In Forrester's new report, The Insights-Driven Business, my colleagues Ted Schadler, Brian Hopkins, and I have identified a predator: the insights-driven business. These businesses are vigorously applying insights to decisions and customer engagements at every opportunity. Their leaders have a fundamental and emotional understanding of the value of insights in driving their business today — and for developing its future. They have corporate strategies and cultures that mean that leveraging data, analytics, and insights is easy and deeply embedded in everything they do. For these firms, prioritizing and coordinating investments in data and technology is not a tortuous process of guesstimating ROIs and long procurement cycles.
So who are these predators? Well, there are obvious players like Facebook, Amazon, Google, Uber, and Netflix. But, less obviously, there are many long-standing mature enterprises across many different verticals: Alaska Airlines,The Washington Post, some European football clubs, some retailers, and others that we call out in our new report are successfully transforming into insights-driven businesses today.
Yesterday morning, many of us in the United States awoke to some troubling news: the European Court of Justice (ECJ) had ruled that the Safe Harbor agreement is no longer valid. Security & risk (S&R) and data management folks kicked into high gear. Customer insights and digital marketing teams...? Well, the news slipped past mostly unnoticed. That's a mistake.
Let's start with a primer on Safe Harbor. If you're a multinational company doing business in Europe, Safe Harbor is the agreement under which you've been allowed to bring European customers' data back into your servers in the US for purposes of targeting, analytics, campaign management, etc. If you work with a US-based database MSP, digital or CRM agency to manage customer data, they've likely been relying on the same agreement. It's a nearly 20-year old agreement that was put in place to bridge the gap between Europe's strict data protection laws and America's relative dearth of them.
Now, that agreement has been deemed invalid, which means that every company serving European customers needs to reexamine its data practices. Of course, this is primarily the purview of our technology management peers. But customer insights professionals need to partner closely with them on two fronts:
Speak up about your third-party data sharing practices. This includes sharing between business partners (for example, passing customer data to a firm that administers your loyalty program or manages warranties), sharing CRM data with digital marketing vendors, and even using third-party tracker on your website that collect IP addresses. Any third party data sharing could come under scrutiny from the European Data Protection Authority, so you'll want to have a consent-based model for collecting and sharing that data soon.
Chinese businesses have been in a state of digital transformation for the past two decades. Since the early 1990s, many enterprises owned by national or local governments have been privatized, and many of those realized that they could make information technology their key competency. However, traditional retail and manufacturing brands in China are very fragmented. The country lacks a local version of Wal-Mart or Macy’s — large organizations that dominate specific sectors.
The rise of Internet companies and their new business models is digitally disrupting already struggling traditional brands. Internet companies in China are using their strong capital resources to take center stage in many markets, creating new service delivery models, bringing online experiences offline, and making transactions through online marketplaces instead of in physical stores.
Most of the traditional brands that I spoke with in the course of the research for my most recent report were unable to react properly, as they were using immature digital intelligence to understand online users. But traditional brands have now realized the value of doing business online and intend to apply advanced digital analytics to understand customer behavior across the multitude of digital channels — web, social, and mobile. For instance, Chinese banks are starting to employ digital analytics to understand how people use Internet financing.One of the four largest Chinese banksis accustomed to analyzing transactional data but has limited experience in online user behavior analysis; to offset this, the bank recently announced a plan to implement web analytics tools to understand how customers interact with its website, search engine, and social platforms.
Many clients have asked me this question, following it up by asking how to extend their web analytics capabilities to mobile in China. It’s not always an easy job. Marketers in China are becoming more familiar with web analytics tools to leverage internal customer data and external data from sources like social media to understand online customer behavior. Most use local web analytics tools like Baidu Statistics or Alibaba’s cnzz.com and are starting to engage with global vendors like IBM (ExperienceOne) and Adobe’s Omniture, but don’t know if effective mobile analytics solutions exist. Marketers in China face challenges in recognizing customers on mobile and analyzing, managing, and monetizing mobile data:
Marketers have difficulty identifying customers on mobile before they log in. Campaign management tools help marketers collect mobile device IDs or even sensitive information like mobile phone numbers. These tools are still web-like in that they can’t identify users until they log in. The marketing manager of one CPG company has made the reorganization of mobile users one of its mobile analytics priorities for 2015.
Mobile data rarely supports marketing decisions. Marketers in China can’t find integrated marketing campaign management solutions that include both web and mobile. The credit card department of a leading Chinese commercial bank found that customer response rates to its mobile campaigns were ineffective due to the gaps between its mobile and online marketing campaigns.
Brands have no idea how to monetize mobile data. Marketers know how to monetize data on mobile traffic and user profiles, but not how to add value from the mobile data itself. Exchanging mobile data with third parties will be a good idea if the data platform can solve data ownership, privacy, and regulatory issues.
Tencent’s news portal is one of the largest online news portals in China, with more than 25 channels covering all types of news. Tencent faces fierce competition, which it intends to combat by building its analytics competency. With the eyes of millions of Chinese soccer fans on the World Cup, Tencent has a chance to better target its news and reports by using social analytics — which the news portal did by launching a mini-site of World Cup 2014 coverage. More than 50 advertisers showed interest in the World Cup site, thinking that it would differentiate Tencent’s news offerings and draw more traffic. And they were right: The site got more than 3 million hits in the first week of the Cup.
Tencent now has the first social analytics website for sports in China. Supported by IBM’s Social Analytics engine and hosted in its SoftLayer data center in Hong Kong, the site aggregates data from most leading Chinese social platforms including Qzone, Renren, Sina Weibo, and Tencent Weibo. Full coverage of these social platforms can help Chinese businesses get a fuller picture of customers to better personalize and target offers. Tencent’s news editors also have a separate social analytics tool to find buzzwords or popular terms on social platforms and highlight these attention-getting phrases in their titles and articles.
This investment is delivering two major benefits to Tencent:
As digital marketers, we know the importance of tracking, measuring, understanding, and meeting customers’ expectations at their preferred interaction points. We have convinced our budget masters of digital intelligence’s importance to the business as a whole and our spend on digital measurement and marketing technologies continues to increase—exciting vendors and enticing new ones to continually improve products.
But despite this increased investment in technologies, the same stubborn problem remains: different teams are working with siloed data sets while failing to understand and delight the customer across a variety of digital touch points. Why? Because while technology has provided the pieces for digital marketing, these pieces have not come together to deliver completed suites. Achieving this suite goal requires more than just an investment in technology; it requires a considerable effort and a strategy supported by executives that:
Recognizes the multi-channel digital customer experiences firms wish to project using customer insights
Realigns teams and processes to for better cross functional cooperation
Builds skills set and focuses more investment in staff and partnership
Tag management tools are much more than the management of tags. Strategic use can:
give control of digital marketing campaigns to marketers – relieving significant IT burden,
significantly reduce digital marketing implementation and operational costs,
garner support for digital marketing programs – even in highly regulated firms – by offering detailed multi-stakeholder visibility and control of scripts and digital data,
reduce the “stickiness” and dependence on digital technology vendors, and
enable digital data syndication, which in turn drives dynamic segmentation and bottom-up attribution programs.
Forrester is currently assessing the tag management capabilities of top global brands, advising on their strategies and guiding them with their digital marketing road maps. Also; tag management research is ongoing with a few papers due for release later this year.
I just finished reading Corporate Culture: The Ultimate Strategic Asset by Eric Flamholtz and Yvonne Randle. The book is based on the premise that company culture is a critically important yet often uncredited driver of success and failure, even correlating to financial performance. And, like other aspects of modern corporations, culture requires active management. Companies with great cultures don't get there by accident. The book is a worthwhile read for those with an interest in general management and the implications of culture for mid-sized to large companies.*
The book defines corporate culture as the "values, beliefs, and norms that influence the thoughts and actions (behavior) of people in organizations." The connection between cultural attributes and actions made me think about applying the concepts of culture directly to digital intelligence. Why is culture important in the context of digital intelligence? Because simply hiring people or implementing technology isn't enough to achieve digital intelligence proficiency. I see proof of this on a daily basis as I work with clients who struggle with digital intelligence despite substantial investments in the best technologies and most talented teams. These organizations have many of the individual pieces but cannot put the puzzle together. Culture is the connective tissue that binds technology, people, and action together.
To take the idea a bit further, let's look at the five key components of corporate culture according to the book and their digital intelligence implications: