Artificial Intelligence

The Data-Enabled Digital Marketer: New Tools to Keep Pace with Customers

By Sean Byrnes, CEO, Outlier

How brands interact with customers today is vastly different than how they did in early 2020. 

In a short time, consumers moved from buying from brick-and-mortar stores to digital commerce, often switching brands and relationships in the process. At the same time the data and forecasts used to make decisions before the pandemic became largely irrelevant due to sudden and erratic changes in product and service availability, changes to buying channels and unexpected customer behaviors. This left digital marketers guessing – where do we best apply marketing efforts and spend to hold on to our existing customers or capture new customers during the upheaval?

As a result, more than 80% of marketers made more frequent changes to their marketing strategy in 2020 than they had in prior years, according to a new study. But a majority of marketers made these decisions based on a gut feeling as marketing teams tried to keep up with a swiftly evolving market. This gap is leading to the rise of a new approach to data, digital marketing and decision making.

The ‘New Normal’ Digital Marketer

We’re still not out of the pandemic, but a new approach to staying on top of shifting customer behaviors has emerged.

To accurately and effectively market to customers today requires access to the right data, in near-real-time, from across all stages of the supply chain and customer journey including manufacturing, fulfillment, distribution, retail point-of-sale, eCommerce, web traffic, search, advertising and more. But most company data is still siloed in individual systems. Marketers list this inability to integrate data across multiple sources as the top barrier to effective marketing.

Without the ability to integrate data, teams must sift through dozens of reports to create campaigns and determine marketing effectiveness. And if a campaign fails or doesn’t provide the expected results, discovering why is almost an impossible task.

Although many companies are investing in digital transformation initiatives, it’s also challenging to create one holistic integrated data system to eliminate current data silos and reports. So instead, to overcome these challenges, digital marketers must become data-enabled in their decision-making through other means.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is designed to sift through massive amounts of data without human supervision, and it has emerged as an effective way to reduce many of the barriers to effective marketing. Applied to marketing insights, AI can now empower marketers and data analysts by continually analyzing data and flagging emerging trends in consumer behavior automatically. Even more, it can do this using the data that companies already have, regardless of where that data lives. These AI-enabled analytics platforms deliver automated business analysis (ABA) by connecting with data sources in just minutes, analyzing the data, and then elevating the most important insights in the data that indicate problems, risks or opportunities.

For digital marketers, ABA opens access to true data-driven insights, sheds light on valuable behavioral trends and offers up easy-to-understand reports that focus on actionable information. ABA can help guide marketing team spend and modify strategies in a way that allows brands to meet customers “in the moment.”

Capturing Opportunity

In one example of data-enabled marketing from early in the pandemic, marketers at a leading bath and beauty brand were notified that candle sales were exceeding the typical expected sales volume by their ABA system. The marketing team wasn’t analyzing their thousands of SKUs against expected sales performance individually, so an increase in sales for candles would have normally gone unnoticed. But the ABA platform automatically found this insight and highlighted both the change in behavior and the impact it was having on their business.

As a result, the brand was able to take advantage of this new consumer buying trend. They quickly launched marketing campaigns to promote candles, which increased conversion even further. By being data-enabled, the team could also ensure that inventory levels could align with the new expected sales. Simply by uncovering this trend as it emerged, the brand was able to capture more sales and capitalize on this revenue stream in real time.

This “green shoot” of opportunity is a great example of how a revenue-generating marketing idea was hiding in plain sight but was impossible to find without help from AI technology.

Orchestrating Change with AI

The effects of the pandemic aren’t over, and behaviors that consumers learned or tried over the last two years may persist into the future or continue to evolve. To stay competitive, digital marketing teams must move with precision and speed which requires using data in every decision they make. But they can’t do it alone.

Consumer behaviors and buying preferences may never normalize to the point that going back to the old way of forecasting and planning makes sense. Only with the help of automation and intelligence analytics can digital marketers become data-enabled, break down existing data silos, leverage customer insights in real time and provide data-enabled recommendations. As brands move forward, using smarter tools to identify customer insights automatically will allow them to turn emerging changes in consumer behavior, shifts in consumer demographics and other opportunities into competitive advantages.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.