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Data-driven marketing: what to avoid

by Ramon Weterings
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ramon weteringsGuest blog: Ramon Weterings, Regional Vice President Western & Southern Europe at Sitecore


Within my 20+ years experience in enterprise sales and sales management I developed a true passion for software, especially how it can help, transform or disrupt entire businesses and industries. I’m very excited about Digital Marketing, Analytics (descriptive, predictive, prescriptive), Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things. Together with my team I want to help organisations harness the power of data to deliver a truly unique customer experience, build customer loyalty and improve results. I’m c
urrently responsible for entire Sitecore business in Southern & Western Europe (Benelux, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Israel).


The obsession with data-driven marketing: “If you only look at your figures, you’re lost when a sudden disruption occurs.”

With more and more companies starting to discover big data themselves, data-driven marketing is gaining in importance day by day. To the extent that you might even wonder if some marketers are not taking their obsession with data too far. We don’t think so. Even more, we are only at the beginning. It seems as if we don’t need to ask ourselves where the border lies, but how to deal with it.

Data-driven marketing is a strategy based on the big data that results from interactions with your consumer. Consumer interactions data can involve the most diverse things: someone who has visited a page of your website, downloaded something, sent a tweet with your brand name, you name it. By collecting all that data, you can offer consumers a much more personal customer experience.

20 billion dollars

Last year, according to a study by Magna Global, 20 billion dollars was spent on data-driven marketing worldwide, and 49% of marketers appear to be feeling considerable pressure to increase the role of data in their current marketing strategies. This explosion in data-driven marketing, however, was, according to us, mainly concentrated in the US. Countries in Europe are still in their infancy in this area. “Data driven marketing is enormous in America. In Europe, we are already working on personalisation, but we still have quite a way to go in comparison to what is happening in the US. We therefore expect that data-driven marketing in the very near future will rapidly grow in our region.

Less is more

However, we in Europe should be more economical with personalisation.  It is not because you know everything about a person that you have to personalise every message endlessly. Like: “Hi, your shoe size is 46, we know you’ve been shopping at xx and so on last week”. That is much too in your face.

It is not because you know everything about a person that you have to personalise every message endlessly.

If you do this, your brand becomes a bit creepy, and that is of course the opposite of what you want to achieve. It’s better to be more subtle, for example by selecting your customer’s shoe size during their next visit, or by sending them an email with the best models in their size.

Ask Google

We therefore propose to approach data driven marketing more like Google does. If your Google account is connected to your Android device, you can, for example, link your home address and work address to your work calendar. Google will then automatically notify you if there is a lot of traffic from your work or home address to your next appointment in your calendar. This is also very personal, but still it doesn’t feel creepy. The big difference is that as a consumer you have consciously chosen to give your data and you know perfectly well what will happen with it. In such cases, sharing data is experienced much more positively.

6 billion dollars down the drain

The danger of pure data-driven marketing, is of course that marketers will focus on the figures and all creativity will be lost. According to a recent AppNexus study, 97% of data-driven marketing campaigns would not use a unique creative concept for each targeted segment. This means that once an advertisement has reached its potential, extremely targeted consumers, it then presents them with a general creative concept that is not tailored to their needs. According to the same study, as much as 6 billion dollars in targeted media would be wasted as a result.

We must not, however, lose ourselves too much in figures. We can draw more insights than ever from the data and demographics we offer. Of course, you will be able to make much better decisions based on data models and analytics. But you are not going to be able to predict everything 100% percent.

“If you only look at your figures, you’re lost suddenly a disruption occurs.”

Suppose, for example, that you run a taxi company and you have worked out your data-driven campaign down to the very last detail. But then suddenly, a company such as Uber appears. Then you can just throw your marketing campaign straight in the bin, because the previous data will have become completely useless. If you only look at your figures and base your decisions on what has worked in the past, you can’t predict trends and you’re lost when a disruption suddenly occurs. And even if you use the right data, you can still make mistakes. Then you can go too far in terms of you personalisation strategy, for example, so that your customer experience is experienced negatively instead of positively.

The ideal balance

Analysing your figures has become a must nowadays. But you should never forget to think like a consumer. Look around in your family, in your circle of friends or simply at your own behaviour and put it next to the hard figures. How do your family members and friends behave in certain situations and how has that changed in comparison to the past? What are your personal motives for making a particular decision?

If, besides your numerical analyses, you can also take these real-life observations into account, then your marketing becomes humanised and you no longer think in terms of segments. There, at that crossroads, lies the key to success.

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