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Navigating the data black hole

The digital marketing industry is in a period of upheaval. With an excess of devices, coupled with 4G, the mobile market has been supercharged into an ‘always on’ environment. There’s also been a surge of social media and messaging platforms and with the emergence of multi-screening, brands have more avenues than ever to reach and engage with consumers.

The consequence, message overload and an audience with an increasingly limited attention span.

Research from Dot.Rising showed that 86 per cent of consumers are multi-screening when watching TV and 47 per cent of millennials have highly selective attention - a direct result of multi-screening. This has a bearing on how a brands’ message is perceived, if it has been received at all.

Despite this, email marketing remains an integral tool in the marketing mix box. It’s been 44 years since the first email was sent and it’s showing no signs of slowing down, given over a third of people’s morning rituals consist of checking their emails, social media and texts, according to Acxiom Digital Impact.

Due to how much email and messaging apps are used there’s vast amounts of data at marketer’s finger tips. This helps inform email marketing strategies and contributes to achieving ROI. However, how can brands navigate what seems to be an abyss of data and translate it to valuable results?

Make data work

While data is powerful, it’s fairly redundant on its own. A lot of brands have their hands on mounds of data but don’t do anything meaningful with it. There are still instances where assumptions on consumer behaviour are made without analysing data. A strategy won’t reach its true potential unless it is informed by this invaluable insight into an individuals’ world.

Big brands like Tesco and o2 have the challenge of catering to people from all walks of life. It seems fairly elementary that even when reaching out to a vast audience, you wouldn’t treat all consumers the same; after all a millennial male would have different interests and preferences to a retired female. Yet some brands (big and small) remain to distribute generic email or text blasts to their entire database. This may seem like an easier option, particularly if there’s a new offer or product to push but a strategy that doesn’t put a customer at its heart won’t be effective. After all, it’s unlikely that an individual will feel valued if they receive an offer for a One Direction concert, if they’re a 42 year old man that hates pop music (or for that matter anyone born before the turn of the century!) This type of activity portrays a lack of apathy towards consumers.

2 billion emails are sent everyday worldwide, and so the inbox is an incredibly competitive space (Radicati, 2015). If data about that recipient’s previous interaction with a brand or product isn’t factored into their journey, it will quickly become irrelevant. Retail is proof of this, with over half of email subscribers being inactive and not regularly opening emails. That equates to 647million subscribers no longer opening emails, because their journeys are not tailored or relevant to them (Communicator, 2015).

Ultimately, data is there to help with this but what’s the point in gathering it, if it isn’t going to benefit the consumer?

Data wells are running dry

There’s been a long period of time where marketers have taken data for granted and collected on a ‘may need’ basis and then left it to gather dust. Anyone familiar with the Data Protection Act will be aware of the impending shift that the EU data protection reform presents. Its priority is to address ambiguity, effectiveness and enforcement underlying data protection concepts, stopping spam and making it a requirement for consumers to opt in and out of brand messaging.

Some changes have already taken affect, ensuring that an individual is still able to retain control over how their data is used. Brands have an opportunity to use data protection and privacy as a competitive advantage to assure their customers that the data shared with them will be used effectively; not shared or used without prior consent. This will begin to enforce trust in brands. Those that continue to take advantage of consumers data will quickly be exposed and lose trust with their new and existing consumers.

Data has always been around and is the very infrastructure of digital marketing. That said, its purpose is constantly changing and brands must adapt too if they want to engage with consumers effectively and build up a loyal customer base.