the most of current stock. For example, items that did not sell well previously can be reintroduced at a lower price point or tied to some sort of promotion.
With an incredible amount of data available, it is important that marketers identify factors that truly make a difference. For example, if the vast majority of a company’s online sales have historically taken place in the evening, the company may be able to drive even more sales by sending out special deals or purchase incentives around dinnertime. Everything from how customers are finding the company’s website to when and what they are buying should be considered when formulating new strategies.
Another critical aspect to consider in marketing campaigns is the geographic location of customers. Many brands are already using big data to customize their regional approaches to marketing. Regional marketing initiatives can help build brand loyalty by showing customers that the company understands what life is like in a particular area. After all, people like to see themselves—their values and aspirations, the particular rhythm of their life—reflected in media and marketing campaigns. Of course, geo-targeted marketing can also go horribly wrong if brands resort to tired clichés. But often, subtle changes based on regional location go a long way toward increasing sales.
Big data can also be used for hyperlocal location marketing. For example, some stores have already begun searching for customers in the immediate vicinity and sending deals to them as they pass a store to bring them inside. While this sort of approach is less common, it will likely become more popular in the coming years. This strategy can be a great way to generate more traffic at struggling brick-and-mortar locations.