You vs. data: Where people fit in modern retail marketing strategy – MarTech Today

Think about all the data you have as a retail marketer. Not just the volume of it; the actual contents of it.

E-commerce site performance. In-store performance. Product feed. Demographics. Search. Social. Mobile. CRM. Shopping behavior. Geography. Competitive intelligence.

Data surrounds you. But here’s the rub: If every data point doesn’t track to a business goal, the numbers can easily jumble into chaos and obstruct decision-making.

That’s the problem with the people-data relationship today. We often lack strategic plans for using data, and we end up tracking information that isn’t relevant to business goals. If you feel daunted by data, that’s a sign you don’t have a strong plan for operationalizing it.

Today’s competitive, data-driven landscape calls for us to challenge our relationship with data and adopt three attitude shifts:

  • Resist the urge to track data for tracking’s sake.
  • Don’t think hybrid individuals – think hybrid team.
  • Create a cross-functional profitability center.

Resist the urge to track data for tracking’s sake

Brands historically have believed in gathering as much data as possible with an eye toward using it to predict consumer behavior and personalize engagement. That attitude led to the data deluge, as well as consumer backlash against personal data collection.

Today’s digital marketing requires a new appreciation for strategy and minimalism. Define your objectives. Then define your plan for operationalizing data to meet those objectives.

If every data point doesn’t track to a business goal, the numbers can easily jumble into chaos and obstruct decision-making.

Want to improve return on ad spend among new customers? Increase content engagement? Take a deliberate and systematic approach to determining what data you need to enable your team to reach its goals. Your marketing and business objectives should dictate the data you collect, analyze and act upon – not the other way around.

We’re already seeing the marketing world adopt this attitude as the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, comes online. The spirit of the regulation is rooted in privacy, naturally. But it’s also based on mutual benefit: Collect only the data that consumers allow and is needed to create advantages for consumers and marketers alike.

Whether regulations like GDPR are impacting you or not, take a hard look at your databases. How can you boil them into cleaner, more relevant repositories that track directly to business goals?

Don’t think hybrid individuals – think hybrid team

There’s been quite a bit of buzz about the need for marketers to increase their data and analytics skill sets. Across business, we’re seeing workforce dynamics shift to value broader skill sets and ranges of experiences more than narrow ones.

From this trend, you may get the idea that you and every individual on your team should be similarly skilled in data, analytics and the other common marketing disciplines of creativity and communication. This is where marketing teams can go wrong.

Unicorns rarely exist at any level of an organization, and seeking or building wide-ranging skills in one or several individuals can lead to team members with a wider range of capabilities without significant depth. In addition, combining like-minded individuals can stifle innovation.

As retail continues its omnichannel transformation, marketing team structure must follow suit. That involves devising new ways of hiring and working to meld strong suits across the analytical and creative spectrum.

For instance, managers should prioritize one or two skill sets for each new hire. If you want to take your analytics strategy to the next level, bring in someone with dedicated experience who can share knowledge and educate other team members.

Once that person is acclimated to the job, foster development of new skills through collaboration with other team members inside and outside the marketing department. Design performance plans to encourage team members to have certain cross-functional experiences before progressing into a new role.

Create a cross-functional profitability center

In an omnichannel world, teams have no choice but to manage, analyze and share data across the organization in a consistent way so all stakeholders can take advantage of the insights for their particular initiatives and goals.

Consider “buy online, pick up in store.” This program requires lockstep coordination of data between marketing, e-commerce, brick-and-mortar stores, supply chain and merchandising. Same with local inventory ads – an initiative that requires data onboarding technology and processes to succeed.

Retailers risk losing their advantage when competitors gather data faster, analyze it more accurately and act upon it with greater agility.

But many marketers grapple with data silos within their organizations. Web, email, social, e-commerce, store, customer satisfaction and other data is owned by various departments. Each department tends to create its own system for managing data – which may or may not include the analysis and reporting mechanisms that other departments need to use the data for their own purposes.

You have an opportunity to champion a data silo breakdown. Replace those silos with a cross-functional approach to data usage that drives profitability.

Departments should align their goals and synchronize plans for using data so that the organization can eliminate redundancies in analysis and speed decision-making overall. Define how functions work together on the cross-functional profitability team. Determine who is responsible for what decisions and the roles others play in the decision-making process.

Set proper expectations for each person’s contribution to the customer experience. Activating data across departments means being able to support cross-channel interactions that customers want and to bring omnichannel strategy to fruition.

The growth agenda

Data – and the human talent that leverages it – is the difference between competing and failing in modern marketing. Retailers risk losing their advantage when competitors gather data faster, analyze it more accurately and act upon it with greater agility.

That’s why it’s critical to operationalize data in ways that align with business goals and fuel profitability. Identify what these three attitude shifts mean to you, and decide how you should rewrite your relationship with data to drive continuous and scalable growth.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech Today. Staff authors are listed here.

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