Anyone with even a passing interest in business and tech has no doubt at least heard the term Big Data before.
The term refers to what is becoming an industry all its own, in a way, one where massive amounts of data are being analyzed to increase revenue and improve the ways in which users and customers interact with businesses.
But these are only the most popular applications of Big Data analysis. A word that comes up quite often in conversations surrounding Big Data is ‘possibility.’ There are just so many different ways for this technology to be applied that it boggles the mind.
Today, we will be focusing on one specific application of Big Data and data analysis: marketing analytics.
We recently spoke with marketing expert Sagar Das, who explained that Marketing Analytics is special within the broader marketing field.
The reason for this is that it relies almost entirely on the data itself, rather than an individualized and highly subjective understanding of current marketing and branding trends.
Das is the Director of Marketing Analytics with Stamps.com, which has established itself as the leading provider of internet-based postage solutions, not only for small businesses and retail sites but for home offices and individual users as well.
During his time with Stamps.com, Das has made many significant contributions to the company, including leading the creation of Marketing Mix Models and Customer Lifetime Value Models, making improvements to the registration funnel, and using his own approach to Direct Mail creative testing that has yielded impressive results. He has also helped launch new pricing for over half a million business customers.
Our discussion with Das focused on his Marketing Analytics work over the past several years and just some of the many improvements and innovations he’s offered along the way.
We will also look at Marketing Analytics in a more general sense and the ways in which it can be used to improve services and market those services to potential customers.
There’s a lot to learn here, both about data-driven marketing efforts and the tendencies of business users looking for solutions to their most persistent challenges.
In many areas of business, there remains an undying dedication to a very individual sense of intuition. We could call this the Way It’s Always Been Done approach.
It’s easy to find this approach in departments that rely heavily on interpersonal interaction, such as sales and professional networking.
On the other side of the equation, there’s a new-fashioned approach that prefers instead to use extensive data to supplement human decision-making or even lead the decision-making process.
Das falls into the latter camp and feels that it is especially well-suited to his particular line of work.
“Data-driven decision making has always been my guiding principle. I make sure to focus on what the data is telling me rather than relying on my intuition. Letting the data take the lead in decision making also proves very useful in conflict resolution when making changes of major significance.”
Let’s keep in mind here that data and the lessons learned from that data aren’t completely replacing the human element, not at all. Instead, it’s about using the resources available today to improve what human agents are capable of executing.
This is the meat and potatoes of Marketing Analytics as well: getting the most out of the data that has already been gathered.
Smart testing at work
Of course, Marketing Analytics also involves collecting new data that can inform future decisions, and this is where testing comes into play.
A/B testing itself is nothing new, but it can still be extremely useful for gauging the potential wide-scale results of a specific change to a product or service.
While running A/B tests with the goal of maximizing conversion, Das tested a drastically lowered signup offer, and the results are an excellent example of the ways in which data can both challenge and inform human understanding of specific marketing techniques.
“It was a common belief that the attractive signup offer was the main driver for conversion. But we were all surprised when the results showed that the test version was performing on par with the control version. This showed us that customers don’t always fall for shiny objects. In fact, offers that look too good to be true have the potential to do more harm than good.”
Without Das’s testing, it’s possible that the age-old belief that better offers equal more conversions could very well have continued to be the prevailing notion.
It’s not that human understanding will always defer to an errant belief, but it’s a fact that humans just can’t process the same quantities of data as contemporary Big Data technologies.
Testing has been around for quite a while, and it’s going to stick around for a lot longer. But armed with new tech, testing can now be smarter than it ever has been before, and as we’ll soon see, that’s good news for all of us.
What business users really want
Digging deeper into the conversion process, we wanted to learn more about significant differences between business users and individual users.
Since Das has focused on both of these groups in his work, he was just the right person to ask.
Going into the conversation, we certainly had the impression that businesses are always on the lookout for ways to cut costs, thereby reducing overhead and boosting revenue.
But as Das explained, the wants of the average business user often go much farther than that.
“Businesses don’t fall for marketing gimmicks and attractive promotional offers, they look for products that have the potential to help their business grow and thrive. Showing that the product works for other similar businesses with the help of customer testimonials prove more effective than offering deep discounts or attractive promotions.”
This is not to say that business customers aren’t wary of costs, but Das’s experiences in the area have proven that the quality of the product, its ease of use, and its probable results, take precedent.
After all, many small businesses can’t afford to simply try multiple solutions and services to see what works best. If they feel ready to switch (and this window doesn’t stay open for long, which we’ll be talking about soon), they want to know that what they’re getting will actually work and end up paying off in the long run.
Encouraging customers to switch products
Why are businesses usually hesitant to switch from one product or process to another? It’s very important for marketing professionals to understand this.
Well, as we mentioned above, it’s partially due to costs. When a business does decide to switch to a new process, it can cost a lot, not only in the financial sense but also in terms of time and effort, and don’t forget that all relevant employees will need to be trained on this new system.
In a worst-case scenario, this brand new process might not end up being a good fit for the business in question, and it will cost even more to switch back to the old process or research and buy into a new one.
Businesses that have found themselves in these precarious situations in the past will definitely be more cautious when looking into new products and services in the future.
With all that in mind, how can companies selling business solutions entice new customers? Well, Das has an answer on that front:
“Product integrations are the key to making sure customers can easily join a new ecosystem. Customers may prefer a certain way of doing things. Other times, making changes in their existing business processes proves too expensive and cumbersome. If the product can seamlessly integrate with the customer’s infrastructure, the decision to buy is much easier.”
A simple metaphor that illustrates this idea is that of a big shipping truck driving along the highway. A difficult shift to a new ecosystem would be equivalent to getting off the highway and taking a completely different route, which might take up more gas and even send the truck off-course.
But the kinds of easy transitions Das is talking about here would be closer to changing lanes. It’s fast, relatively quick, and it will be easier for the truck to switch back to the old lane if need be,.
All in all, business users, in particular, want to see results, and they won’t stick around if they don’t see those results.
Convenient transitions just make it that much easier to show off the benefits of a good product or service.
The possibilities of Marketing Analytics
Outsiders to Big Data and Marketing Analytics might only see these techniques as benefitting the companies that use them, but this is a narrow view of what this technology has to offer.
Yes, Marketing Analytics often aims to increase the size of a user base or increase revenue in other ways, but this is certainly not the extent of this field.
Das explained that, at its best, Marketing Analytics is really about creating win-win scenarios for companies and their customers.
“Limitless insights can be drawn from the wealth of data that is captured in this digital age. Every piece of data has the potential to be interpreted in various ways and create radically different strategies for any campaign. Data can be used to dramatically improve the visitor experience on the website, the onboarding experience post-signup, and the customer experience, and that’s what makes me so excited to work in this field.”
With more data, companies can learn a lot more than ever before about how satisfied their customers are with the product or service and how specific elements of their product ecosystem can be improved.
When done right, Marketing Analytics benefits all of us, not just those holding the reins.