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The Pressures Driving Marketing’s Data Consolidation Imperative 

The modern marketing landscape is perpetually undergoing disruption. Blistering innovation coupled with the rise and spread of automation has cultivated an “always-on culture,” whereby consumers are connected everywhere and streaming anywhere. New mobile-first generational groups are arriving on the scene as true digital and social natives and, as a result, marketers are fighting to keep pace with unprecedented demand for instant gratification and personalized experiences. Society is firmly in the midst of a shift from being about the masses to a story bespoke for one, and marketing organizations have no choice but to meet that challenge head-on.

At the same time, general industry advances fueled by identity concerns and external pandemic-driven cultural changes have completely upended the advertising landscape as we once knew it. The third-party cookie will soon be deprecated. Privacy regulations are stricter than ever. Consumers are increasingly calling on businesses to do their part in righting social inequalities. In short, companies are now being held to much higher standards in realms that boardrooms have hitherto completely overlooked. And while many might assume these perspectives are only held by the younger generations (particularly Gen Z), they are in fact ubiquitous across all age groups.

To navigate these labyrinthine complexities, media buyers must be nothing short of exceptional in their execution. They must be nimble with their messaging, flexible with their timing, and swift with their movement of media budget. They must show conviction and assuredness in decision-making. They need attendant interoperability. They need connectivity. And at the foundation of all of that, they need high-quality, consolidated data.

When marketing organizations are armed with such, those pulling the trigger on campaigns have the weapons they need to unlock true peak performance. Harmonized dashboards that aggregate varied data sets empower media buyers with the clean, granular insights they need to understand not just what their customers are doing, but the all-important why behind it. This can then be translated into precision targeting through which brands are able to successfully satisfy and engage customers, elevate brand awareness among desired audiences, and accelerate performance to new levels.

Poor Data Quality Persists

Unfortunately, however, it is not so straightforward.

The industry’s predominant strategy throughout the last two decades has been to continually add more and more best-in-class single-point solutions designed to solve the challenges pertinent to the day. From the traditional outlets of newspaper, radio, TV, mail, and outdoor, marketers are compelled to add up to a dozen other disparate channels in the form of social, search, email, programmatic, connected TV, video, audio, native, push messaging, influencer, display…and on and on. This copious number of disparate data sources—and the overwhelming volumes of data they generate—mean it is just not feasible to respond to shifting consumer sentiments quickly and effectively.

A 2019 Domo report put some tangible numbers around these pressures, revealing that 83% of surveyed marketers at large enterprise organizations admit that the rise of new technologies and techniques has made it much more difficult to stay on top of everything. Almost half (46%) said the number of data channels and sources makes it challenging to plan for the long-term. The perils of data silos are not just related to an inability to organize or forecast either—they also drain personnel resources, fuel inaccurate targeting, and sap marketing budgets. In more extreme cases, data silos and the poor data they catalyze can lead to lost customers and revenue, and damaged reputations.

A Newfound Urgency Around Data Consolidation

Indeed, with the consequences so profound and wide-ranging, marketing leaders must give data quality and consolidation its due. Movements within the industry would suggest that is beginning to happen. Gartner predicts that by the end of 2022, 70% of organizations will rigorously track data quality levels via dedicated metrics, improving them by 60% to significantly reduce operational risks and costs. And in the technology space, a recent report by Segment found that adoption of customer data platforms (CDPs) is picking up steam, with 73% of companies revealing that this form of software will be critical to their future customer experience efforts.

For too long, marketing organizations have held nothing more than a mere anecdotal appreciation of the troublesome nature of disparate data. They know it stymies output, but they don’t understand how, or why.

Here, we break down five forces converging on marketing right now and dissect why high-quality, consolidated data holds the key to navigating them all effectively.

Force #1: The Emergence of Automation and AI

As marketing organizations look to tap into the benefits promised by the new wave of technologies driven by automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML), their success in doing so and their ability to own and dominate their spaces will be entirely dependent upon whether they can get their data management houses in order. This has become increasingly important as connected devices proliferate at an extraordinary rate, causing an exponential growth to an already immeasurable trove of data—far beyond what any human analyst can feasibly manage and parse.

The explosive growth of addressable data is inherently great news for automation adopters. The more data that is fed into AI and ML algorithms, the more effective they are. This is only true, though, if the data upfront is high-quality. While the age-old observation “garbage-in, garbage-out” has been pertinent in analytics and decision-making circles for generations, it carries extra special weight when it comes to machine learning. The quality demands of machine learning are steep, and bad data could snowball quickly. If the historical data used to train the predictive model is inaccurate, the new data produced by that model designed to inform future decisions will be valueless—or worse, detrimental. Marketers can easily get trapped in a vicious cycle where, inadvertently, their data gets worse and worse and worse.

To properly condition a predictive model, historical data must adhere to rigorously high standards. First, marketers must have the right data: a plethora of impartial intelligence across the entire range of inputs on which the feed is set up to work with. Second, that data must be unambiguously correct: it must be accurate, clearly labeled, de-deduped, etc. And herein lies the problem plaguing advertising professionals: the vast majority are leaning on an average of nine platforms to execute a typical ad campaign—and touch seven of those platforms each day. Working under these constraints, data collection and delivery formats are commonly inconsistent and fragmented.

The knock-on effect of this is persistent difficulty preserving the appropriate structures and context that AI requires to drive effective automation. Even a minor error at just one step in bringing the data within those disparate platforms together will cascade, causing more errors across the entire process and potentially resulting in a wreckage of wasted resources and advertising spend. A consolidated data solution will future-proof the veracity of data collection and allow advertisers to make investment decisions with unerring confidence.

Force #2: New Data Protection Legislation

The introduction of data protection legislation, like GDPR in the European Union and CCPA in California, has fundamentally changed how organizations can collect and use consumer data. Governing bodies the world over are facing pressures to pass similar laws, and so it is crucial that brands know where all their consumer intelligence is housed and how they are keeping it secure.

Using centralized architecture that collates and manages data has quickly become an integral cog in the privacy strategy of most companies, empowering them to compile safe, compliant-ready audience segments. As marketers look to confront these regulations, they must consider implementing a combination of both consent management and customer data management tools. Let’s say Customer X gives Company Y consent to collect data via website cookies, but later requests the deletion of their data through email. It’s vital these actions be consolidated and organized in one single source of truth in order to avoid potentially devastating repercussions. Just ask Vodafone Spain. Or CaixaBank. Or Italian telecommunications operator, TIM.

Force #3: The Deprecation of Third-Party Cookies

The cookie has long underpinned the online advertising ecosystem, but massive change is imminent. Mozilla’s Firefox and Apple’s Safari already block tracking cookies by default, and now Google’s Chrome browser—which boasts a 67% market share—is set to join the fray, with plans to banish third-party cookies in late 2023.

What this move presents is a new era of engagement for individuals, publishers, and marketers. It will require a switch to a trusted, people-based advertising ecosystem that relies on a deterministic, persistent identifier that relates to an individual user. By adopting this approach, marketers will be empowered to create cohesive, people-based campaigns revolving around real-time behavioral data and then activate them via major DSPs, email platforms, social networks, and other appropriate vendors. Essentially, it enables brands to meet their audiences in exactly the right places at exactly the right times.

All of this depends on one thing: strong, consolidated analytics. If this single customer journey is not tracked flawlessly, it will lead to incorrect assumptions about behavior that will ultimately give life to ill-designed marketing campaigns. Consolidated reporting is the “sine qua non” of successful people-based marketing.

Force #4: The Importance of an Omnichannel Strategy

Marketing was once a straightforward game. Creative agencies would be tasked with concocting a compelling message before handing that off to a media agency to push out across relevant owned and paid channels. Advertisers would then recline in their office chairs and (hopefully) watch their message reach the masses.

Of course, things are a touch more elaborate now…

Today, there are 4.66 billion active internet users. There are projected to be 3.45 billion active social network users in 2022. There are over 3 billion people who are now digital video viewers. The world is connecting at an express pace and marketing organizations need to recognize that there has been a fundamental shift in the landscape. Advertising at this moment in time is about what consumers are saying—not what brands want to say.

Modern consumers are a high-maintenance bunch: they want to feel understood. They want to feel valued. It is a sentiment summed up quite perfectly in this satirical video. Reaching and engaging them is getting trickier by the year, and so marketers are increasingly embracing an omnichannel strategy that comes with the promise of delivering a single, unified experience across different channels. While this was once considered the cutting-edge of innovation, it’s now a basic requirement for survival. The younger buyers of this world—those unknowing of a time without smartphones or social media—don’t even think of channels as having traditional boundaries. Instead, they increasingly evaluate brands based upon the seamlessness of their communication in addition to their demonstrated social and economic values.

But before marketers rush to implement an omnichannel strategy, they must first take a step back and consider their data collection and data analytics solutions. Without the appropriate infrastructure in either of these areas, value largely disappears—essentially, the absence of one renders the other useless. Marketers need robust data collection techniques to understand a range of important factors, including when target audiences prefer to interact, what type of messaging they engage with more, and what products or features they are looking for. On top of that, they’ll need powerful analytics to translate the big data into actionable insights. Marketers need to deploy one system of record that can distill cross-channel data in near real-time so they can course-correct campaigns on the fly and meet consumers in their moment.

Force #5: The Need to Prove ROI

Not so long ago, the mandate for marketing organizations was simply brand stewardship. Today’s reality is much different. Boardrooms across the globe are now turning the heat up on marketing teams and requisitioning them to prioritize driving real business growth. This is evidenced in a recent Salesforce study that found two in three marketers have realigned their priorities to focus on leading growth, and of all those surveyed, 96% believe the marketing function has a critical role to play in improving ROI.

The change has been speedy and can be primarily attributed to marketing’s unique position between a business and its customers, as well as its unprecedented access to the tools required to create flawless consumer experiences. There are indeed newfound expectations of marketing organizations, and many are having a tough time meeting them.

The main barricade is that growth metrics come in all different shapes and sizes. While revenue is the most conventional, there is also brand awareness, customer engagement, brand loyalty, conversion rates, marketing qualified leads (MQLs), relative market share, and more. With so much nuance to each of these areas, connecting investments to outcomes at aggregate and granular levels—in other words, formally proving ROI—is challenging. And even when marketers are able to effectively calculate ROI, they still run into issues. A survey conducted by Propeller Insights on behalf of Allocadia found that 61% of marketing leaders fail to use ROI in decision-making because they aren’t confident in their own data. This lack of assuredness can ultimately be traced back to the beginning of the ROI equation, where budget management is often done in multiple spreadsheets—a process highly susceptible to manual consolidation errors.

These barriers to full knowledge of ROI are directly related to an absence of a unified view of performance and real-time insights. By converging technology and data, it becomes much easier for marketers to integrate, manage, analyze, and optimize their campaigns as they work to tackle the growth directive across their organization.

Marketing’s Data Consolidation Imperative – Wrapping Up

There’s no getting away from it: marketing organizations need to be prioritizing data quality and data consolidation. Given that deep, predictive, reliable insights are foundational for making the best decisions, business leaders can no longer hesitate in this area if they want to accelerate their company’s digital transformation. Too often, marketers are forced to either guess what their data means or are held back by analytical bottlenecks. In an era where consumer preferences are ephemeral and media buyers must be agile to keep up, access to unified cross-channel reporting is paramount.

If data consolidation and real-time data reporting capabilities are at the top of your current wish list, get in touch with our digital media experts and have a conversation. With Basis Technologies, you can connect all your digital marketing campaign data—including programmatic, direct, search, social, and connected TV—with over 180 different business intelligence metrics via one interface. Basis is proven to improve efficiencies in this area by 48%. You can learn more in Forrester’s report, The Total Economic Impact™ Of In-Housing With Basis.

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