Marketing and Big Data

Stephen DeAngelis

March 30, 2020

Marketers understand the value of data, but many of them still struggle with challenges associated with big data. Kimberly A. Whitler (@KimWhitler), a former Chief Marketing Officer now working as an Assistant Professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, explains, “Whether it’s accumulating the right data, organizing it so it can be easily analyzed, or being able to extract useful insights, there are a number of challenges that marketers are trying to solve.”[1] Mastering big data challenges in order to increase advertising effectiveness is becoming an imperative. “In a world where people spend more than half their day staring at a screen,” writes Alan Worley (@awpage3), President of 3D Digital, “it’s imperative that businesses use digital marketing to target customers online. Using the right mix of digital marketing tactics can keep your sales funnel full and ensure you always have new customers ready to act. In order to understand how to get a customer to ‘act,’ i.e., buy your product or service, you need to fully understand their journey from the top of the sales funnel to the bottom where the conversion takes place.”[2] Mastering big data challenges and understanding consumers better requires the help of cognitive technologies.


Marketing and cognitive technologies


Kyle Mitnick, Founder and President at Advertise Purple, asserts, “Understanding how artificial intelligence and automation can help propel your business is, in my mind, paramount to staying ahead of the curve as a business leader in today’s society.”[3] He believes cognitive technologies are as important for the world of digital marketing as they are for other economic sectors. He suggests five ways cognitive technologies can benefit digital advertising. They are:


1. Improving decision-making processes and increasing returns on ad spend and investments.
2. Improving margins and bottom-line revenue.
3. Creating optimal campaigns.
4. Discovering new optimization opportunities.
5. Buffering anticipated seasonal trends.


He cautions, “Applying AI and machine learning to the fabric of your business is not something to take lightly.” Good analytic results begin with good data. As Whitler noted, one of the challenges marketers struggle with is accumulating the right data. Joey Liner (@joeyliner), Chief Revenue Officer at Digital Media Solutions, explains, “While the increase in available user data is a luxury for digital marketers, it also means consumers may expect personalized content based on information stored. For marketers, the strategy should not be to collect every piece of data out there, but rather to collect high-priority, valuable data and use it well.”[4]


The purpose of advertising, of course, is to encourage consumers to purchase goods and/or services. It helps to know what they are looking for at the time they are looking. This is often referred to as behavioral marketing. Worley explains, “Behavioral marketing a great way to target potential customers and draw them into your sales funnel.” He insists, “A mix of two main tactics under the behavioral marketing umbrella can yield very strong results.” Those strategies are:


Strategy 1. Targeted display. Worley writes, “As the name suggests, it displays content that targets users who are potential customers. Instead of going after a pre-determined segment of people however, potential customers are targeted by their online behavior. Businesses can target people based on their keyword searches or even serve them messages on their devices after they walk into a set physical location using geo-fences.”


Strategy 2. Retargeting. “Unlike targeted display that will target anyone who visits a specific geographic location or matches certain keyword searches, retargeting will only go after those who have already visited your website which means going after people who have already shown an interest in you. … If a person adds items to the shopping cart on your website but doesn’t complete the purchase, he or she can be targeted with ads encouraging them to make the purchase.”


Liner asserts, “Consumers’ changing habits are at the forefront of digital advertising and marketing trends and are driving a significant impact on the direction of the industry.”[4] Keeping up with changing consumer behavior is impossible without leveraging cognitive technologies. Whitler explains, “Companies today are more often than not starting with the data and seeing what they find. It’s equivalent to finding a needle in a haystack. Start with the business drivers, the fundamentals and the strategy, and work backwards to figure out the best data sets that uncover the insights you need to help steer your direction. The technology that is allowing us to understand big data is great, but only when it’s paired with domain expertise does its true value really come through.”


Big data challenges


Some of the biggest challenges facing digital marketing and personalization, are consumer fatigue, stringent new personal data privacy laws, and the potential end of cookies. Tiffany Hsu (@tiffkhsu) reports, “People are growing weary of the constant stream of alerts on their phones and struggling to make it through a meal without checking their screens. They’re worried about being tracked. They have tech neck, and it hurts. … A new study that tracked how 2,444 Americans used their mobile devices over 14 months backs up the general sense of tech fatigue.”[5] Hsu adds, “The advertising industry is already nervous about a landmark privacy law in California that could limit the flow of data it uses to target consumers. And concerns about malware and the accuracy of audience measurement tools have dogged mobile marketing for years.” Now Google has announced it plans to eliminate third-party cookies from its Chrome browser by 2022. Sara Morrison (@SaraMorrison) and Rani Molla (@ranimolla) insist, “[This] is bad news for many digital advertisers.”[6] They add, “With its ad revenue partially dependent on third-party cookies and considering the upheaval this change will create throughout the digital ad ecosystem, Google is giving everyone two years to figure things out before it implements this change. Experts hope this will lead to a better and less intrusive ad ecosystem.” These changes should cause marketers to rethink how they are going manage digital marketing in the years ahead. They may have to use different data sources to understand consumers than they have in the past. Cognitive technologies will undoubtedly help. For example, the Enterra Shopper Marketing and Consumer Insights Intelligence System™ can leverage all types of consumer data to provide high-dimensional consumer, retailer, and marketing insights.


Concluding thoughts


Liner concludes, “The outbound ‘spray and pray’ approach just does not work anymore. Whether they’re in advertising or telemarketing, marketers should have a strategy and toolset to adapt to changes in consumer habits. Marketers must give the power to the consumer to engage with brands in the forum and on the device of their choice, on their time.” He’s correct; however, marketers may be feeling the earth shift beneath their feet just as they are gaining a solid footing in digital advertising. Jim Misener, President of the creative agency 50,000feet, told Hsu, “For marketers, there’s a tension between the recognition of [privacy] needs, and the need to address demands for personalized, customized experiences. You want to build awareness while decreasing annoyance.” Not an easy task, now or in the future.


[1] Kimberly A. Whitler, “Stop Focusing On Big Data And Start Focusing On Smart Data,” Forbes, 20 August 2019.
[2] Alan Worley, “How the right digital marketing mix can fill your sales funnel,” Jacksonville Business Journal, 4 November 2019.
[3] Kyle Mitnick, “Five Ways Artificial Intelligence And Machine Learning Can Benefit Digital Marketers,” Forbes, 8 January 2020.
[4] Joey Liner, “Digital Advertising And Marketing Strategies For Reaching The Modern Customer,” Forbes, 5 September 2019.
[5] Tiffany Hsu, “Your Digital Detox May Be Toxic for Advertising,” The New York Times, 5 January 2020.
[6] Sara Morrison and Rani Molla, “Google Chrome’s cookie ban is good news for Google — and maybe your privacy,” Recode, 16 January 2020.