The Big Data Challenge: Generating Actionable Insight

Author

Kimberly A. Whitler, Contributor

March 24, 2015

According to an HBR article, marketers depend on data for just 11% of all customer-related decisions. While it’s hard to assess what this number actually means (i.e., what were the types of decisions being made, how were the survey respondents assessing how they “depend” on data, etc.), the interpretation by the authors of the article is that “marketers flunk the big data test”. While clearly provocative and an extreme perspective on marketers’ ability to convert data into insight, it is directionally consistent with myriad other opinions and reports posted (e.g., IBM, Forbes, MediaPost, FastCompany, etc.).

To better understand the challenges marketers are facing and how marketers can generate more actionable data-based insight, I interviewed Michael Nevski, Consultant, Consumer and Shopper Marketing – IRI. What follows are Nevski’s thoughts regarding the barriers marketers face and some quick steps they can take to better leverage data.

Q: What are the top obstacles associated with converting data into business-building insight?

One of the big challenges facing marketers is that many still rely on their gut instincts when making decisions. Some tend to perceive themselves as experts with a unique vision and then seek out information that confirms their theories while dismissing contradictory data. While historically a challenge, this issue will go away over  time as companies continue to seek more analytical and data-savvy CMOs.

However, even for the analytically savvy CMO, a growing challenge has been that marketing departments today are often significantly understaffed. Operating on lean budgets with minimal resources does not allow time for marketers to use, practice, or conduct deep dives into data tools. And while short-staffed, many marketers tend to invest more time on the product management aspect of their day-to-day responsibilities (i.e. packaging, labeling etc.), which makes it difficult to allocate any time to deep data analysis and usage. As a result, marketers have to become dependent on 3rd party data providers to extract insights. While helpful in a short-resourced environment, this practice weakens the user’s practical knowledge of the data insight tools available.

Further, marketers often rely on data providers not only to provide insights, but to also conduct the deep dive for the product or the category. The result is that critical knowledge and insight development are being outsourced. This is ok as long  as the data provider with the industry / company insight is integrated into the marketing team and participates in weekly meetings and key strategic as well as tactical discussions. If not, the actionability of the insight may be weak, or at worst, wrong.

Q: What can CMOs do today to become more data-capable?

In the ever-changing world of evolving technology and constantly increasing consumers’ expectation for quality of product and services, it is vital for CMOs to make data the basis of their team’s decision making process.

1. Everyone Must Develop the Skill: CMOs need to make sure that all marketing decision makers access data and run routine analysis at least weekly.  It would allow marketers to keep their skills current, practice incorporating data into their decision making process, and help improve marketers’ data investigative skills.

2. Have a Champion: CMOs can identify at least one team member to be the customer insights leader who would be more than a liaison; this person would not only manage the relationships between marketing and data providers but become a very active user and advocate of data insights and marketing research/studies usage.

3. Leverage External Expertise: CMOs should actively incorporate data vendors into their teams’ routine review and planning process in order to achieve data synergy between marketing and data providers and organization-wide data adaption.

4. Rethink ROI Metrics: How should a CMO measure the ROI on research? It can’t be measured based on immediate market/consumer response.  Instead, the ROI should take into account the long term value the company will get out of the marketing research investment.

Join the Discussion: @KimWhitler

Michael Nevski has been managing marketing and brand identity campaigns for global consumer products since 2001. Most recently, as the Consumer Shopper Marketing Consultant for IRI, he optimizes the relationship between Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) manufacturer and their Food/Drug/Mass Merchant (FDM) retail partners as related to Shopper Marketing and Branding. 

This article was written by Kimberly A. Whitler from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


Great ! Thanks for your subscription !

You will soon receive the first Content Loop Newsletter