A marketer and a data scientist walk into a bar…
In most real worlds, they don’t acknowledge each other, perch on different stools, chug different drinks, and go their separate ways.
The more data explodes, the more decision making practices remain the same. I was recently talking to a COO who described his role as the ability to take the most impactful decisions with the thinnest possible information. It is the nature of data – Big or Otherwise. We keep talking of social feeds and Facebook posts and mobile phone penetration. All of these make for great story telling. But unless the information extracted from these sources is explicitly useful taking a marketing decision – in talking to a customer, creating a campaign, or driving a cross-sell, it is of limited value. It is this absence of a meaningful connect between data sciences and marketing that we need to bridge.
What Big Data technologies help with, is to fulfil and make this crying need for usable, timely and relevant insights come alive.
Let me give you a few examples :
For a premier online fashion brand, the challenge in engaging with its customers centred around getting the relevant style lines in front of customers who are most likely to appreciate them, and therefore buy them. There is an intuitive understanding that the sporty maven aspires to a different style statement than the classic executive. The way the former navigates the site is of course different from the latter. The challenge and opportunity lies in identifying and quantifying this intuition, translating it into measurable insight, identifying the customer trigger, and therefore personalizing the web page. This is true Big Data analytics in action – analysing very large volumes of historic data, recognizing customer browsing behavior in real-time and serving the most relevant style-lines instantaneously.
Another great example is that of a big box grocer rejuvenating his weekly promotional newsletters to be more relevant and engaging to his mailing list, and therefore growing the traffic and conversion in his stores manifold. Creating variants of newsletters or creating split runs, have always been around. But getting every single customer to have a unique, different and most relevant mix of offers and announcements on the first page of her FSI is suddenly very special. It is a special marketing capability and it makes the customer feel special. But to do this, one has to marry behavioral insights with product propensities, the offer bank, and the campaign objectives of that week. This is Big Data coming alive. And it suddenly drives redemption up three times and campaign lifts into high double digits. Now we have a real example of how Big Data has transformed a simple weekly promo mailer into a competitive weapon.
In both these examples, what is valuable to note is that marketers have always wanted to do this – to engage the right customer with the right message through the right medium. What held them back was the daunting nature of the task. If done manually, the sheer permutation of communication options would call for an army of analysts to be deployed behind the scenes. If done using conventional technologies – the skills, effort and investment needed to get the data together, run the analyses, and integrate the different systems together to make it work, make the effort seem unmerited.
In both examples, all three critical pieces of the puzzle – getting the data together, running sophisticated analysis behind the scenes, and automating the entire process so that results can be delivered instantaneously – is achieved by Big data technologies and Big data analytics.
There’s a lot written on words like machine learning and artificial intelligence to prop up capabilities such as the ones I’ve described above. I for one am happy if the marketer and the data scientist share a tipple and reminisce the good new times.
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