For today’s digital marketers, data is everything. From cloud to edge, big to small, if there’s one thing digital marketing isn’t short of, it’s data. But just because we collect lots of information about our customers, campaigns and brands, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re collecting the right data.

The issue is that all this data collection simply serves to provide information on what has happened. On the face of it, that doesn’t appear to be a problem. Insights into who clicked where on your site, what they added to a basket and where they arrived from certainly help with understanding the effectiveness of the live environment you are presenting to the consumer or prospect.

But that data will fail to add value if marketers aren’t able to identify the subtle trends that connect and underpin what that traditional data is telling us. Operational Data examines those things that took place in the past (such as clicks or previous purchases), but identifying trends and connections relies on a different kind of data, on experience - or “X” Data.

X Data provides the unseen trends that can help marketers predict future behaviours. It’s the why behind operational data, adding a layer of qualitative insights to help brands easily identify the key drivers behind their most prized metrics.

While there are already some marketing and customer experience professionals who are using X Data within their campaigns, digital marketers are yet to fully embrace this new data set. Here are three reasons why X Data should be adopted into campaigns in 2018:

1. It’s too easy to get bogged down in analytics

With over 5,000 analytics platforms and martech tools available, is it any wonder that today’s digital marketers are feeling overwhelmed with potential data sources? While many of these tools have their benefits, the reality is that simply accessing different types of data isn’t enough anymore.

What marketers need is the ability to cross-analyse data from seemingly unrelated sources and spot patterns that analytics software is typically not capable of spotting. While this ability to recognise unusual patterns has required a traditionally human perspective, a new wave of AI and machine learning-driven analysis systems are now starting to emerge that can genuinely uncover the X Data that exists between different platforms and departments.

2. Consumers aren’t logical

The digital era has allowed brands unprecedented access to information about their customers, looking at everything from buyer behaviours through to social media profiles. But while this data provides a useful snapshot of how consumers behave online, it does not necessarily provide the context that surrounds their decisions.

By supplementing this information with X Data, brands begin to think about the reasons why their customers are displaying certain behaviours online. Take cart abandonment for example - many a marketer has gone through weeks of split testing to identify how to reduce it. But layer in X Data and your consumers will help you get there faster and identify things your operational data alone could never tell you. In many instances, X Data reveals that consumer decisions aren’t, in fact, logical, or even repeatable. Everything from customer moods and mindsets to their experiences on a site can influence a purchase decision, as such relying purely on past behaviours could be highly misleading.

3. It doesn’t mean complexity

Looking for trends in digital marketing data does not have to mean uncovering something complicated. More often than not, X Data is simply a case of uncovering the unexpected. As one example, consider the Viceroy Hotels Group.

Having reviewed the brand’s website analytics, Viceroy’s digital marketing team noticed that while website traffic had surged from people in the local area, the company’s sales data showed no change between local and visiting customers. The company ran surveys to understand the consumer’s mindset and uncovered unseen X Data that presented a simple answer to the discrepancy – local customers were simply struggling to find the happy hour menu!

This simple (but unexpected) insight allowed the Viceroy team to quickly and easily make the menu much more accessible to those who visited their site from a local IP address. The result? An increase in visitors from the local area during happy hour and a tangible impact on their bottom line.

By looking beyond traditional analytics and thinking about the relationships between different data sets, digital marketers can start to unlock a whole new layer of insights around their brands. To do this, however, we must stop thinking about how customers can inform their data strategy and instead start thinking about how their data strategy can inform and improve customer experiences.

Understanding Experience Data represents the first step on this journey, with digital marketers thinking about context and knowledge rather than raw facts and figures.


By Jack Davies, head of content EMEA at Qualtrics

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