Digital marketing must get to grips with data chaos
Digital marketing is at a crossroads. Brands, consumers and the marketing and advertising industry are seemingly on a collision course. They share the same goal, namely, to engage with each other in the right place, at the right time and with the right message, but are approaching it in very different ways.
Marketing leaders want to understand, reach and convert digital consumers – in a way that works and makes the most of their budget. Consumers looking for products or services want personalised treatment and relevance, at any time, on any device and through any channel. Linear purchase journeys are a thing of the past. Consumers interact directly with brands, or indirectly through performance channels, social media sites and others; generating clouds of search, browsing, context, location, purchase and other data as they go.
Marketers are struggling to find their way through all this data and figure out which elements of their campaigns are successful and which are not. They don’t know where their potential customers are at any moment in time, or what they are doing there. They don’t know where a customer will be when they are ready to buy, and what the offer is that will convince them and secure the sale.
To help marketers understand these complexities, a plethora of digital advertising tools, technologies, platforms and solutions has sprung up. While each provider offers a valuable service, they may only shed light on a fraction of the total picture. Marketers assume that they have no choice but to base campaigns on partial customer profile data, disconnected behaviour and journey tracking, limited transactional data, isolated mobile app usage and social media data, among other things.
As a result, opportunities are being missed, advertising budgets are being diluted and revenues are being lost. No wonder CMOs leave their jobs faster than any other C-suite role.
It doesn’t have to be like this.
If you think about what marketers need most: a clear path to the consumer and the opportunity to present contextually relevant ads across multiple digital channels just when the consumer is ready to buy; then the next step is obvious. The industry requires integration, clarity and a far better use of data.
Let’s look at integration first. Imagine what could be achieved if all the disparate technologies – programmatic ad buying platforms and exchanges, performance marketing engines, retargeting, search optimisation and others - connected seamlessly across a single platform, sharing their capability, data and traffic. It would require a platform that is truly open, and can accommodate every business model, traffic source, format, device, channel, customer and supplier.
Such a platform could track and evaluate total consumer behaviour, combining multiple traffic sources into a single, clear picture that makes the most of all the data generated. It could be used to predict what individual consumers would be most likely to respond to, based on their past behaviour. Marketers would be able to better target consumers, measure the success of individual campaigns and adapt them accordingly.
At Tradedoubler we are building such a platform. It is backed by significant investment in software development and expertise and we are incredibly excited about its potential. The first stage of our new technology solution, a business intelligence tool, ADAPT, is already available. ADAPT enables digital marketers to quickly access the live KPI-based data they need to make informed business decisions that can deliver more efficient ROI.
The use of advanced technology and expertise to deliver multi-source, results-focused and highly targeted performance-based marketing activity is the foundation of our new business strategy. We believe that the walls between the various solutions, platforms and traffic sources need to come down, just as the boundaries between different devices and channels have already done.
As an industry we must get to grips with all the information we generate. Too much information causes us to make the wrong decisions. Or worse still, make no decisions at all. The trick lies in identifying and reacting to the right information at the right time. That way everybody wins.
Brands, consumers and the digital marketing and advertising landscape have a unique opportunity to come together to create something that is larger and better than the sum of its parts. There doesn’t have to be a crash when we meet.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”