The future of marketing analytics–driven by strategy

The future of marketing analytics–driven by strategy
Driven by marketing and analytics leaders, SaaS experienced explosive growth over the past decade, with market revenue estimated to exceed $2 billion. When it comes to the age-old challenge of strategically allocating a marketing budget while ensuring your mix of channels remains agile and responsive, analytics play a key role. The need to leverage a variety of measurement approaches is well understood. Marketing mix models (MMM) are necessary to understand and optimize incremental marketing investments, while multi-touch attribution (MTA) is vital to ensuring effectiveness and efficiency within media activities. In order to ensure positive business outcomes, large corporations must responsibly employ these proven methods of analysis—but a full-scale approach certainly shouldn’t stop there. 

Frustration and cautionary tales 

Businesses invested heavily in analytics software and related data services in the past decade, encouraged by the suggestion that success relies on a unified solution. Even the most tech-savvy analyst will question that premise: Is the whole greater than the sum of its parts, or is this just a new wrapping of the same product? 

Adding even more frustration, you may hear that the latest solution or tool you implemented as a responsible steward of a marketing budget will be rendered obsolete by GDPR, CCPA, walled gardens, or the impending deprecation of third-party cookies. It seems every software company wants to tell you that whatever it is you thought would solve your measurement problems is now—or will soon be—“dead.”

Adapting and measuring success

Given the never-ending cacophony of dire warnings, you may be shocked to learn that Forrester projects that marketing analytics SaaS growth will continue its double-digit annual growth over the next decade. This speaks to most organizations’ understanding that a successful approach to measurement will empower marketers with data-driven, strategic direction. This is critical to make the right decision at the right time to deliver the seamless experience the consumer expects. A comprehensive analytics effort also empowers a test–learn–iterate approach that lends itself to continuous improvement and successful outcomes. Testing is the fuel for strong creative performance, influencing long-term relationships with a brand, and learning what does and does not work for a specific audience.

To stand out in a crowded field, software companies have an existential motivation to adapt to new data, technology, or legislative barriers that continue to alter the course of data science—and to do so in a way that ensures they are delivering success at the highest levels. Investing thousands or millions of dollars in media (whether yours or your client’s) and not measuring performance with a degree of confidence doesn’t benefit either party. But the biggest need isn’t greater software innovation.

Regardless of the analytics tools on hand, measurement alone does not prove successful for a marketer, an agency, or an executive responsible for return on marketing investment. The real measure of success, through a natural or social science lens, stems from a research hypothesis or set of success criteria determined early on during the planning stages of your marketing plan, program or campaign.

Partnership and a path forward

A strong, integrated agency partner will not guide with an exclusive focus on software solutions, but with a strategic approach that balances effective measurement and planning processes. Whether the need encompasses A/B test design, digital analytics, PR/communications, social media, or earned and paid media, success depends on up-front measurement frameworks that support macro-level business strategy and objectives. This work happens before a consumer sees a single display ad, and certainly before behavior is recorded and analyzed. Many marketers seek to report on performance after campaigns are in motion, without a firm, foundational measurement approach at the core of their process.

Organizations shopping for the next best software solution should resist the temptation to chase a single solution to all their needs. A necessary shift in focus away from software to broader operational goals will drive the long-term business outcomes they seek. Challenges like data integration or fragmented customer experiences will not disappear, and tools like MMM and MTA remain vital as a means to acquiring rich business insight. But, as disruption invariably continues to unfold across the marketing ecosystem, a successful approach will determine the right tools based on the desired insight and the unique strategy of each business. Combined with the right partner acting as a guide, this can be the key to identifying and executing on a simpler and far more productive path forward.
ICF’s global marketing services agency focuses on helping your organization find opportunity in disruption.
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Meet the author
  1. Emily Merkle, Partner & Line of Business Lead, Analytics and Data Science

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