Marketing Tech and Data Science Are Essential Building Blocks of Digital Transformation

Part 3 in a 4-part series

People sitting at desks as others share in front of them.
Legacy marketing organizations need to build an effective data and mar-tech infrastructure to drive their customer experience. - Credit by Getty Images

This four-part series aims to help executives better understand how to succeed in digital transformation. In part one, we identified three critical pillars of success:

  1. The right strategy, culture and partner relationships.
  2. The adoption of sophisticated cloud marketing technologies and data.
  3. A direct-to-consumer brand digital commerce channel.

Here in part three, we’re focusing on the second pillar: marketing technology and data science.

As we discussed in part two of this series, leading brands begin with a strategy that is data-driven. No longer is creative alone enough as marketing budgets are closely monitored. Without empirical data to drive decisions, many legacy brands and antiquated marketing organizations are fading away.

Customer experience driving higher marketing budgets

Meanwhile, CMOs are spending more on tech than CIOs, according to Gartner Research. There has been an uptick in the number of Fortune 1000 clients we serve that have meaningfully accelerated their investment in marketing technology and data solutions over the last 24 months. All of that is largely driven by a growing emphasis on improving the digital customer experience (CX).

Without empirical data to drive decisions, many legacy brands and antiquated marketing organizations are fading away.

The need to both enhance CX and manage an increasing number of touchpoints has spurred the development of sophisticated cloud marketing suites. At the most basic level, a marketing cloud allows a brand team to tie together multiple data streams, discover its most valuable customers and automate relevant, personalized messaging across digital touchpoints. This is accomplished using a central technology hub that can integrate with other point solutions and digital channels.

If the cloud marketing suite is the engine that drives the digital customer experience, data is its fuel. As we have observed working with hundreds of organizations, without a robust data set and analytics tools, brands cannot identify who their customers are, understand their behaviors and needs or effectively target them with personalized, relevant content to move them through the purchase funnel.

It’s not simple to harness the power of data to deliver the ultimate customer experience at scale. Through our work on hundreds of analytics projects across b-to-c and b-to-b brands, we have observed three key phases along this journey.

Phase 1: Capture and unify data across all channels

By tracking interactions across all online and offline channels, brands can access a treasure trove of raw data that includes first-party data as well as third-party data feeds. Brands often start with behavioral data from online activity collected by a digital analytics tool. More mature programs are unifying many different data feeds into a singular source of truth through a customer data platform (CDP), such as Adobe Experience Platform or Salesforce Customer 360. Here, marketers can form a common customer identity and access additional data sources to gain further insights.

Phase 2: Transform data into insight

The data itself doesn’t provide value. Your analytics team will leverage all available data to identify unique audiences or segments through a data management platform such as Adobe Audience Manager or Salesforce Audience Studio. Each customer segment usually has a unique goal (e.g., comparing price, learning about the brand). Brands need to analyze the data to formulate a hypothesis about the experience each segment might want. Then experimentation (A/B testing) will allow users to demonstrate which experience results in higher conversion rates.

Phase 3: Impact experience at scale

Some experiment results will lead to obvious and permanent change that your backend developers can implement. For everything else, a sophisticated and scalable approach is to rely on machine learning through personalization or targeting tools. This allows marketers to test a number of different experiences simultaneously and automatically shift digital traffic to the ones working best in real time. Marketers can capture revenue faster and spend less time analyzing results and deploying content assets.

Significant rewards for putting in the work

These three phases may seem like hard work—and they are. However, the potential rewards are substantial. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, “Companies that make extensive use of customer analytics are more likely to report outperforming their competitors on KPIs, whether profit, sales, growth or ROI.” For example, our men’s skincare client Jack Black (portfolio company of Edgewell Personal Care Co.) increased revenue per visitor 14% after we redesigned their website to align the digital experience to data-driven customer personas.

Cloud marketing technology is an integral part of any marketing-led digital transformation strategy. However, brands must be clear that simply implementing these powerful solutions is like keeping a race car in your driveway—nice to look at but doesn’t do much good. To get an ROI on these technology investments, brands need to put more time and effort into building the infrastructure to make the data actionable and drive personalized marketing at scale. That is where the real money lies.

In our final article in this series we’ll explore an area that many brands are contending with: how to own the customer experience and ensure they have access to critical customer data by building their brand digital commerce channel. (Spoiler alert: Amazon is not the answer.)


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Chris Guerra is the co-CEO of Blue Acorn iCi. Blue Acorn iCi is an independent digital consumer experience company with a 400-person team of engineers, data scientists, digital commerce experts, designers and strategists working across offices in Charleston, S.C., Raleigh, N.C., New York, Toronto, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Texas and Shelton, Conn. It's built digital content and commerce experiences for brands such as Casper, Charter Communications, Gerber, Panera Bread, Ticketmaster and others. (Disclosure: Adweek’s parent company, Beringer Capital, is an investor in Blue Acorn iCi.)
@iCiGreg Greg Boone is the co-CEO of Blue Acorn iCi. (Disclosure: Adweek’s parent company, Beringer Capital, is an investor in Blue Acorn.)
Publish date: September 12, 2019 https://dev.adweek.com/digital/marketing-tech-and-data-science-are-essential-building-blocks-of-digital-transformation/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT