Among the biggest challenges CMOs-and all marketers- face is the transformation of data into actionable insights. Consequently, it's one of the hottest topics CMOs talk about (see here). To get a sneak peek into top data and technology trends as we head into 2018, I spoke with Tom Benton, the CEO of the Data & Marketing Association (formerly known as the Direct Marketing Association). Below are six trends that the Data & Marketing Association is tracking.
1. Agility - Marketing is in a liquid state right now. It's morphing and changing constantly. Marketers must have an ability to roll and be agile in order to keep up with the demands of "always-on" content-driven consumers. At the same time, they need to be laser-focused on achieving real results in the marketplace. These are not easy skills to master. That's why, at DMA, we are seeing a surge in continuous talent-development programs.
2. Focusing More On Data Quality - We all talk about the sheer amount of data available to marketers today, but that is both a challenge and an opportunity. The key issue is determining which data NOT to use, which data to ignore. This could be for a number of reasons, such as the dataset being irrelevant to a current business need, or concerns about the data being inaccurate or even corrupted due to poor practices. Clear business goals and target audiences can keep your team from falling down the rabbit hole of near-infinite datasets. To weed out inaccuracies, a company needs to have a clear test case established when examining or onboarding data. This should apply not only to new data, but legacy datasets should be reexamined regularly for both accuracy and value.
3. Tackling Cybersecurity Before A Crisis Hits - The data and marketing industry thrives on innovation and the technological advancement that allows us to build connections with our customers based on truth, results and trust. Acting responsibly and giving proper notice and choice regarding data use is central to building customer relationships. Part of acting responsibly includes taking steps to secure data, especially sensitive data from hacks and other breaches. If customers don't trust that their most sensitive information will be safeguarded, they'll stop engaging with the brand and this will hurt not only the brand but the entire data-driven community that relies on customer loyalty. This makes data security a top concern as a key bridge to retain customers and prevent risk.
4. Integrating New Data Into Existing Data Streams - From wearables to facial and voice recognition, there are new types of data that can provide insight that didn't exist before. This year, a campaign from New Zealand health insurance company Sovereign won an International ECHO Award for integrating a wide range of datasets into a campaign which drove customer signup, lead generation and sales. They integrated new data streams from activity trackers, gym networks and grocery stores to reward customers for healthy behavior. This new data also powered timely, tailored notifications across platforms. Notwithstanding the large undertaking, Sovereign was able to improve health outcomes and increase policy renewals, reversing a negative trend for the company.
5. Incorporating New Analytical Tools Into Existing Business Practices - There are new tools and techniques emerging every day that marketers can use to better understand businesses, consumers, and competitors. There is augmented reality, machine learning, AI-just to name a few. Those marketers who are on the forefront of understanding and integrating these tools can help their firms achieve a competitive advantage. 1-800-Flowers delivered an incredible customer experience by integrating the company's website with artificial intelligence technology and natural language processing. The technology built up a detailed understanding of what customers were looking for and searched the entire product catalog to deliver customized recommendations. The result was a much more efficient and convenient customer experience.
6. The EU GDPR Is Looming, Are Marketers Ready? - European businesses are moving full steam ahead preparing for a new set of data protection principles from the European Union called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to take effect. If an American company markets in any part of Europe, these rules will apply to them in May 2018. This will require a very extensive review of your business and privacy practices, although we are US-based, we offer help to our members to prepare for GDPR when it takes effect in May of 2018. The impact on your current marketing data practices are extensive since the focus is on ensuring proper consents are obtained for a range of datasets and that other privacy rights are observed such as the "right to be forgotten." The concern is that the sweep of this regulation will set a new baseline for privacy rights expected by consumers, regardless of their nationality, and marketers must now take time to review the rules. May is looming. Organizations like the DMA can help marketers get prepared.