Analytics in 2016

Moving to the Head of the Class

This is part three of our digital marketing predictions for 2016 series.

As we expect to see with content marketing and automation, 2016 will be the year that the field of analytics truly grows up and earns a seat at more than one proverbial table. Analytics and business intelligence will mesh with everything from marketing and sales to product design and financial forecasting. This will not only encourage but demand institutional changes in both technology and culture. These developments in business intelligence mean:

1. Measurement is no longer the last step.

Brands that only use analytics for reporting will find themselves left behind. This linear approach to marketing, where measurement lives only at the end of a campaign, is being phased out. Successful brands will use analytics as a tool to inform strategy from the start. Competition in the evolving digital landscape will require analytics planning and strategy to map out business goals, methods to track those goals and a strategy to use this data to more efficiently meet those goals.

2. True insight will require data blending and integration.

Big insights come from connecting data sets originating from paid, earned, owned and shared media with behavioral, demographic and sales data. Although the idea of integrating 1st party data with 2nd and 3rd party data is not a new concept, it will become a more obtainable goal than ever before through advances in technology (see image “Temperature vs Interest in Restaurants Chicago” for an example of data integration). Brands that take the time to blend data from a variety of sources like Google Analytics, social media, marketing automation and CRM systems will uncover the big picture and a competitive advantage in predictive analytics.

Image source: searchengineland.com

The trend toward data integration reflects a larger marketing trend: the elimination of silos. Eliminating silos is no longer a technical issue so much as a cultural one. Finding a way to align an organization into cross-functional teams that share data and then actually act on it will transform smart brands into well-oiled sales and marketing machines.

3. Data visualization will tell a story that everyone can read.

Data visualization is the graphical representation of data to make trends and patterns easier to detect. Advancements in technology have made the application of data visualization both obtainable and affordable. Emerging tools like Tableau, Plotly and Sisense allow marketers to tell rich stories with data that are engaging and simple for users to understand.

A famous example of how data visualization helped to make a solution obvious is John Snow’s now famous Cholera map, recreated here with modern visualization tools. Snow used a map to plot deaths from Cholera during an 1854 London outbreak, revealing a correlation between deaths and proximity to a particular water pump. This map led to the discovery of an underground cesspit leaking into the well and contaminating the water source under the pump. Snow added chlorine to the water and removed the handle to the water pump, effectively ending the outbreak. Snow’s use of the scientific method to integrate data visualization and demographic data dramatically advanced the field of epidemiology.

New technology has lead to the burgeoning and creative field of data visualization and the birth of a brand new category of transcendent content, data storytelling. Here is an example of a data story covering “The Year in News 2015” gleaned from the analysis of 459.9 million Twitter mentions across more than 150 trending topics.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 11.10.41 AM

Starting with an analytics plan and integrating intelligence with each step of a marketing or business process can truly transform a brand. With data processing and visualization technology going mainstream, reporting will transcend quarterly screenshots and spreadsheets. Designing custom dashboards and visualizations for the audience that will view them ensures decision makers across multiple departments have access to the real-time insights they need to make informed decisions.

In 2016, remember that every data point is an opportunity to use analytics to improve the customer experience, business efficiencies and as a result, profitability.

 

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