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Marketing Analytics and the Use of Unstructured Data to Improve Performance

by Lyndsay WiseFriday, September 21, 2007

Sales and marketing efforts are the backbone of an organization. To drive sales, marketing initiatives are executed, and to plan marketing campaigns, sales are analyzed. The connection of both requires the proper management of information, the analysis of that information and the execution of marketing campaigns based on the results. Although organizations spend a lot of time and money within these areas, as the market evolves to include advanced analytics, organizations have to move beyond traditional forms of marketing analytics toward incorporating unstructured data analysis as well. But how do organizations do this and what are the real benefits?

This article answers the above questions by explaining the current applications of marketing analytics and how they are applied within the framework of business intelligence. Practical examples of marketing analytics are highlighted, including how Web analytics are being used to allow organizations to benchmark current applications. And, mainly, the use of unstructured data to increase an organization’s competitive intelligence will be explored in order to tie the benefits of unstructured data use to marketing management activities.

Marketing analytics explored

Whether best of breed or within BI, marketing analytics enables organizations to answer key questions that are directly tied to increasing sales and to expanding market share. These include:

  • Who are my customers?
  • What is the lifetime value of my customers?
  • Who are my competitors?
  • How am I performing against my competitors?
  • What can I do to improve and to optimize my position within the market?
  • What am I missing?

Aside from best of breed marketing analytics offerings, many business intelligence vendors offer marketing analytics as a module within their overall BI suites. For instance, MicroStrategy offers marketing analytics capabilities within its customer analytics solutions to enable marketers to plan and manage targeted campaigns. Other vendors, such as Cognos, Business Objects, and Oracle (Hyperion) offer specialized marketing analytics functionality to help analyze market opportunities, competitive positioning, campaign success, etc. One of the benefits of using BI for managing an organization’s marketing initiatives is the ability to get a 360 degree view of the organization. This means that aside from analyzing external information about the general market, web traffic analysis, and consumer buying patterns, internal information such as customer data and how it links to sales and product information can be accessed to build a marketing strategy.

Using the Web as an example

Using Web analytics as an example of an application within marketing analytics offers a potent demonstration of how analytics can be used to drive successful marketing initiatives. Organizations can use the Internet in two ways (actually three if unstructured data is entered into the equation – which will be discussed subsequently) in treating marketing analytics:

  1. To disseminate reports and to provide access to employees across geographic boundaries. Information portals have expanded to include mobile technologies and access to BI via blackberries and cell phones. Analytics can be accessed from any location allowing employees who work in the field to combine their immediate marketing requirements, whether at a planning meeting, in a store, or at a client site, with real-time analytics that give direct access to KPIs and to reports designed to analyze success of current and past marketing campaigns. For example, an organization can use this technique when identifying the effect of marketing initiatives based on geography and how it is tied to Web site traffic and sales conversion.
  2. Through Web analytics that are used to analyze the success of online marketing campaigns and Web sites. This is accomplished by identifying Web site traffic, monitoring advertising clicks versus conversion rates, recognizing the effectiveness of campaigns and keywords used to generate traffic, and connecting demographics information with products and services. In B2C organizations, the advanced usage of Web analytics can be seen in the way organizations will up-sell products through suggestions based on previous buying habits or by identifying what consumers have purchased in addition to the selected product and suggesting that product to the customer. Additionally, retailers will email directed campaigns to potential customers drawing them to their site or to a physical location.

Overall, the Internet has become a main focus of corporate marketing initiatives. Consumers and organizations alike are conducting daily activities online and developing into an ample audience for online marketers. With the increasing buzz surrounding social media, the perceptions of customers and information about organizations are discussed at length in blogs, podcasts, editorials, etc. Consequently, the ability to leverage this information to keep up with the competition becomes essential. The key to accessing this information and transforming it into a useful marketing tool is through unstructured data.

Unstructured data and competitive advantage

The entry of unstructured data highlights the third way that organizations can use the Internet to enhance their marketing initiatives. Unstructured data use pushes beyond general applications of marketing analytics. Just as search-based marketing is becoming an important driver in how customers are drawn to a site and how marketers use search to publicize products and services, search itself can be used to help organizations move one step closer to additional competitive advantage. Businesses can use Web crawlers to gather key words and phrases to gain insight into market trends, competitor positioning, and customer sentiment. Combining this information with the data normally captured by a marketing analytics tool can give corporations insight into emerging trends and allow them to market toward new trends that are surfacing.

Unstructured data allows organizations to analyze trends, and to identify how the market is shifting, how the organization is matching up with its competition, how competitors are viewed, how products and services are viewed by customers and prospective customer to identify potential gaps, etc. The practical applications are endless and invaluable.

Unstructured data and marketing convergence

Just as BI has seen the recent convergence of BI and search, to enable organizations to stay ahead of the game, marketing analytics and unstructured data will have to undergo the same kind of amalgamation. In a fast changing market with products at a consumer’s fingertips within seconds and the ability of a customer or competitor to express their views to countless people over the Internet, it is now essential for organizations to access this information and transform it into actionable data that can be used to increase sales, enhance the customer experience, and to thereby improve the quality of products and services in general.

(Copyright 2007 - Dashboard Insight - All rights reserved.)

About the Author

Lyndsay Wise is a senior research analyst for the business intelligence and business performance management space. For more than seven years, she has assisted clients in business systems analysis, software selection and implementation of enterprise applications. She is a monthly columnist for DMReview and writes reviews of leading technologies, products and vendors in business intelligence, data integration, business performance management and customer data integration.

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