You could be forgiven for likening the marketing world's surging need for data to the goldrush fever that swept across the US in the mid-1800s.
In a bid to gain the greatest, most holistic insight into what their customers look like, marketers have turned to data in their droves, integrating datasets from a variety of sources in an effort to most clearly form a picture of their target audience. According to a Forbes survey, 88% of marketers use data obtained by third parties to enhance their customer understanding while 66% of respondents felt data was best used to target offers, messages and content.
As such, data has entirely redefined what the customer/marketer relationship looks like in the modern world.
Ahead of the Digital Marketing Innovation Summit in New York, Innovation Enterprise spoke with Mark Montgomery global head of digital analytics at GlaxoSmithKline, the international pharmaceutical powerhouse, about data's role in developing lifelong relationships with customers.
"The biggest problem companies tend to fall into is not using data at all in their campaigns," he begins. "A lot of marketers are still trusting their gut as opposed to having data drive their interactions between the customers. That's the biggest challenge that most of us see in the data and analytics world: Actually applying the value of data at last mile to bring a greater experience to the customer."
He's not wrong. While a Convince and Convert survey found that most marketers are using six or more tools to measure marketing performance, half of respondents admitted they did not actually trust the results.
This may be because, as per an Ensighten survey, 62% of marketers report feeling 'overwhelmed' by the amount of data they have. One key issue is that vast quantities of their data is trapped in silos. We ask Montgomery what companies can do to overcome this sense of helplessness in the face of waves of data.
"When we talk about silos, we are looking at a very tech-centric approach to data and data management, whereas the human side of data is about leveraging the data to create experiences," he says. "This experience can be internal consumption of data or external consumption of data, or information, or marketing material.
"So, you have to start your enterprise data and analytics strategy by thinking about what your business strategy is and what questions you need to solve versus how you manage data across multiple platforms. Your strategy has to align with business questions and the last mile value. When you develop a data strategy right from the beginning it eliminates the existence of siloes right from the start."
Data might be this decade's marketing buzzword, but, in the past year, it's become something more like a dirty word to the general public. Facebook led the charge of data scandals last year when it was revealed that the social media titan had allowed 50 million users' private data to be harvested and used to influence the 2016 US elections. But it was in 'good' company. Several of its counterparts became embroiled in similar scandals, Google+ had to be shut down after it accidentally exposed the data of 52 million users, for example, while it was revealed that Twitter had been part of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the very same that led to Facebook's downfall.
So, while data is intrinsic to successful, effective marketing campaigns that build strong relationships with customers, data security has never been a more important pillar of this relationship.
"You have to be ruthlessly protective of the data that people give you and be respectful of how you use it," says Montgomery. "And it starts with your code of conduct and how you plan on helping people or the end-users with the value you bring. Privacy is a big challenge. We all have to step up our game and make sure we're protecting our data and protecting the identify of others as we apply data.
"It's an evolving world, but one we have to be very attuned to and make sure we put in the forefront of everything we do," he adds.
Despite fears about privacy being at an all-time high, customer expectations have never been greater either, with 31% of consumers wishing that their shopping experience was more personalized, according to Infosys. And here dwells the Catch-22 of the marketer/customer relationship today: Customers want brands to know them better while simultaneously wanting anonymity. It's a difficult situation to navigate, to say the least.
"It's no longer about just spraying a message around and pretending we know them," says Montgomery, "you have to build a relationship with a foundation of trust. I personally get annoyed when someone sends me an offer I did not sign up for and had no interest in. But I'm thrilled when I see a new, personalized deal from one of my regular brands such as Amazon – when that pops up on my phone it's something that I'm actually interested in. That's because I signed into the relationship with Amazon, but I did not sign into the relationship with the other company, they assumed they had a relationship with me. That assumption of a relationship does not equal a relationship, that actually prevents me from using that brand.
"We cannot have assumptions in marketing," he concludes. "We have to be really focused on the end-user experience and build our relationship on their needs not ours."
Mark Montgomery, global head of digital analytics at GlaxoSmithKline, is speaking at Innovation Enterprise's Digital Marketing Innovation Summit in New York on March 26–27, 2019.