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How Are Marketers Using Data?

Data is a top priority among marketers this year, with many intending to boost budgets

Data is changing the world. According to October 2014 research by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the greater availability and use of data in business can create a “virtuous circle,” with nearly two-thirds of executives worldwide reporting that information and knowledge were being shared more quickly and freely in their companies. Even though firms still report struggles and obstacles in dealing with large quantities of data, it’s improving their businesses across a range of operational and strategic functions.

Top Priority Areas in 2015 According to US Digital Marketers, Dec 2014 (% of respondents)

And according to polling by Millward Brown for Kentico Software, big data was the No. 3 highest priority for US digital marketers this year.

That priority is directly related to the perceived benefits of effectively using big data. According to December 2014 polling by Experian Data Quality and Dynamic Markets Limited, 58% of data management professionals worldwide said keeping high-quality data about customers increased efficiency, and a majority agreed they were making more informed decisions.

And firms are, in fact, using data. November 2014 research from Teradata found that nearly two in five marketing and communications execs around the world were already generating “significant business revenues” by acting on their data, while another 37% were taking major steps to gather and analyze the info they had.

December 2014 research by Econsultancy found that the most common use of data modeling was for attribution, among both client-side marketers and agency professionals worldwide, followed by calculating customer lifetime value. The survey by Experian and Dynamic Markets asked data management professionals worldwide about how they used a different data-related tool, predictive analytics. The most common purpose was to modify business processes, followed by entering new markets, driving marketing automation and predicting customer lifetime value.

Channels from Which Data Management Professionals Worldwide* Obtain Data Sets that Are Essential for Marketing Success, Dec 2014 (% of respondents)

Problems remain. For example, the data that helps the most isn’t necessarily the data marketers are collecting. Experian and Dynamic Markets found that websites were the most common channel data professionals used to collect information, followed by face-to-face and call centers. But when the same data professionals were asked about where they got essential data, their answers were different: Physical stores were most important.

Later research from Signal confirmed that other channels were more common in terms of collection. In March 2015, 88% of marketers worldwide said they were collecting and integrating data from the web, while just 22% could do so with data from the point of sale.

Extent to Which Their Company Has Capabilities in Select Data-Related Areas According to Client-Side Marketers Worldwide, Dec 2014 (% of respondents)

In addition, Econsultancy’s polling demonstrates another angle from which data-related efforts could improve. When client-side marketers worldwide were asked to rate their capabilities in various data-related areas as “strong,” “average” or “weak,” no activity rated a “strong” from more than 18% of respondents. And the strongest areas both involved collecting data from online sources. When it came to integrating, modeling or otherwise using data, respondents were even more likely to say they were merely average—or worse.

Increasing budgets may help to boost these capabilities. According to Infogroup, 20% of US marketers planned to greatly increase their data-related marketing budgets in 2015, while another 44% intended to up their spending less dramatically.

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