Mapping The Customer Journey With Analytics

“Legendary customer experiences are designed.” - Dwayne Vera

The customer journey is one of the most fundamental aspects of a thriving business. Without a clear, comfortable path, people who stumble upon your brand will never convert to customers.

One of the biggest roadblocks organizations encounter are assumptions. You can work through the things you know you don’t know, but what about the things you think you know? The inability to understand customer needs and act upon them meaningfully has been the downfall of countless global companies who once led their industry. The real-world paths customers take toward a brand are not always obvious, and often they can’t be imagined by staff members in a board room.

We need to separate the idealized customer journey from the actual one that’s taking place – What’s really happening to visitors as they engage with a brand? What questions are going unanswered? What overlooked details are creating subtle frustration?

To solve this knowledge gap, you need to know what your customers are experiencing in detail. That’s where journey mapping comes in.

According to a 2018 MyCustomer study, “Two-thirds of individuals surveyed said their organizations were currently using customer journey mapping. One-third said their organization isn’t mapping. This proportion was consistent irrespective of company size.”

When it came to how, survey participants cited data analytics, customer feedback, visualization software, and user profiling as the most useful mapping tools they use.

“Those that reported using analytics solutions as part of their toolkit overall reported a slightly more positive impact of their journey mapping, with 42% saying that the impact was ‘extremely positive.”

By bringing together the right combination of tools, your team can interact with data on a regular basis to demystify your customer experience.

Real-Time Mapping & Reducing Friction

 Mapping the customer journey is nothing new, but the capabilities organizations now have are far more sophisticated than they were in the past. Thanks to more advanced analytics tools, your customer journey no longer has to live in a static document. It can be tracked in real time, from moment to moment. As customer behavior changes, organizations can implement corresponding changes and resolve kinks in their pipeline.

Real-time customer journey mapping allows organizations to collect valuable data like demographics, psychographics, and transactions. By analyzing this information, you can begin to flesh out customer personas and understand how different segments should be targeted differently.

For example, an athletics company with a large customer base of parents with small children and millennial sports enthusiasts will need to nurture those two groups in different ways. This may mean different calls to action, uniquely designed offers, or personalized product recommendations. Tracking the customer path through your website may reveal that certain audiences respond better to popups, while others are annoyed by them.

The most critical element of a smooth customer journey is not what you add, but what you eliminate. A beautifully designed storefront means little if the shopping experience is confusing. A comprehensive digital help desk is useless if the process of submitting a request is frustrating and time-consuming. Removing barriers to comfort is one of the most impactful ways to keep customers not only happy, but raving to friends about their pleasing experience.


Customer Experience is the New Price Point 

In the past, brands obsessed over price point and product quality. Their marketing content was geared toward getting customers to recognize that their product was either more affordable or had better features. Today, the customer experience trumps both.

Customer experience will overtake price and product quality as the key brand differentiator by 2020. The chart below shows the relative importance of three key elements to business strategy.source


Web traffic, POS systems, email marketing, and IoT devices are just a few avenues for garnering customer data. By mapping these customer paths, organizations can identify which avenues to prioritize and where new revenue opportunities exist.

For example, customers who make their way to a retail store after receiving a coupon via email may respond best to these direct offers. Meanwhile, other audience members consider this spam and would rather scan a brand’s social page for news and offers. Information like this helps organizations tailor their marketing strategy for maximum results. 

Customer journey mapping can inform the work of UX designers, product managers, marketing coordinators, and customer service professionals. It’s an ongoing process that has developed significantly over the past 5 years and will only be more important as customer service grows more personalized and digital.

According to the MyCustomer survey, organizations that implemented customer journey mapping experienced benefits within the first year, and organizations who’d been mapping the longest reported the strongest impact.

If improving retention and revenue are top priorities, customer journey mapping may be the solution. From awareness to interest, evaluation, purchasing, and finally post-purchasing, your customer needs a smooth, seamless experience.

Bring customer journey maps to life and create new ways to connect with customers. Looking for help? Get in touch to start extracting key insights from the customer data you already have.

Cross-Channel Marketing in a Siloed World

In the early days of the internet, social media was in the rudimentary stages of development. Early networking platforms like Six Degrees and Friendster and blog platforms like LiveJournal had virtually no competitors. If you were active at all on social media, you were probably on one channel doing one thing.

Fast-forward to today, and things have changed. While we still have a select few dominant social channels, there are more competitors, shifting algorithms, new features every year, and of course, the introduction of a new concept: cross-channel presence. We’re no longer choosing platforms – We’re choosing them all.

Multichannel Doesn’t Cut It

In a world where getting online attention is more challenging than ever, being on one platform and doing one thing doesn’t cut it anymore. Similarly, being on multiple channels doing separate things (multi-channel marketing) doesn’t create the kind of consistency customers need.

Most brands are using various mediums on various platforms – photography on Instagram, networking on LinkedIn, advertising on Facebook, etc. Platforms compete with one another so that you can do just about anything on any platform (e.g. you can share an image anywhere, post a comment anywhere, run an ad anywhere, etc).

There are things your audience needs to know about you - your vision and values, the problem you solve, the benefits of your product or service over a competitor’s. All of these need to be communicated continuously and in creative ways to engage and teach your audience about you.

Most organizations already know this. But using cross-channel marketing to execute that goal is where it gets complicated. You know what you’re doing and why, but there are a million options for how you should do it. And the right answers are different for each organization.

So what does this mean for organizations that need to get their message out in a cohesive way? Essentially, it means there’s a greater need for deliberate planning. While you can do anything on any platform, that doesn’t mean you should. Threading together a purposeful, data-informed marketing strategy will involve multiple channels – but they’ll be in communication with one another, all compatible with each other. You may use channels differently, but they’ll work together to help you establish your brand strategically.

The Nuts & Bolts of Cross-Channel

According to an IAB survey, organizations are already well aware of the value of cross-channel data and are prioritizing it above all else.

“Understanding interactions across different channels is a particular thorn in the side of marketers and advertisers. A report by Advertiser Perceptions revealed that one-third (33%) of advertisers cited the lack of standard measurement across different channels and platforms as one of their top 3 challenges, while about (49%) ranked it in their top 5.”source

Cross-channel marketing emerged from the realization that customers need a smooth experience with your brand. Let’s say they saw your ad on Google, clicked through to your website, then followed your Facebook page, and so on. The relationship you’re building with that person spanned across several platforms. Without one channel playing its rightful role, the relationship would have fizzled.

Your marketing should not interrupt, but rather complement the experience. That is why it is important to not only reach your audience on many different channels, but also to send them timely, personalized, and cohesive messaging based on their behavior. Your content should correspond to the buyer’s journey. Your messaging should be tailored for the media type and channel and customized for each individual customer. This is cross-channel marketing.” – Josh Meah

A truly cross-channel marketing strategy will incorporate offline interactions as well. Getting in-person potential customers to interact with you online (and vice versa) continues the cross-channel relationship you’re building.

Coupled with data and automation, a wise cross-channel strategy can maximize the impact of your marketing funnel and make lead generation a breeze.

Data-Driven, Cross-Channel

Without customer information, making decisions that intelligently guide your marketing strategy is near impossible.

A few simple questions that can guide your cross-channel strategy are:

  • What product features are my customers seeking?
  • Which social platforms do they engage with the most?
  • Where do they most often discover you?
  • Which type of content is succeeding above the rest?
  • Which of my products/services seems relevant to specific customer segments?

The ideal cross-channel marketing strategy ushers customers from one stage to the next – from being aware of your brand to becoming a customer.

People don’t buy your product the instant they know you exist. They go through several stages before they finally part with their money—awareness, interest, evaluation, decision, and post-purchase behavior,” explains Meah.

Data points allow organizations to track and understand how their audience is interacting with campaigns and social media content. Cross-channel campaign attribution is a method of doing just that – using technology to understand your marketing results and tweak your strategy accordingly.

By collecting data and uncovering these initial insights, your marketing strategy will naturally start to take form. From there, gathering more complex insights from more nuanced data sets can provide even deeper guidance.

Data Orchestration is the New Data Automation

The advent of the big data age had companies scrambling to not only collect more data but automate processes to help manage the workload. Businesses were learning in real-time – through trial and error – how to collect, store, clean, and analyze heaps of information.

More than a decade later, tech advancements haven’t slowed down. There are more tools to use, more skills to learn, and, according to scientists, about 295 billion gigabytes of data in the world. How do businesses extract precise insights that can guide their marketing strategy and boost ROI? In other words, how do we put all this data to good use – and prove it?

Needless to say, this process was challenging enough, and many marketers, organizations, and data scientists are still wondering whether their efforts to utilize data are making a real impact.


But as the dust settles, many businesses have landed on their feet, wiser and better equipped to thrive. Now that we’ve gotten a handle on data automation 101, we’re beginning to see an even greater level of advancement on the horizon – and that’s data orchestration.

What Is Data Orchestration?

In a nutshell, orchestrating data works just like orchestrating a symphony – all instruments must be in tune, in rhythm, and working in unison with all other parts. When this falls into place, being a data-driven business is much easier. But when data processes are not in harmony, it can lead to all sorts of kinks throughout your data pipeline.

From preparing data to analyzing, drawing conclusions, and taking action, your data may travel through various applications and departments. So what happens when the right synthesis doesn’t take place?

Disorganized Data (The Problem)

One of the biggest issues that can arise from a lack of data orchestration is unusable data. Whether it’s poor quality, inaccurate, or not in the correct format to use, this is the dreaded ‘dirty data’ problem that thwarts many companies. The impacts of disorganized data are surprisingly weighty. According to an Experian report, companies from around the world feel that an average of 26% of their data is dirty.


Another problem arises when data history can’t be tracked.

The provenance of data products generated by complex transformations, such as data orchestration workflows, can be extremely valuable to digital businesses. From it, one can determine the quality of the data based on its source, provide attribution of data sources, and track back sources of errors and iterations. Data provenance is also essential to organizations that need to drill down to the source of data in a data warehouse, track the creation of intellectual property and provide an audit trail for regulatory purposes.” - Chris Scalgione

Part of eliminating data silos is eliminating disparate tools that are difficult to use in tandem. Ideally, teams will have access to the same data and know how to use the same platforms to manage it holistically.

Cohesive Data Management (The Solution)

So what can a business do if it’s wading through the swamps of a data disaster? Data orchestration means carefully mastering each interaction with data from start to finish.

Let’s start at the beginning with data collection. Customers are interacting with your brand at many touchpoints – advertisements, websites, social channels, and, perhaps, in person. Each of these data sources can provide a wealth of insight – if you’re equipped to collect it in real-time.


Next, data integration. Coming from various sources and in various formats, your data needs to be merged in one place. Once data is profiled, you can decide how it needs to change to create one uniform data set. This step is integral for accurate interpretation later on.

From here, data-enrichment processes can increase the quality of data, readying it for analysis and, eventually, decision-making. Enrichment allows for a better understanding of customers and what they respond to over time.

The tools and platforms you choose play a pivotal role in ensuring each of these processes is carried out efficiently. Currently, many data platforms have one or two strengths they specialize in, but can’t orchestrate the whole process. For this reason, many organizations must manually examine their data pipeline to find weak spots and refine the procedures.

The Future Is Orchestrated

In the end, automation is only as valuable as the tools you use to carry it out. High data quality and careful coordination must come first. The places we mine data and the uses we find for it are multiplying, along with data privacy regulations. Thus, it’s more important than ever to have a sophisticated data management system that leaves nothing to chance.

In the next ten years, more businesses will begin their trek toward a data-driven future. It’s through this transformation that companies leading the pack will be able to scale comfortably and make truly data-informed decisions.

It's All About Location: The Untapped Potential of Location Data

It’s clear that location data has immense value – especially for brick and mortar businesses that want to build a reputation in their area. But all too often, better results are left on the table when teams are unaware of all the ways location data can be used.

Location-based marketing is just what it sounds like – targeting your audience based on where they live, where they’ve recently visited, or where they’re currently at. Thanks to the widespread adoption of smartphones, it’s now possible to understand how most consumers move and interact in the real world – not just online.


Aside from brick and mortar stores, brands that are participating in limited-time events or hosting pop-up shops can benefit from targeting local consumers who will be in the area or attending an event. Location data can encourage people to visit a specific location and track those visits as they occur.

Reach the Right People with Geofencing & Beacons

Geofencing technology uses cell towers to allow businesses to draw boundaries around the areas that interest them. These targeted area can be as small as a one-block radius or as large as an entire city. If a business owner needs more information about customers in a given location, geofencing is a direct way to obtain nuanced data insights. You can set geofences to determine which days or times are most popular for visiting a certain neighborhood. Geofences work best for larger areas, while beacons are more appropriate for reaching customers in the immediate vicinity.

Beacons allow you to target consumers who are just steps away from your location with special offers and deals. Beacons use Bluetooth technology to automatically recognize devices – typically smartphones – in the area. This allows for the right people to see your offer at the most convenient time – when they’re close by. Unlike geofences, beacons are more flexible in that they can be moved as needed. Businesses with multiple locations can make use of this data, as well as businesses that are considering opening additional locations.

Crack the Offline Attribution Code

Location data helps solve one of the most challenging problems marketers face: tracking offline customer behaviors. It’s a gray area many marketers struggle with – how to identify how a customer moves from Point A (learning about an offer), to Point B (making an in-person purchase). But interestingly, the majority of businesses have not yet implemented location data to fix this blindspot.


Businesses need to understand the full customer journey, and technology makes it easier to do so when everything is online. For example, a customer can click an email marketing link and makes an online purchase – no mystery there. But what about a customer who is targeted with a mobile ad and then visits a store?

Whether you’re running a social media campaign, print ad, mobile app offer, or anything else, you need to know its true ROI. Location data helps illuminate which offers customers are taking action on. This empowers businesses to see which marketing channels are most effective and which ones need work.

Track Visit Frequency to Create Customized Offers

Because most consumers don’t make a purchase the first time they interact with your brand, having several touchpoints is key to building brand loyalty.

What can businesses do with visit frequency data (how often customers visit stores)?

First, they can intervene if their own customers are switching to a competitor’s products or services. In the same vein, they can reach out to a competitor’s audience who is dissatisfied and shopping around for a new brand. Brands can also target more frequent shoppers for special holiday offers and sales.

Get Creative with Consumer Insights

Location data isn’t just about drawing customers to your location – It’s about getting creative and finding ways to meet your customers where they are. Dominos launched their outdoor hotspots service in 2018, showing how location intelligence can be used to give customers a convenient new way to interact with brands. Dominos customers began ordering pizza from beaches, parks, and other hotspots.

Aside from reaching customers where they are, brands can learn about their needs and interests based on where they go and why. Discover what types of stores certain demographics prefer, or how far they’ll travel to a competitor’s store. These detailed insights can help fill in the gaps and complete the story of your target audience.

With the vast majority now owning smartphones, location data is quickly becoming ubiquitous. Whether it’s GPS, weather reports, local news, or app-based delivery services, most mobile users are already benefitting from location data.

Because data is now being shared so rapidly and at such scale, it’s important for companies to make sure insights are being accessed ethically. This means taking proper security precautions and ensuring user data remains anonymous. This will undoubtedly be an ongoing conversation as businesses and consumers navigate new territory in information sharing. If companies harness data responsibly and with consumer privacy in mind, it will be a win-win for all.

The Evolution of Black Friday: From In-Store to Online

Black Friday falls on November 29th this year. With the renowned shopping holiday just four days away, we’re looking back on Black Fridays past — drawing predictions and analyzing the bigger story behind this annual gold mine for retailers.

Black Friday in Review

The term “Black Friday” first appeared in 1869, the day of an epic stock market crash in the US. Clearly, the term has done a 180, now signifying the opposite of economic collapse as consumers gear up for some of their biggest purchases of the year.

The day following Thanksgiving has been associated with shopping since the 1930s, when advertisements in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade enticed growing crowds of onlookers on the streets of New York City. Fast forward to today, and Black Friday is now an internationally observed day of spending.

Black Friday 2018: From In-Store to Online

Black Friday has gotten a makeover in the information age as retailers notice shifting consumer trends and try to keep up. Unsurprisingly, the most notable of these trends is the popularity of online shopping and how fast it’s growing.

Research shows that in-store Black Friday traffic has been declining since 2016. But thanks to ecommerce, that doesn’t mean dwindling profits for retailers.

Black Friday 2018 raked in 6.2 billion in online sales, a growth of 23.6 percent year over year.” And the kicker: Cyber Monday yielded $7 billion worth of merchandise soldmaking it the largest online shopping day of all time in the U.S.”

One source showed that smartphone sales reached an all-time high of $2 billion, and more shoppers chose to buy online and pick up in-store than in previous years. source

Of course, many shoppers want to avoid the chaos, crowds, and long lines to shop deals from the comfort of their home – but how exactly are they shopping online?

On Cyber Monday 2018, direct website traffic ranked highest for driving revenue at 25.3 percent share of sales, followed by paid search at 25.1 percent, natural search at 18.8 percent, and email at 24.2 percent. Similar to past years, social media continued to have minimal impact on online sales at a 1.1 percent share.

Large retailers, on average, had more success with smartphone sales, while small retailers offering more specific items did better with desktop sales.

All of this data brings us to the fundamental question: Is Cyber Monday slowly phasing out Black Friday? Aside from Cyber Monday, we’re seeing other trends that draw focus away from shopping on Black Friday itself.

Black Friday 2019: What’s in Store

In the past, not waking up early to brave the crowds meant missing out on deals. But ecommerce has changed the game, providing easier ways to buy.

Some suspect that 2019 may be the first year Cyber Monday deals overshadow Black Friday deals.

The likelihood of trend continuing is high, considering how web shoppers aren’t really missing out on anything. Historically, it’s been shown that most supposed in-store only deals are actually online too. source

Along with Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday has also gained significant traction in recent years to encourage consumers to not forget about small businesses. In addition, big brands like Best Buy and Walmart have already started announcing deals the week before Black Friday. The Kohl's online Black Friday sale is already underway as of today (November 25th).

With all of this hype leading up to Black Friday and after it, the holiday is quickly extending into a full week.

“As stores moved their Black Friday Sales on Thanksgiving Day, they faced a backlash. To avoid the backlash, more and more stores are moving their sale online on Thanksgiving Day by still keeping their physical stores closed. As a result, Thanksgiving Day is emerging as one of the main days for online shopping. The Wednesday or more specifically Thanksgiving Eve has also emerged as another time when several stores start their Black Friday Sale.” source

This brings us to another fundamental question: will Black Friday eventually expand into a month-long series of deals and discounts?

Both consumers and businesses are reverberating this pattern as more shoppers report starting their holiday shopping in October. It’s also not uncommon for retailers to start advertising their Black Friday week deals in October.

Data Drives Retail Decisions

Data allows businesses of any size to take maximum advantage and forecast the best Black Friday results. There are several ways retailers are already doing this.

For big brands, using the prior year’s Black Friday data to prepare and make predictions for this year is standard practice. With more in-depth analysis, businesses can also identify the most in-demand products so they know what deals to offer. Tracking revenue also helps businesses aim higher each year and know what decisions helped them achieve that lift.

Machine learning helps brands predict how much a customer will spend using deep neural networks. These networks take unstructured data sets and comb through layers of information. Just as Netflix offers recommendations based on a customer’s unique views, businesses can offer specific products to customers who are most likely to want them. By experimenting with different models, data scientists can extract precise information that gives brands the best chance of success – and on a holiday like Black Friday, that can have a major impact on revenue.

Black Friday Prep for Small Businesses

If you’re offering Black Friday deals, there’s lots to do in preparation for the big day. Checking inventory, making sure your site can handle the extra traffic, selecting items to discount, beginning email marketing campaigns, optimizing for mobile buyers, and, of course, tracking your performance.

Studies show that retargeted ads are hugely impactful for Black Friday sales. “Apps running retargeting enjoy a significant revenue uplift on Black Friday compared to those that don’t. The gap was most pronounced in the US, with a staggering 14 times difference.” source

Whether you’re a Black Friday fan or not, it’s useful to observe the digital trends that have transformed the holiday over the years. It’s these same trends that are influencing small business sales both on and offline.

To Infinity On Demand! Data Is Driving The Way We Consume Content

Back in August of 2017, Disney announced that it would be pulling all of its content from online streaming services like Netflix to focus on its own streaming platform. The wait is over; the on demand entertainment platform Disney+ launched just last week. It’s an exclusive streaming service with hundreds of films and thousands of episodes worth of Disney content – all ad-free for $6.99 per month. Subscribers can watch classics, new releases, Disney+ originals, and content from Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic.

Founded in 1923, Disney is a rare example of brand sustainability, still blazing a trail nearly ten decades since it was established. From the conception of Mickey Mouse in 1928, to the creation of Disneyland in 1955 and Disney World in 1965, the company has shown it can keep pace and entertain its audience year after year.


Platforms like Netflix and Hulu were some of the first big disruptors of the streaming market. What does the future of entertainment look like with a data-driven, on demand video streaming market?

Content Consumption is Changing

In the past, far fewer options existed for how we consumed media. People watched sporting events, shows, and movies on cable from their home television when they were on, and if they missed out, that was that. They couldn’t watch later at their convenience on their phones or tablets.

As we transition into the age of on demand, multi-device streaming services, the way we consume content is also changing. Where, when, and how consumers view content is dictated by their own in-the-moment preferences rather than whatever happens to be on.

What does this mean for modern brands that want to evolve and align with these changes?

Becoming Compatible with Change

Not every business is in the on demand entertainment industry, yet content consumption is at the forefront of every brand’s marketing strategy. We all know there’s a graveyard of brands that have failed to adapt to these advances in technology over the past few decades.

Disney+ is another great example of how Disney is staying compatible with change. It’s compatible with most popular streaming devices like Amazon Fire TV, Android TV boxes, Apple TV, iPhones, and PlayStation 4.

By not keeping pace with broad trends and changes, brands become outliers – using outdated and obsolete channels that consumers have largely abandoned. Ultimately, it means that consumers will skip over your content as they become more accustomed to newer, faster, and simpler ways of consuming their favorite media.

Where You Communicate


From old Mickey cartoons on film reels to VHS classics, DVDs, and now on demand streaming, Disney is no stranger to the art of adaptation. As content mediums come and go, the company has remained relevant and present on each important medium as it rose to popularity.

It’s no secret that the mediums brands use to publish content are largely dictated by technological advancements – and those happen fast. What was big 15 years ago might now be considered vintage. 

Aside from TV and movie streaming services, we see the consumption of music and podcasts radically changing too. Platforms like Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music provide millions of songs and episodes at your fingertips.

This also means new challenges for advertisers as ad-free internet streaming platforms like YouTube Premium are established.

How You Communicate

It’s easy for smaller businesses to assume that data analytics is only useful for mega-brands like Disney. But analyzing content consumption trends doesn’t have to be done on a massive scale, or with a million-dollar budget.

“While big data provides top-level trends, small data helps companies to connect with consumers on a more intimate level, including marketing to them on a more localized and personal level.” - Sergey Bludov

Businesses creating all types of content now use data to analyze key performance indicators to decide not only where to reach people, but what people want to hear about. These insights allow brands to map out how they present their brand story and what the content production process entails for them.

Better, Faster, Stronger

With the promise of 5G cellular networks in the near future, it will only become easier to stream content anywhere, anytime. Consumers will always gravitate to what’s simpler, faster, more affordable, and more convenient.

The where, when, and how of content consumption has radically shifted, but the why remains the same. Your customers are still looking for that personal touch - entertainment, education, or whatever it is you uniquely offer.

The question is: How will you communicate your brand’s message now?

AI Has Arrived: What Can It Do For You?

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer the next big thing. It is now a big thing in digital marketing.” - Richa Pathak

From young startups to large corporations, companies are reaching for AI-powered marketing tools that make life easier. From better marketing campaigns to smarter advertising, predictive analytics and AI-based automation are already transforming how marketers work.

Many companies have barely had time to recover from the rise of data analytics that turned day-to-day operations on its head. But there’s no time to waste as AI emerges to the forefront with an even more impressive set of capabilities for small business. 

A Quiet Arrival

One of the most interesting things about AI is how it can be so seamlessly integrated into our lives – often without us even knowing it. According to a 2016 survey by HubSpot, many people didn’t know they were using AI when they actually were. Another 2019 study showed similar findings – that the majority of those surveyed were already using AI-powered tools or devices and didn’t realize it. 

Illuminating Customer Needs

The focal point of every successful marketing strategy is meeting a need. To do this, digital marketers must understand customer motivation – what matters to them? Knowing your customer’s needs is about as easy as mind-reading. Often, the educated guesses and assumptions businesses make turn out to be surprisingly false. 

Social listening is one strategy that has become more popular as businesses recognize its importance. AI tools are helping businesses keep their finger on the pulse of what customers are saying about their brand on social media. In addition, some AI tools are now able to use past industry trends to predict what customers might want in the near future. What’s better than a brand that knows what its customers want before they even express interest?

Confidence in Strategy

Perhaps the most coveted thing AI offers business owners is peace of mind - knowing that their marketing strategy wasn’t chosen haphazardly. Instead, strategic decisions are based purely on statistical findings about customer behavior - what worked and what didn’t. And as these findings inevitably shift, businesses will be aware and able to shift their strategy along with them. 

The value of analytics is that businesses can start to recognize surface-level patterns that lead to even deeper knowledge about how, when, and where to interact with customers. One of the limitations of things like customer surveys is that often, people aren’t sure why the prefer one thing or another. AI takes human error out of the equation and shows what customers reliably do and how companies can meet them where they are. Whether it's making changes to the website, choosing new content marketing topics, or redesigning a social media campaign, AI provides key insights for improvement.

A Restructured Workspace

Marketing and analytics departments are currently taxed with the burden of managing data – reviewing reports, crunching numbers, and figuring out what it all means. Imagine if technology handled more of these complex tasks, freeing up entire marketing teams to get creative and dream up new ideas. This is just what Chief Data Officer Dale Lovell is proposing:

There’s just too much data in many ways for the human mind to process. So you could either hire a thousand people in your team — which is not scalable — or you could use an AI tool to help create insights that inform your marketing and effectively lets marketers do what they do best which is be creative.

He also eases workers’ fears about being replaced by AI technology, saying that jobs will instead change and become more specific. Instead of a marketing professional having a broad range of overwhelming tasks, they will have a specialty area to focus in. 

Ecommerce Chatbots

Another facet of the AI revolution is its implications for online stores. Customers are apparently far more open to chatbots than many initially expected. 47% of HubSpot survey respondents said they would be comfortable getting assistance from a chatbot that gave personal product recommendations. A Ubisend report also found that 40% of respondents wanted to receive special offers and sale notifications from chatbots.

While many businesses have already employed basic customer service chatbots on their websites, AI enhancements would take it a step further to provide each shopper with a more customized experience. Brands like Sephora, eBay, and H&M have already popularized this technology, using simple questions to guide customers to the precise products they’re seeking. Companies can rest assured that customers may ask questions and have problems solved by AI 24 hours a day rather than waiting to reach a real person.

Already a billion-dollar industry, the predicted growth rates for AI in business are striking. As far as how many companies are using AI now, estimates vary widely from source to source. But one thing is for sure: Adoption rates are skyrocketing. A Gartner survey of more than 3,000 CIOs from around the world revealed a 270% jump in AI adoption from 2015 to 2019.

And of course, it goes without saying that businesses must learn how to use AI responsibly, thoroughly testing any tools they use from a UX lens. Brands can shape this new technology in ways that feel helpful rather than intrusive for consumers who are on the fence about AI.

For business owners looking to get started, Entrepreneur recommends looking at industry-specific use cases to see how different platforms work. Talk to companies who’ve already integrated AI, try out demos, and explore the options. There is no one right way to implement such a multi-faceted tool, so it’s crucial for business leaders to get clear on their goals. 

NBA Season Kicks Off With New Data Insights

The 2019-2020 NBA season kicked off on October 22, and all eyes are on big performers like Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George. With a new distribution of superstar players on teams like the Lakers and the Clippers, it’s likely to be one of the most competitive seasons we’ve seen in years. Not only are there changes in player-to-player dynamics, but in fan-to-team dynamics.

In the early days of the NBA, data analytics was still in its infancy. Today, there’s not a single NBA team that doesn’t use this technology in some way, with most teams having an analytics department. Whether it’s galvanizing fans to attend a pivotal game, buy merchandise, or check out the latest game recap, data analytics informs NBA teams in how to best engage their fanbase. How did the NBA transition from rarely using data, to it being an integral piece in the marketing process? 

Personalized Email Marketing

Remarkably, statistics show that less than 1% of NBA fans have attended a game in person. This problem isn’t totally unique to the NBA, as estimates have shown dwindling attendance at MLB games in recent years. Meanwhile, the NFL has been slowly working its way back up to its 2007 attendance rates. Outside the U.S, a similar downward trend in attendance was seen for other sports like rugby. 
Has a sports engagement problem prevented fans from filling seats in their local arenas? The answer seems to be a clear yes. But as NBA teams share the results of implementing data marketing, it seems this problem can easily be rectified with the right insights.

Jared Geurts, Senior Director of Marketing Analytics for the Utah Jazz spoke openly about how the franchise made some simple changes that led to a 61% increase in digital revenue and a 42% decrease in digital spending.

Ticket sales exploded from $25,000 to nearly $1 million – strictly revenue earned from email campaigns. In the years prior, the team would send out general emails to all fans in order to sell tickets and bolster engagement. The only change they made? A bit of data-driven personalization. They segmented fans into different interest groups, such as those who prefer weekend games, and tailored email campaigns accordingly. This created a more authentic connection with fans as their specific interests were heard.

“We’ve actually, by quite a large margin, been the best team at converting new leads. That wasn’t the case before we really started focusing on personalizing those ads,” Geurts explained. “Just from some simple personalization and caring more about our customers than what we want to sell.”

Personalized Experiences at the Game

Another exciting development in NBA trends is how analytics is generating insights about fans while they’re at a game. By knowing more about who is showing up for games, teams are beginning to create interactive experiences that appeal to the demographics in the building. As Deloitte notes, something like requesting a song or earning rewards after a certain number of trips to a concession stand helps fans feel like they’re not only at a game, but part of the collective experience. Much like email campaigns, stadium screens are becoming more personalized as well. Fans sitting in certain sections may see different promotions based on who they are/what group they are in attendance with. 

Drawing Outsiders Back In

Data insights from sports apps may even help teams reach those elusive fans who’ve yet to attend a game or haven’t attended in many months. With the right targeting, it can be just a reminder these fans need to remember they’ve been wanting to attend a live game. By forging partnerships with apps and offering special deals to fans on those apps, teams build a promising bridge for connecting with fans on the fringe.

Giving Fans More Details

NBA Engagement Channels

Relying on new technology has changed things for both fans and players. It’s not a new practice to rest high-performing players as certain points in the season. Yet, fans have been much more vocal about their disappointment on social media in not seeing their favorite players at the games they attend.

“Analytics have become front and center with precisely when players are rested, how many minutes they get, who they’re matched up against,” said NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

Teams are also using analytics through biometrics and wearables to determine when players are becoming fatigued and may need rest. Silver mentions the delicate balance of upholding their obligation to fans, while simultaneously keeping star players in the best health possible. 

In addition to fan engagement, Silver told interviewer Daniel Pink that analytics are now used for scouting new players, generating more detailed game stats, and even aiding players in improving their game on the court. Data also allows players to prepare for games with detailed stats about the opposing players they’ll be covering. With so much room for perfecting and maximizing success both on the court and in the stands, the sky is the limit for NBA teams implementing data analytics this season. - Data, Marketing & Automation

Driven by Data or Lost in the Details?

5 Questions that Matter in Marketing

From the advent of the data age, businesses have struggled to harness new technology to make data-driven marketing decisions. From lead conversion to better ROI, and now customer engagement, marketers are eager to make use of the power data has endowed them with.

Every modern company aspires to be ‘data-driven.’ The problem is, achieving this coveted label isn’t so simple. With new power comes new complications – keeping data clean, separating facts from assumptions, tracking the right metrics, and choosing appropriate platforms and tools, just to name a few.

So how can businesses know if they’re truly data-driven or getting stuck in the various pitfalls of wielding unfamiliar technology? While the details vary for each business, a few simple questions can provide clarity.

1) Is a cross-channel strategy employed and is it getting results?

Most businesses know they need to reach out to their audience through multiple online channels. The easy part is creating accounts and having a presence on all of these relevant channels. The hard part is creating cohesion between them. A cross-channel strategy accomplishes two valuable objectives: It ushers customers smoothly from one step of the marketing funnel to the next, and it amplifies the impact and message of the overall marketing strategy.

A cross-channel strategy that is employed correctly will strengthen brand recognition and help customers remember specifically what it has to offer. A business without a cross- channel strategy ends up with choppier communications and a value proposition that lacks unity.

2) Is data being collected and analyzed in silos?

What happens when the findings of one dataset contradict another? How can marketers avoid comparing apples to oranges or drawing conclusions based on data that is too limited and specific? Ultimately, collecting and analyzing data on several separate platforms increases confusion and makes it harder to create a cross-channel strategy that makes sense. Platforms that allow for a centralized data hub give a broader perspective of the health of a business’ marketing efforts. These platforms also increase communication and collaboration between team members who should all be accessing the same data reports.

Fortunately, data silos are a problem that businesses are making great strides in solving –

According to a recent study by Teradata, “43 percent of respondents said they have achieved fully integrated data across teams, compared with just 18 percent in 2013.”

3) Is data being analyzed and action being taken?

It sounds all too obvious, but even highly developed marketing teams can get caught up in the chase – that is, collecting data endlessly as if collection is the goal itself. In addition, companies can easily lapse into using data strictly in hindsight, looking back at past results to understand what already happened. This neglects the bigger purpose of data, which is to forecast, improve future outcomes, and prevent problems. It’s crucial for businesses to stay focused on answering the right questions with data rather than endlessly collecting larger and larger pools of data. Bigger is not always better – especially if the ‘why’ behind the project grows hazier as the data size increases. If data is collected and analyzed successfully, but no clear information can be learned from it, it’s a red flag that marketers need to go back to the drawing board. Even the most skilled data analysts with precise conclusions won’t make an impact if decision-makers don’t head their advice.

4) Is testing central to how the organization operates?

At the heart of every data-driven organization is testing. Whether its split testing two versions of an ad campaign, swapping email subject lines, or anything else, a data-driven company tests whatever has an unknown outcome. A large corporation with several product lines might run dozens of marketing tests per day to pinpoint optimal ways to reach customers.
This testing culture is born from the realization that there is always another way to tweak, streamline, and optimize processes for best results. Thus data-driven organizations embrace testing as a means of continually growing their reach, understanding customers more intimately, and increasing revenue. As predictions are made about inventory, sales, or marketing, companies can later look back to assess the accuracy of these predictions and make changes to improve.

5) Where is most of the time spent?

A good rule of thumb is that marketers should be spending less time on data collection and reporting, and more time using those insights to create change. According to Hubspot, wasted time can be reduced by making small changes, such as automatically updating reports daily. Simplifying the data collection and reporting process makes space for data analysts to spend more time on what matters - generating thoughtful insights and using the information to solve problems. Companies must have sufficient time to reflect on the bigger picture underneath their data - What is the deeper meaning and why are these patterns playing out?

Ultimately, a business is only data-driven if it takes consistent action based on definitive findings. For that to happen, a business needs to have sound data collection and analytical capabilities. In addition, being able to segment datasets without going too far as to create silos is critical.

This delicate dance of using data intelligently isn’t easy, but for the persistent marketer, it pays off in spades. A data-driven company is a company that knows the health of its customer-base, where its revenue is coming from, and what marketing decisions to make next. Businesses no longer need to leave these immensely important choices to chance. With data, there can be certainty, and with certainty, peace of mind.

Marketing Automation - And So Should You!

Data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers, six times as likely to retain those customers, and 19 times as likely to be profitable as a result. - McKinsey Global Institute 

In the simplest terms, marketing automation includes any tools or platforms that automate marketing tasks, manage data across various channels, and allow for data analysis over time. Automation tools don’t just make life easier for companies – but more importantly, they revolutionize the experience for their customers.

A Forrester study estimates that by 2023, annual spending on automation tools will more than double. That’s $25.1 billion spent annually by 2023.

But with all this money flowing out, many organizations aren’t trained in using automation technology – let alone understanding its long-term capabilities.

One survey revealed that 58% of marketers reported they were struggling to find efficient strategies to make use of automation tools. In other words, they have the power, but not the expertise to wield it.

While we’re well on our way to transforming UX through data-driven decision-making, a vast learning curve lies ahead. Data and automation can strengthen customer relationships, increase marketing ROI, and save time and energy. This is the untapped potential of technology and the future of business.

What Can Businesses Do with Automation?

Asking what businesses can do with automation is like asking what someone can do with a computer. There are limitless options.

When it comes to marketing, there are several areas that directly benefit from automation now - customer relationship management, social media, email marketing, landing pages, and lead generation to name a few.

To be more specific, let’s say you want to segment your email lists into geographic groups. Or send an email to everyone who purchased a specific product. Or remember to follow up automatically with customer support issues. Maybe you want to send out product recommendations periodically without having to remember, or retarget leads who recently visited your site in a timely manner.

Individually, these tasks are simple enough, but altogether, they can take hours and create significant confusion. Furthermore, without the data to review your past results, it can be nearly impossible to tell whether performance is improving in any given area.

In this sense, we can look at automation as a means of taking radical responsibility for your marketing processes (without the headache). It’s the difference between uncertainty/unease and confident scalable marketing that generates measurable results.

What Can Businesses Expect from Automation Platforms?

Automation is one thing – You can automate in simple ways on platforms like Facebook and Hootsuite. But bring together automation and integration for an exponentially more efficient, data-driven, marketing program. One of the best things about a solid automation system is that it brings all your other tools together in one place.

Let’s look at Salesforce as an example. This platform takes a CRM approach, fusing sales, marketing, and customer service so your whole company has a 360-degree view of the user experience for each individual – not just your userbase as a whole. Salesforce knows that personalization is paving the future of successful business. It’s a highly customizable platform that can adapt as your business grows or changes course.

Hubspot is another great example of a platform that allows you to streamline all marketing tasks from one central command center. Using workflows, companies can manage email lists, send internal notifications, select conditions and triggers for automatic personalized emails. Imagine the free time that opens up for a team whose lead generation strategy is set to autopilot – tasks are handled in a uniform manner and nothing falls through the cracks from the inevitable human error.

Getting Started with Marketing Automation

Before even researching tools and technology, it’s important to gain as much clarity as you can.

The first step is likely the easiest - reviewing your current marketing strategy, tech stack, and their shortcomings. Identifying the weak spots or difficult aspects of running your business is probably obvious for you and/or your marketing team. You already have an idea of what’s not getting results, or what’s really time-consuming and laborious. Having this knowledge front and center as you search for marketing solutions will help guide your decisions. It will also keep you from drifting in too many different directions as you explore the endless possibilities these platforms offer.

Next is a step you’ve probably heard often: Have a goal. Plunging into automation technology without a goal is just like plunging in without knowing your specific weak spots – How will you know what choices to make? Your goal may be as broad as nurturing leads or as specific as generating 100 new subscribers per month. In any case, you’ll be better able to analyze your data for effectiveness when you know what results you’re looking for.

Finally, your automation tools are only as effective as the people who use them. Training your team to step outside their comfort zones and learn new marketing technologies will round out your results. This means working to eliminate silos between departments like marketing, sales, and IT. Strategic decisions that allow all team members to play a role, or at least be in-the-know about the company’s automation tools with create cohesion. Automation platforms are a great way to foster a culture of centralized data, collaboration, and clearer communication which creates cohesion within the organization.

Ready to dive in and learn more about data and automation for small business? Read more on the blog or get in touch to start optimizing your marketing ROI.