The wealth of data available to retail marketers presents considerable opportunity, but only if it can be managed effectively. A new report, published today by performance marketing platform Sidecar, has found that marketers want to be more data-driven in 2021, but are still facing a number of challenges. In order to succeed, Sidecar identifies resource management and process re-evaluation as critical.
Data should support, not dictate, the marketing process; Sidecar found that only 38% of marketers rely on data over instinct when making decisions. Yet it still plays a crucial role in maximizing marketing performance and turning new e-commerce visitors into loyal customers. This isn’t news in retail marketing – data has been a buzzword for years – but it still remains a challenge for many.
“There’s so much data, it’s overwhelming,” said Mike Perekupka, director of product marketing at Sidecar. “Digital retail marketing is a data-driven discipline, yet many smart initiatives fail because of messy or flawed data. My advice to retailers is to start small, get it right, and then expand with their use of data, rather than trying to tackle everything all at once, because that’s likely impossible.”
The vast majority of marketers reported that they felt suitably skilled for their role (88%), which is good news for the businesses they work for; in-house skills and expertise were voted the biggest factors driving success (41%) . However, data-driven decisions were ranked second (33%), while data analysis was tied for the task that marketers most wanted time for (45%). This shows that, although not the only important element, data remains a key piece of the marketing puzzle.
But what does this mean in practice? Data’s value is in its application, which means marketers must be strategic in how they use their data to support operations. Sidecar’s Perekupka warns against relying too much on automating entire processes and cutting out human involvement. This can be tempting, as automation frees up employee time and money, but it also eliminates valuable human insight.
“I think you’ll see more marketers this year putting their automation approaches under a microscope, to ensure they’re applying automation to the right processes and in the right ways,” said Perekupka. “In our experience, we’ve seen the best results when marketers layer in automation to empower their team members to work smarter and more strategically – and avoid simply setting and forgetting their automated processes.”
One of data’s strengths is that it can be applied to all areas of the business, in order to optimize existing processes. Customer acquisition was the number one priority reported in the Sidecar survey (38%), which is likely due to its role in driving topline revenue – another marketing priority. 2021 will provide a lot of opportunity for the brands and retailers who are able to take advantage of a more experimental consumer, so marketers need to start improving their strategies now.
Although data is a very granular form of information, Sidecar recommends zooming out and avoiding a siloed approach. Although limited time (51%) and budget (40%) were reported to be the biggest challenges to marketing success, Perekupa believes that marketers should prioritize action items that will have the biggest impact on business, rather than only looking to cut costs or automate.
“It’s about challenging the norms,” said Perekupka. “Instead of just evaluating how your campaigns are performing, evaluate the effectiveness of the system running the campaigns. By system, I mean the entire collective of your in-house team, your partners, your tools, and your processes. Where can you be more data-driven? Where are you wasting time? What changes can you make that will enable you to take the biggest steps towards achieving your goals?”