Get Ready for a Data-Driven Future

In the near future, if you can’t manage the data deluge, you won’t be competitive.

by Chris Wareham

posted on 12-11-2017

Arguably, nothing is more powerful today than data. It’s an integral part of the decision-making process for companies, especially when it comes to marketing. But as companies collect even more data, they’re also faced with the challenge of how to make it actionable and how to leverage it to drive the best results for their business.

The data fire hose is on, and as technologies like augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) emerge to provide deeper customer insights, companies must learn how to manage the deluge.

Data is king.

For driving marketing effectiveness, data is king — very few customer interactions with a brand aren’t measurable, and companies are using data to build experience-led businesses. This is the most important technological change we’re witnessing today.

Data helps organizations track customers across channels and better understand their preferences, so they can deliver the right offer at the right time.

Mobile apps are particularly effective, because they provide much more information about how a customer is interacting with a company compared to desktop. This is because so much more information is available through the smartphone — from simple things like location to being able to judge how someone’s experience is going based on the screen they’re touching. We’ve only begun to tap the potential there.

Ultimately, data helps companies throughout the decision-making process, leading to efficiencies that increase marketing effectiveness and ROI for campaigns.

And the more data the better — as long as you have systems in place that know what to do with it. Sure, it requires an investment to store, maintain, and administer huge amounts of data, but all those expenses melt into the background as soon as you start using it to optimize the customer experience. Just look at businesses like Wyndham Hotels and Resorts and Franke Group, whose value is tied to the customer experience they provide.

Companies now have access to more data than ever, but skillfully using it to drive better customer experiences isn’t as simple as just arranging numbers in a spreadsheet.

Emerging technologies can improve data-driven marketing.

Powerhouses like Netflix and Apple are developing deeper engagement with their customers by using emerging technologies like AI. Here at Adobe, we also are leveraging AI to drive better customer experiences.

AI is transforming how marketers apply data to understand their customers’ interaction with a brand.

Adobe Sensei, Adobe’s investment in AI capabilities, is designed to improve how companies do business and the way consumers interact with brands.

I’m very excited about how we can use Adobe Sensei and data to optimize the experience for our customers. Marrying our deep knowledge of how our customers work with the latest advances in deep learning will allow us to create algorithms that improve campaign execution.

Trying to track and understand the customer journey manually is a challenge, but AI makes the process much more efficient. It enables systems that can look through all your data and understand every single customer journey that has occurred with your brand, and it can determine which actions resulted in positive — or negative — business outcomes. Machines are brilliant at this.

Some brands already are experimenting and doing exciting things with AI, too — including voice-activated Alexa skills from BMW, “LoweBots” (robots that approach customers and offer help in Bay Area Lowe’s stores), and smart home devices from Amazon, Apple and others.

Although not yet quite as “ready for prime time” as AI, AR and virtual reality (VR) also offer exciting possibilities for customer engagement.

VR offers an amplification of a person’s existing digital experience. For example, I recently followed the Twitter feed of a colleague who’d just watched a basketball game via VR, and he was completely enamored with it. This kind of technology offers another way for brands to give customers a one-of-a-kind experience — and gives brands another touchpoint to collect quality data that drives better customer interactions in the future.

Preparing for the data-driven future.

As companies develop more touchpoints from which to collect customer data, knowing how to make this data actionable will be even more critical. Every business is at a different point when it comes to data maturity, and there will be businesses who will struggle because they have too much data.

But as industry leaders have said, “I’d much rather have more data than a better algorithm.” If data can help you optimize one part of the customer experience, and provide any scale to your business at all, then its benefits outweigh the challenges of securely storing it and enduring the painstaking process of creating an optimal strategy to deploy it.

For companies to create true data-driven organizations, they have to get laser-focused and intentional about how they will use data in a way that is unique to their brand and their business needs. Pick one thing that you want to go get done and throw everything else out. It’s very easy to be imaginative about what you would like to do, but very few organizations really have the wherewithal to do everything they want with the data they have available to them.

Ultimately, companies that are not data-driven won’t be competitive. In the coming years, the insights companies need to generate a really good customer experience are going to become more accessible, and massive amounts of data will continue to be collected in real time. We’re certainly better off with more data, but in the future the companies that succeed won’t do so just based on an abundance of data alone — they’ll leverage it, combined with machine learning and AI, as the ultimate fuel to power their experience-driven business.

Read more stories of innovation from Adobe’s 35th anniversary series.

Topics: Digital Transformation, Trends & Research

Products: Analytics, Experience Cloud