Focus should be on a mind-set to use data in a smarter and more creative way to drive better consumer insights and solve business problems. The complexity of the modern media and data landscape requires new skill sets to understand data and technology, going beyond the traditional marketing scope and paving way for the new profession of marketing technologist.
According to Gartner, 81 per cent of organisations now have the concept of a chief marketing technologist. With this new role however, a challenge emerges as marketing professionals need to increase their range of skills to incorporate IT to fulfil the needs of a business.
Over the past week, the Singapore government made a big announcement about its own efforts to transform the economy’s infrastructure, software and services to pave the way for a smart-nation blueprint, which requires further development of its nationwide broadband network (NBN) and national wireless network, Wireless@SG, over the next ten years.
Singapore’s smart nation scheme could provide marketers with a solid infrastructure backbone that opens up opportunities to integrate marketing with technology insights, making the approach more sustainable. What we see from the marketing standpoint is data has proven it helps organisations, government institutions and businesses to better understand and engage with customers and citizens.
In saying this, I-COM recently held a global summit on ‘Smart Data – The Consumer Matters’ that highlighted the shift in Asia from the traditional ‘Mad Men’ approach, which relies on focus groups and qualitative behavioural trends, to a more quantifiable ‘Math Men’ approach where big data and analytics can help explore consumer behaviour online and offline. This new approach is paving the way for an era of smart data that combines the best of both to drive meaningful business outcomes.
What seems pressing is companies in Singapore, as well as the rest of the world, need to develop more data- and digitally-driven cultures to accommodate this new trend in marketing. It is inevitable that all media will become digital and in this connected landscape, data is becoming the new oil. Marketers need to start having focused conversations on how to use digital and data, to create a compelling and connected customer experience (both online and offline) to achieve a leading competitive edge.
An example of how organisations are already building a smart approach in Singapore is from a recent project developed by Brand Karma and Starwood Hotels. This smart-data project, entitled “From Conversations to Commerce: How a Hotel Company Made $2 Million from Social Media”, was planned by their marketing department to provide real return on investment with social media campaigns. The project had a simple yet focused strategy to leverage the influence of social media on its customers to drive hotel bookings over a set time period. This campaign was so successful, it won the Singapore startups I-COM Data Creativity Award 2014 for Emerging Market Regions.
For organisations looking for a smart-data strategy, I offer these starting points to help manage expectations:
- Big data is not equal to big opportunities unless you have figured out how to connect all the dots together to create business values.
- Remember, it does not happen overnight, Smart Data approaches require long-term strategic planning and commitment.
- Marketing and IT departments will need to partner and work very closely together as the marketing technologist is the newly created role helping to close this gap.
- Start with a small-data project, focused on solving one business problem first. Be patient and take this opportunity to experiment with a few different approaches, learn from them and build a strong business case.
- Forward-thinking companies have already started to allocate separated budgets for data innovation and are adopting a "lean-startup" approach.
This strategy measures the business benefits (cost saving or revenue improvement) of data projects and helps to determine an additional budget to continue optimising the business values of data projects.
Joni Ngai is vice chair of China I-COM