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Modern marketers drowning in digital data

Marketing honchos are "drowning in data" and feel ill-equipped to deal with the volume of information available through social platforms today, an IBM study shows.

Marketing honchos are "drowning in data" and feel ill-equipped to deal with the volume of information available through social platforms today, an IBM study shows.

In a global survey of 1734 chief marketing officers, more than two-thirds saw a need to change the mix of skills within the marketing function to enhance analytic capabilities, investing in new tools and technologies and developing new strategies for managing big data.

With market and technology factors driving rapid change, the four areas they saw as game changers were social media, the data explosion, proliferation of channels and devices and shifting consumer demographics.

Few CMOs were exploiting the full power of the digital grapevine, with only a quarter tracking blogs, and less than half monitoring third-party  reviews and consumer reviews.

"This is largely because the tools processes and metrics they use are not designed to capture and evaluate the unstructured data produced by social platforms."

While CMOs generally believed they were underprepared to take charge of the growing volume and variety of data, social networks can provide a rich source of information about customer sentiment with context that can help companies predict demand patterns.

"We're drowning in data. What we lack are true insights," one CMO was quoted as saying. 

Four out of five respondents anticipate high levels of complexity over the next five years but only half feel ready to take on the challenge.

Worryingly, despite the number of ways in which customers' privacy can be compromised today, only 28 percent considered it necessary to take a second look at their privacy policies.

Given that privacy concerns are a huge issue for users, the study pointed out that CMOs might want to think about how they could inspire greater customer confidence as they consider the management of big data for their own purposes.

Most said proving the value of the marketing department to others was a hurdle and cited ROI as the primary measure of their effectiveness. But CMOs are struggling with providing hard numbers and plan to look outside of their companies for analytics. 

Generally, respondents said they had strong influence over promotional activities, but not in the other three Ps of marketing – product, price and placement.