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Real-Time Data Boosts Marketing Relevancy

Leveraging analytics helps marketers drive powerful, personalised marketing and build dynamic brands.

The explosion of personalised data now accessible to companies through online commerce, social media, and mobile interactions is causing fundamental changes in the way almost every business function operates. In sales it's leading to more options for the consumer in terms of what they want to buy and how they can buy it; in supply chain management it's allowing companies to align their inventory management with the expected spending habits of their customers; and for marketers it's increasing a company's ability to interact with their customers in highly tailored ways, creating meaningful dialogue and deeply personal relationships with brands. These trends highlight different aspects of what IBM calls Smarter Commerce: putting the customer at the centre of the buying process and transforming marketing, selling, and fulfilment into desirable customer services.

 Marketers today can create more segmented and targeted campaigns, and then survey the effectiveness of their on-going campaigns, making real-time changes when necessary. But while the availability of abundant data is providing marketers with the tools they need to do so, it's also presenting them with a new set of challenges when it comes to using data in an impactful way. As the amount of data continues to grow, the ability of marketers to analyse and act on this data in ways that affect the top and bottom lines will ultimately determine the success of future campaigns. Put another way, marketing departments everywhere are increasingly held accountable by CMOs and boards of directors who want to know precisely (and in quantifiable terms) what their marketing investments contributed to the business.

A recent survey of marketing executives conducted by Forbes on behalf of IBM revealed that 65 percent of respondents are targeting their customers based on an integrated view of customers' behaviour. Marketers have identified the key need to give consumers a consistent, reliable brand experience, regardless of where or how consumers choose to interact with a company. That's why marketers are collecting hard facts about the many ways in which people engage with their brand. For example, 57 percent are analysing online patterns; 41 percent are including search patterns; 34 percent are including social media patterns; and 30 percent are including mobile patterns.

As more data becomes available every day, the resounding question for marketers isn't simply, "How big is your data set?" The question is, "How can more data dramatically improve your customers' experience in ways that line your pockets?"  

 In fact, a recent State of Marketing survey conducted by IBM revealed that turning data into action is the top priority for marketers. How this happens, though, differs from organisation to organisation, and may be the single most important deciding factor in the effectiveness of any campaign.

 On one side, there are marketers who are collecting data about their customers before a campaign and using it to decide how to reach their targets and which messages that they plan to convey. On the other, there are marketers tracking their campaigns in real time and making necessary adjustments as directed by the data. According to both surveys, marketers are challenged when it comes to monitoring the real-time success of their campaigns, with just 9 percent of those surveyed by Forbes on behalf of IBM indicating that they review their online marketing performance in real time, while only 9 percent adjust their campaigns in real time.

The top performers, though, realize that real-time monitoring and adjustments can make a difference. Among companies that said their investment in marketing technology was "world class," 68 percent were either tracking their performance in real time or adjusting their campaign performance in real time.

So how are companies able to bridge the gap from data collection to actionable, real-time insight?

More marketers are using Web-based interactions to collect data about their customers, with IBM's State of Marketing survey showing that 90 percent of marketers view Web data as important to drive campaign decisions, and more than 75 percent indicating they already use it or plan to use it in the next 12 months. As more emphasis is placed on Web-based interactions, the ability to make real-time decisions also increases.

 The growing prevalence of online commerce driven by the rise in social media and mobile commerce is creating a seemingly endless pool of data from which to draw information and conclusions about customers. Marketers are using IT and other Web-based technologies to aggregate the data collected through online, in-store, and mobile interactions into one place. They're also using these tools to make more informed, real-time decisions about when and how they interact with their customers and prospects. The result is more effective, targeted campaigns that can be adjusted and updated based on real-time data and, ultimately, campaigns that feel like a valuable service to their target audience.