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4 Tips For Data-Driven Glory: Insights From Interact 2014

Marketers today swim in a sea of data. From tracking purchase behavior to website visits, they’re constantly gathering information about their customers, but that data often languishes without being put into action. At Oracle Marketing Cloud Interact, company representatives shared how they’re making sense of customer data to drive personalized experiences and, ultimately, results for the bottom line

1. Combine data streams
In a digital marketing world where push notifications and snappy Instagram posts are all the rage, newsletters seem like dinosaurs. But for Verizon Wireless, highly personalized newsletters are driving value. “We have what we call an ‘embarrassment of riches,’” said Patti Rutkin, associate director of digital CRM and direct marketing at Verizon. “There’s so much data at our fingertips that it’s overwhelming.”

Rutkin and her colleagues combine email behavioral data, product interest data, purchase data and demographic data to craft messages that resonate with specific customers. An email to a rural couple in Nebraska isn’t going to have the same imagery and wording as one sent to an urban youth, for example.

While 91% of marketers use data to drive decisions, 40% say that they can’t turn data into actionable programs, Rutkin noted. To get started with personalized content à la Verizon newsletters, “Inventory your available data and line that up with your goals,” Rutkin said, adding that her team’s work is an iterative process. “It’s like Disneyland. There’s always some maintaining going on in our newsletter program. You’re always putting customers first, but as their needs change, your strategies change too.”

2. Choose metrics that matter
When Josh Gerads first introduced MetLife’s lead-nurture program for auto insurance, he measured success in open rates and click-through rates. These values meant little to the insurance giant’s senior leadership, who wanted to understand email’s impact on sales.

This year Gerads, digital marketing manager at MetLife, was able to tell the C-suite that lead-nurture emails accounted for a 30% incremental lift in revenue year-to-date. His team tracks a new set of metrics: attributed sales, incremental revenue lift, lead rate and sales conversion rate. “These are the metrics that our CFO and entire C-suite wants to hear about,” Gerads said. He suggested that marketers consolidate their data, establish tracking and perform ongoing, "always-on" testing to achieve similar success.

3. Read the story in the data
The key to knowing which campaigns and marketing messages are most successful lies in the data. But with thousands of numbers to sort through, it can be easy to focus on the wrong metrics and analyses. Here's one way to get started: look at time-based data to understand how leads are growing over time and where they come from, suggested Wade Tibke, senior marketing director of data analytics company Tableau Software.

As Tibke said, “Behind each of these [data] visuals is a story to tell.” By analyzing campaign performance, marketers can identify where customers engage the most and therefore form a better strategy for reaching them. Don't just look at metrics as numbers, dig into the story they're telling about customers. 

4. Personalize email automation with real-time insights
Customer loyalty isn’t an option, it’s a must-have in the modern marketing world. That’s why companies are increasingly turning to marketing automation to deliver consistently personalized messages. Yet few companies can say that more than 50 percent of their revenue comes from email automation — except for Sears. Sears’ customers are plentiful and have varying demands, so email automation was merely a function of scaling to demand, said Sandra Taylor, director and general manager of email marketing at Sears.

Email automation technology doesn’t stand in its own silo; it integrates an omni-channel experience and updates in real time. When customers interact with Sears via display ads or in-store interaction with a salesperson, the triggered email is updated real-time based on the most recent customer activity and in real-time.

For example, if a customer visits the store to look at a refrigerator, interacts with a salesperson who gets the customer’s email address and leaves without making a purchase, he will get an email within a couple hours that recaps the product he inquired about and similar recommendations, noted Taylor. Better yet, if the customer was scheduled to receive a daily email about TVs, the email content will be catered to appliance content instead, since that’s what the customer has showed recent interest for.

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