Leveraging Data in 2019

Blake Williams, Performance Media Manager at The Shipyard

This blog was originally written by Blake Williams, the Performance Media Manager at Setup’s agency partner, The Shipyard. The Shipyard is a leading, independent marketing consultancy and the world’s first “marketing engineering” agency. By harmonizing millions of data points, The Shipyard creates a deep, personalized understanding of a client’s consumer to predict their behaviors and deliver effective brand inspiration.

Data is a gift that keeps giving. Growing at an exponential rate, the amount and types of data marketers can access gives a glimpse into the consumers’ world and desires.

Equally important, the understanding of how to use this data is growing just as quickly, helping marketing agencies generate new ideas and methods to better understand and serve clients and their customers more efficiently.

Today, marketers can directly correlate online communications with in-store sales (or other real-world activities) and vice versa. Marketers can predict actionable metrics like customer intent by week, by designated market area (DMA), or by whatever combination of filters is most relevant or useful.

The vision of the online consumer vs. the offline consumer as separate entities is becoming meaningless – there is just a consumer, who interacts with brands through different media at different times, whose needs should be catered to and acknowledged.

Bossa Nova's shelf-scanning robot contains the same kind of sensors as a self-driving car. PHOTO CREDIT: BOSSA NOVA

Bossa Nova's shelf-scanning robot contains the same kind of sensors as a self-driving car. PHOTO CREDIT: BOSSA NOVA

Companies like Walmart are changing the game for brick and mortar stores by improving the in-store experience for customers based on data. Stores are using shelf-scanning robots to not only track inventory and accurately update the app, but to collect data on preferred items and consumer behavior. This advancement improves the customer experience by providing the right amount of items at the right amount of time.

Data impacts every step of the product journey. From product creation to implementation, data points inform what is interesting to the consumer, when, and, even more recently, why. Marketers can identify a consumer’s needs and meet them - giving more power to both the marketer and the consumer.

Now, it should be noted that use cases like the above are possible only if a marketer’s creative and data strategies are working together. This is a big “if,” however. Linking the creative and data strategies involves knowing the key pitfalls to avoid when crafting a marketing strategy.

So, it is important – very important – to avoid the cardinal stakes below.


Risk 1: Data for Data's Sake

Today, data is so accessible and plentiful that any individual data point is like a grain of sand on a beach: insignificant. The sheer amount of data points marketers collect means that they can still be overwhelmed by these grains of sand. Therefore, the question of how to organize and leverage data becomes one of fundamental importance.

Are data points burying you like a lost city in the desert?

Or...Are they able to be brought together and tamed, dictating the communication strategy, like sand traps define a golfer's aim on a finely manicured golf course?

The key is understanding that data and creative teams must collaborate from the very beginning.

A unified agreement must exist - one that answers fundamental questions, like:

  • What ideas and concepts are being tested? How are they expected to impact consumer behavior?

  • What are the ultimate goals of the marketing campaign?

  • How might this campaign’s insights influence future campaigns?  

If a consensus does not exist around these basic questions, the likelihood of getting lost in the data desert increases. Information that is not collected purposefully is more likely to overwhelm and confuse, and can lead to significantly different – even contradictory – insights and goals among various teams working towards the same ends.


Risk 2: The Black Box

The insights culled from customer data are just as important as the service or product offering. Marketers need to own the data that a company collects, as well as the action items that come from it. Companies typically take data and put it into a mysterious black box to collect insights.

Therefore, it is always crucial for the marketer to ask some basic questions:

  • Does the business understand what data is being collected and how it is being used?

  • Is the business confident it can retain the continuity of data if it were to switch platforms, lose key talent, or move into a new direction?

If not, even though the business may succeed in the short-term, it may be setting itself up for immense problems down the line. The secret is to create a “glass box” approach which allows the company leadership to see and – most importantly – understand how the consumer’s data impacts marketing communications and vice versa, so the company can make what they’re learning institutional.


The Path Forward

The dangers of misalignment or misuse of data should not deter someone from utilizing it to inform strategy and business objectives. As data and creative move closer to a holistic marketing engineering perspective, the line between the two blurs… and businesses see better results.

The secret to harnessing data is to be prepared - have the right partners, technology, and ideas - so you can do things right out of the gate. But if you're worried you've done it wrong – that you are drowning in data that is not working in symbiosis with your creative – don't despair. Because, as daunting as the challenge can feel, it is never too late to turn a vast desert of data into a defined sand trap, guiding your path to a hole in one.