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The missed marketing opportunity in big data analytics

Jamie Crossman-Smith Jamie Crossman-Smith

Big data can support both business development and marketing approaches but it’s a use case that is often overlooked. Jamie Crossman-Smith discusses how data analytics can be leveraged beyond risk, audit and compliance functions and how it can inform your marketing strategy.

Data is the cornerstone of every business. It underpins every operational activity, provides business insight and drives strategic decision-making processes. Many firms apply data analytics to optimise operations and client delivery but often overlook the potential for attracting new business. With the economic downturn due to COVID-19 restrictions, it’s more important than ever to stand out from the crowd, build new relationships and keep developing new services.

Your business has a wealth of data, across a variety of platforms and formats, that can drive customer conversations and increase your client base. Reviewing your marketing function can help you maximise the use of internal and external data, and grow your client base. It will also offer greater assurance that you’re using client data in line with all customer, legal and regulatory expectations.

Using data analytics to identify client needs

Your data tells you everything about your business. More than that, it also tells you what your clients’ concerns are and what services they need right now.

Often this valuable information stays locked within the delivery teams and doesn’t filter through to the marketing function. This can be a missed opportunity, however. Good management information from each department can feed into a marketing dashboard to help business development teams identify emerging trends and be more responsive to client needs. You can use this data to drive your campaigns, including identifying hot topics to create targeted content or events that can bring new customers into your business.

Aggregate data to improve performance

Multiple platforms are available to gauge market reach, manage client relationships and co-ordinate web or email distribution. But these programs generally don’t talk to each other, making it difficult to generate a cohesive picture of marketing activity. Data outputs are often unstructured and siloed so firms don’t make the most of this information for strategic decision-making. The good news is, there’s a relatively easy fix.

Firstly, consider what you want to get from these tools. Many businesses will just take a top-line view of their data needs but there’s often underused functionality in these platforms that could be adding value. Reviewing the use case can help you maximise your financial investment.

Next, assess how people use your marketing platforms and then review the operational processes around them. The end goal is to create structured data outputs to enable automation rules and support data analytics but this relies on consistent processes across the board. You may need to tweak some processes, documenting them as you go, and provide training for relevant teams. Good data governance processes will safeguard data integrity but reconciliation testing – which verifies and validates the data – can also check all input data is complete and accurate.

The final step would be to aggregate this information onto a performance dashboard to identify what your clients are responding to, which can then feedback into the campaign in real time.

Assurance over data protection

Data protection and electronic marketing laws are inherently complex, with the potential for heavy fines. In 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) introduced new rules around how firms can use and store the personal data of people in the EU, including for marketing purposes. There are also the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), which were due an update alongside the GDPR rollout. PECR are still under development, however, and it’s unclear if the new rules will apply in the UK post-Brexit.

Reviewing your client data collection, storage, retention and usage will go some way toward achieving regulatory compliance but automated tools can add a further layer of complexity. For example, under GDPR, organisations must be able to provide the general public with ‘meaningful information about the logic involved’ in artificial intelligence (AI) processes. As a niche skill set, this is easier said than done and requires specialist input for process implementation and assurance.

Automated tools – know the risks

When using any type of machine learning or AI to process or gain insight from client data, you must select the right algorithm and appropriate training methodologies to inform it. Algorithmic errors and bias are the biggest risks as they can pull your strategy off track, and impact both your reputation and finances.

Transparency is also important, and all data processing must also be in line with client expectations. If you’re augmenting data with commercial data sets – social media data, for example – your customers may view this as an unwanted intrusion. This poses a reputational risk to your business and is potentially ‘unfair’ in data protection terms. If you don’t monitor this closely, you could have a compliance breach.

There’s also the question of oversight of automated distribution tools. Without close monitoring, there’s a risk of sending e-communications to the wrong recipients or even sending one customer’s information to another, which would constitute a data breach.

Assessing a program’s underlying logic and processing rules will help identify data protection risks. This can be fairly complex, and you will need specialist skill sets to design appropriate risk controls and provide assurance over operating effectiveness. Likewise, you will need an ongoing plan for monitoring these controls and reviewing them over time. As big data just keeps getting bigger, it’s important to grow the control environment accordingly and make sure your big data analytics remain fit for purpose.

An integral part of your marketing plan

While the use of data analytics is well established, new use cases are developing every day. A marketing review could add significant value to your 2021 audit plan. Collecting good intelligence and making it an integral part of your marketing plan will be key to success. Taking a closer look at the information will help you to target new clients more effectively, gain insight over emerging trends and make the most of your data to support your business.

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