Embracing “Big Data”

The recent IAB MIXX conference in Toronto reaffirmed Media Experts’ thinking with regard to “Big Data” and its importance within the marketing ecosystem.

What do I mean by “Big Data”?

Big Data refers to massive volumes of customer data that many companies are collecting (e.g. customer profile data from a CRM or loyalty program, sales data, account information, etc._. It also refers to the growing importance of getting that data to marketers to provide them with a 360 degree view of their customer and provide them with a more customized and flexible experience. As mentioned in a recent Accenture paper on the topic of data, “Marketers must ‘move beyond data mining, companies need to pull from multiple sources to create the most relevant experience delivered to individual consumers in real time.”

This is also true of the advertising delivered to these customers.

In our current, customer-centric environment, companies like Amazon.com are using technology to ensure the overall customer experience is more relevant, scalable and customized to the individual. This, in turn, raises expectations and sets the standards for future customer experiences.

At the MIXX conference, here’s what came across repeatedly, during most of the sessions:

1 – Companies are generating a massive amount of data, online and offline (sales, CRM, store traffic, web sales, registration data, etc.)
2 – They are collecting this data across a number of different departments but tend not to share this data across the company. Typically, all the data collected is managed and stored within their respective IT/IS departments.
3 – Marketers are not properly mining that data for insights about what’s driving their business outcomes and influencing their customer’s behaviours and experiences.
4 – The CIO is the effective owner and gatekeeper of all the data within a given organization and one of the few to access all data collected from all departments.

A number of speakers opined that in this new environment, the CMO’s role needs to be elevated and redesigned. Marketing is no longer “window dressing” for the brand or product, fluff or a discretionary expense. Marketers need to take the company’s data out of the hands of the CIO, get a better handle on all communication in market (ads, CRM, PR, newsletters, etc.), better understand the dynamic between advertising and sales and lastly, use all their customer data to create customized experiences and influence all business outcomes.

As it stands now, most marketing budgets are set by a management team (CEO, CFO, revenue team, product team) often without input from the marketing team. Not only do the CMOs need a seat at the table, but a number of the MIXX speakers suggested that the role of CMO needs to evolve into the CMIO (Chief Marketing and Information Officer) with greater responsibilities for data collection and analysis.

Some suggested that the CMO (or CMIO) needs to gather and control all company data and produce a dashboard to sell through the impact marketing efforts have on sales, new products and revenue optimization. This will earn the CMO a place at all top-level management meetings and decisions. The dashboard becomes an internal advertisement targeted to the CEO and CFO and demonstrating the role and value of marketing within the company.

To make any of these changes possible, larger organizations will be compelled to tear down any inter-departmental silos that have developed over the years and ensure that all stake holders are focused on one thing…the customer. And while the importance of using “Big Data” to service the customer may be a relatively new business insight, at Media Experts, the importance of the customer is something we’ve been intently focused on for over thirty years.