Wednesday, April 27, 2016

You Need to Add the “Why” of Data to Build New Business

In our Marketing Analytics & Data Science interview series, we are catching up with thought leaders in the industry to hear their take on how to cut through Big Data, the state of data science, how analytics helps build business, the most important marketing metrics today, and the future of marketing.

In our first edition, we sat down with Vicki Draper, Director of Consumer Analytics & Research at Aol. Here’s what Draper had to say:

How do you cut through Big Data to get the real “people analytics”? 

Draper: You need to add the why to move from data to insights - one way to do this is by combining big data findings with primary research data to get at things that big data has trouble measuring by itself, like psychographics and emotion.

How does data science help internal stakeholders inform decisions today?

Draper: I’m on the primary research team so we're often using marketing analytics as a starting place.  For example, from our analytics we’re starting to see the proportion of traffic coming from off-network increase vs on-network. So we start with that and then use primary research to explore the ways we can make that off-network experience as good as possible to get people more engaged with our properties. Another example is all the primary research we've done to uncover insights around how people shop. We have product teams that are using these insights in combination with A/B testing to test emotional engagement metrics as well as transaction metrics to find the best performing experience.         

Why are marketing analytics so important in today’s hyper connected world? 

Draper: On the primary research team, marketing analytics helps us apply what we learn from our primary research by giving us a way to test and learn based on what we see in the real world.

How can data and analytics help build new businesses?  

Draper: It feeds into a virtuous cycle. You can launch a product and start collecting user data which feeds back into your product development cycle so that you can build better products that maximize metrics like time spent and conversions. In our shopping research, we talk a lot about how people use the shopping cart as a wish list or a place to put things that inspire them, even if they are not intending to transact during that session. So even if they don’t transact during the session, there is a high level of brand engagement there which is a good thing. We can then use data science to help discover the triggers that get people to go back to that cart. We can also look to improve the experience with the cart by helping people with the real reason they are putting things in their shopping carts so that we deliver on emotional cues not just utilitarian needs.

What’s the most important metrics, in your opinion?

Draper: It depends on what your objective is, but in the digital space the primary focus is often conversions, while brand metrics are often forgotten or secondary. However, our shopping research shows that people are window shopping online all the time, even if they have no immediate intention of making a purchase. And while they are doing all this window shopping, they are building a reservoir of product knowledge and brand experiences, good or bad so when the time comes to make a purchase they are not starting from square one. Our research shows that the more often people window shop online, the more likely they are to know what brand they’ll buy before they get into the active shopping window. In this environment, it’s important to create deeper brand engagement online and focus on metrics that measure that connection to make sure your brand gets into people’s consideration set before they decide they need to make a purchase.

How can data and analytics help tell a marketing story? 

Draper: As an example, let’s look at content marketing or whatever you’d like to call it – branded content, sponsored content, branded entertainment, or native advertising. We have built a data and insight toolkit for content marketing that informs and/or validates these programs through their entire lifecycle – from guiding strategy to inspiring program development to measuring campaign effectiveness. So, for example, we use our Content Segmentation research findings around why people use and engage with content to inspire our content marketing team to build a creative program that increases consumer engagement for a client. 

Then, we not only measure the effectiveness of that program, we combine the measurement data across all our programs into our Normative Database of campaign effectiveness. Before we built this database, there wasn’t really a standard way to measure these types of programs. We built a methodology that enabled us to hone in on content marketing and understand how exactly these programs have driven brand impact, a primary KPI for many of these programs. Over the past three years, we have measured over 50 programs, 250 marketing activations, and over 45,000 consumer experiences that we’ve collected on behalf of well-known brands spanning many categories. As we ran more of these content marketing campaigns and baked this research into the campaign measurement, we aggregated the data together into a normative database. So data and insights are not only driving better performing programs, but they are also providing proof points for the marketing story through the Normative Database.  

Where do you see marketing going in the next 5 years? 

Draper: Data will be critical to marketing success, and no longer optional. Marketing has already started to combine data with creative, and the power of data will be even more significant in the next 5 years. Also, the relationship between the brand and consumer will no longer be a one-way conversation. More and more branded content will come from consumers as brands give up trying to have complete control over their brand, and will engage with consumers to tell their story. With technology, brands will be able to personalize consumer experiences at scale like never before. Finally, it will be increasingly necessary for brands to think about optimizing towards the things that are important, like connection with the brand, not just the things they can easily measure. 

Want to hear more from Vicki Draper? Attend the Marketing Analytics & Data Science Conference June 8-10 in San Francisco, CA. She will be presenting a session, “The Missing Metrics Link: What Digital KPIs Don't Tell Us About Shopper Behavior.” To learn more about the conference or to register, click here:

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