Data will drive every decision brands make

We've seen a growing amount of complexity within the digital space in recent years; new mobile devices, new technologies such as virtual reality, the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), major breakthroughs in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and an increasing adaptation of machine learning across industries. With all that in mind, it's clear that 2017 will be even more challenging for marketers than years prior.

While marketers already struggle to connect the dots and make sense of fragmented customer journeys, it'll become paramount to embrace innovation and adapt accordingly. Although there are many uncertainties regarding the latest digital technology, one thing is certain: the by-product of ongoing changes will result in millions of petabytes of data, further complicating the already siloed world of digital marketing.

As such, here's some of the key trends that I believe will become more prominent in 2017:

OVERCOMING FRAGMENTATION

One of the major hurdles in digital marketing is an ongoing identity crisis; data and technology platforms which live in multidimensional silos are contributing to fragmentation and disconnected customer journeys. The only way to tackle this is to unify various technologies and data sources under one roof and use a universal user ID that'll deliver a true single customer view (SCV). Only by breaking those silos will there be room for innovation and growth.

GROWTH OF THE INTERNET OF THINGS (IOT) WILL CONTRIBUTE TO GROWING AMOUNTS OF DATA

The adaptation of IoT - from tiny motion sensors and beacons to smartwatches, smart jewellery and smart homes (such as Google Home or Amazon Echo) - will continue to grow, so we're likely to see more and more products flood the market. This won't just challenge consumer markets, brands will need to start adopting this technology more widely to try to close the offline-online loop (for example using in-store beacons to track customer behaviour). This trend will not only result in more data, but will further result in needing to adjust to accommodate new trends around customer behaviours, such as the wider usage of voiced-controlled devices - which is only set to grow, as ComScore estimates that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be initiated by voice.

MACHINE LEARNING IN DIGITAL MARKETING

As the amount of data grows, help is needed to understand its meaning; while humans are capable of finding patterns, only machine learning algorithms can cope and deliver insights from millions of rows of data and analyse correlations between hundreds of variable points within an instant. While this technology has been in use for some time across search engines, social media giants, the financial industry and the automotive industry, it'll become more prominent in data-driven marketing in 2017. Running machine learning algorithms on first-party collected data will help identify newly identified segments, which otherwise could have gone unnoticed. This technology will also fuel the ongoing trend for personalisation, bringing the most relevant content to the right audience at exactly the right time.

BIG DATA WILL BE EVEN BIGGER

Knowing what customers think, what they want and how they perceive brands will be the cornerstone of how businesses operate in the years ahead. We can measure everything now, but this is hindered if brands aren't data-driven and undergoing constant analysis of the information they hold. In order to succeed, brands will need to adopt new technologies that allow them to take control of their data, and for those insights to fuel all their marketing efforts. To do that, data management platforms (DMPs) can help make sense of vast quantities of data, unify it, segment it and activate it - and I believe we'll see more and more of them enter the marketplace to meet this growing need.

2017 will be an exciting year, where innovation will accelerate drastically to transform brands and how they measure, analyse and use data. While the world of technology is changing rapidly, it's up to brands to stay at the fore of the latest innovations and utilise data-driven insights to deliver what matters to their customers in a way that's more personalised than ever.

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