The customer sits at the heart of any brand’s objective, and the route to truly understanding the customer is paved by data. The influence data has over marketing today is undeniable. Nonetheless, creating a holistic view of the customer still remains a challenge for many brands.
While age-old challenges such as organisational and systematic silos remain, other challenges marketers have to counter include the rise of walled gardens, and a lack of talent in deciphering the story the data actually tells.
In a breakfast briefing session held by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, in collaboration with ADA, and Treasure Data, marketers shared some of the challenges they faced in making sense of data.
For CPG brands such as The Coca-Cola Company, direct access to the consumer is hardly possible, so the brand is always looking to build a bridge between point of purchase and point of consumption. For example, the person buying the Coke and the person consuming the Coke could be completely different. Or the person consuming the Coke could be in a completely different state of mind than when he/she bought it.
Adding to the complexity is the fact its drinks are often sold through retail partners or eCommerce partners.
“For us, it is like looking through a crack in the wall trying to figure out a picture of the consumer,” said Kean Yew Lim, global social media and consumer engagement director – APAC, The Coca-Cola Company.
“With different touch-points today, there might be different data sets which means there might be several different cracks in this wall, but we can only still look through one crack at a time to see one small part of the picture.”
Moreover, teams across the organisation are also looking at different sets of data. So, marketers might get a different view from sales, and so on, and so forth. Last, but not least, especially for CPG brands, the data is shared by their distributor rather than the brand.
“This means that as a brand, we are not really looking through the cracks in the wall, but relying on someone else to look through and describe what they see. Whether they describe it correctly or not, we will never know and that’s another major problem,” Lim said.
Many CPG brands, as such, end up collecting huge chunks of data without knowing if it paints an accurate picture.
“At the end of the day, for us, using data to understand macro trends is critical. We are, however, moving past looking at data backwards, but instead are trying to forecast future trends,” he said.
Meanwhile, finding talent that can read and decipher what the data means remains a challenge. According to Yih Cheng Yak, head of consulting, marketing technology at ADA, platform designs and partnership deals need to be struck up with both the consumer and the internal teams in mind. Often the latter gets forgotten.
“There’s a conflict between the business user on their needs and productivity. Which then means a lot of times we can’t achieve the right consumer experience because internally, we’re not responding in real-time as we are bogged down by Excel sheets, and trying to create the right chart and do the mundane before the actual work,” he said.
Marketers must also review their tech stack and break their business silos to ensure the technology they implement is easy enough for even non-tech individuals to embrace for the best output for customers. He also added that data capture by design should be top-of-mind for marketers.
“Data capture by design is where you only capture what you need because data actually decays and becomes rotten, and after a while you can’t use it,” he said.
Data privacy a rising concern
Another issue that marketers face when it comes to using data is in the ethics around it. CMOs are keen to address consumer and regulatory concerns around data-driven marketing, and the vast majority of CMOs (92%) at multinational companies are prioritising an ethical approach.
However, half (50%) do not know what this means when it comes to the processes and practices they need to apply both internally and across their marketing supply chains, according to new WFA research titled “The CMO guide to data ethics and practice”.
Commenting on the phenomenon, Sean Valencia, marketing head, APAC, Treasure Data, shared that data ethics is a difficult line to define as there is a lot of confusion in the marketing space on where to draw the line.
To have a good data ethics policy isn’t something that can be solved by technology, but rather requires investment in the right processes and people.
“A lot of collaborations with other key stakeholders are also needed to make sure the right safeguards are in place,” he said. Marketers must also start putting themselves in the shoes of consumers, he added.
“We can’t mess up when it comes to trust. One misstep is all it takes to break the trust with the consumers, and that’s going to affect the brand indefinitely,” he said.
“It’s on marketers to navigate these new waters and to educate themselves and their companies. A lot of the marketing horror stories we hear occur when someone takes advantage of their customer data. Customers trust us with their data, and it is essential to handle it with care.”
Adding to the point on privacy and incomplete data sets was Jaslyin Qiyu, head of client marketing and digital channels, Citibank, who shared that hardly anyone would have a complete view of the customer because of limitations due to regulations and privacy – and that’s OK.
“Banks have a lot of financial data and financial data is the most sensitive data, and the most sacred. So even though we have access to this doesn’t mean we can use and abuse it. So we use it very carefully,” she said.
What is vital is getting consent from the consumer at every step.
“But that’s also harder for us in banks because we aren’t selling fancy items, so what we need to do is actually to provide a reason for you to believe and a reason for you to trust,” she added.
As such, the banks embark on content marketing to drive awareness and trust. Tying up with Yahoo, the bank recently launched its Life and Money content initiative, a dedicated personal finance hub for diverse audiences, providing fresh perspectives on money, and equipping them for their financial journey across different life stages.
“We’re moving towards that direction to educate our customers beyond just a transactional relationship, so that they can trust us as a total wealth and finance partner to help them live enriching lives,” she said.
Using offline data to build new experiences
For Love, Bonito, which started as an online blog shop and has now transcended to being a major player in the world of retail, the offline experience has added more value to data-driven initiatives for the brand online.
“All the incredible pieces of personalisation that we built into our business is in collaboration with the customers. And the store lends to that,” said Vanessa Yeo, head of brand marketing. Today, the brand is also looking to bring its LB stylists, an offering in the offline space, online.
Explaining the journey, Yeo shared that these stylists were initially placed in stores to help consumers not just find what they needed, but also offer insights and recommendations, friendly banter, and to understand the customers’ true reason behind the purchase – adding a sense of human touch to it. The brand saw that with the LB stylists, consumers would purchase 21 pieces per transaction in an offline store.
But online purchases didn’t reflect similar results despite being more convenient. “We decided to combine the data we had and conduct a basic survey on why online transactions were coming down. We found that it was because of the in-store experience of LB stylists,” she said.
This then propelled the brand forward to replicate the offline experience online. The brand spent two years on a proprietary algorithm to capture all the needs of the customer, what they wanted, and what they were getting out of the offline store, so it could offer that experience online.