Regular ITBusiness.ca readers know the importance of taking a digital-first approach to marketing – but that’s not the only lesson marketers can learn from the tech industry, according to a new Google-led study.

Co-produced with consulting firm Bain & Company and released this month, “It’s About Time: Why Your Marketing May Be Falling Short” advises readers to not only take a digital-first approach to marketing, but to exercise control over any platforms used, and to share their insights across the company.

More importantly, authors Laura Beaudin and Francine Gierak write, marketing leaders must recognize the value of timing – reaching consumers with the right message at the right time.

“For the past few years, many marketers have used advanced data analytics to identify the right customers and increase their ROI [return on investment], but now these practices, while still valuable, are reaching a plateau,” they write. “By communicating at the most opportune times based on people’s behavior and signals, companies can generate more business with fewer or more efficient ads, or expand the audience to find unexpected wins.”

The study was based on a survey of 1,700 senior marketing executives from large firms around the world, in both consumer and B2B industries, who were asked for their opinions of their companies’ data and technology investments. It included several anecdotes from Google clients illustrating the value of timing.

For instance, two years ago coffee machine manufacturer Keurig would send out mass emails encouraging readers to buy specific pods based on price, but has since divided its customers into four distinct segments, recognizing that some buy months’ worth of coffee pods at a time, while others purchase smaller amounts every week or two. While the segments are not identified in the report, Beaudin and Gierak note that as an example, new machine owners receive messages educating them on the range of flavors available rather than promotional messages. The net result has been a decrease in the number of users tagging Keurig emails as spam.

In another example, a “leading” but unidentified over-the-counter medicine brand mapped its customers’ search and purchase behavior, and determined that people who purchased its medication within the first two days of their symptoms were more likely to feel better and therefore become greater brand advocates. As a result, the company worked with Google and WebMD
to reach consumers whose search terms suggested they had the symptoms within two days – and saw greater sales as a result.

Beyond timing, the study found that marketing leaders – defined as the top 20 per cent among the executives surveyed based on a composite score of revenue and market share growth – shared three other qualities: taking a digital-first approach, exercising control over any platforms used, and sharing their insights across the company.

1. Leaders think digital first

Marketing leaders were 1.6 times more likely than the competition to prioritize integrating technology, and 1.2 times more likely to be advanced users of their technology, according to the study.

“Integrated data and a powerful platform with built-in machine learning helps uncover user insights that lets marketers know exactly when to place compelling and relevant creative that gives it the best chance to succeed,” Google consumer services, data, and measurement representative Sean Downey wrote.

Source: Bain/Google

As an example, Downey cited Adidas, which has taken advantage of customer segmentation, audience testing, responsive messaging, and a unified platform in its marketing.

“If you want to be truly consumer-centric, you have to think digital first. And, in order to do that, you’ve got to be data-driven,” Adidas head of digital experience Chris Murphy is quoted as saying.

2. Leaders have more visibility and control

The top marketers, according to the study, exercise control over their investments and marketing channels, and were 1.4 times more likely than the competition to manage their own technology.

Global cosmetics firm Rituals Cosmetics is cited as an example that recently brought marketing technology management in-house, with its team using dashboards with near-real time data to help guide digital decisions.

Source: Bain/Google

“We are able to connect our advertising technology at the right point and make sure that we manage efficiency on a daily level, for the whole funnel and all the channels,” Rituals digital director Martijn van der Zee tells Google. “And that has remarkable results.”

3. Leaders share the insights

Marketers who want their organization to embrace a data-driven mindset should start by making insights accessible to – and actionable by – all, with Google’s Downey noting that “a unified platform makes reporting and action easier for everyone.”

In fact, the study found, marketing leaders are 1.7 times more likely to refresh their most critical marketing metrics and dashboards at least weekly.

Source: Bain/Google

You can download the full report here.

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