The Digital Dynamic: Evolution of Marketing in a Data-Driven World | MMA Global

The Digital Dynamic: Evolution of Marketing in a Data-Driven World

September 16, 2021
Submitted by Gowthaman Ragothaman, Chief Executive Officer, Aqilliz

It’s been said time and time again: data is the new oil. In no time has this become more evident than it is today where so much of our lives are now lived online, spread across a pixelated landscape of clicks, likes, and views. As consumers traverse multiple channels — both online and offline — data is what helps to form a cohesive picture of who they truly are. From purchasing interests to personal preferences, data has helped brands to better inform their marketing and engagement approaches, ensuring that each and every interaction is perfectly tailored to meet a customer’s needs.

After all, personalisation is now no longer a luxury, but a necessity, and every marketer is only as good as their tech stack. According to Mirum’s 2020 India MarTech Survey, 84 percent of Indian marketers believe that data-driven marketing centred on the individual is one of the most exciting opportunities in the industry today. That being said, consumers are equally becoming more discerning with 36 percent expressing that while brands should provide more personalised marketing messages, these same consumers were also wary of sharing too much information with them.

As the worlds of data, behavioural science, and marketing activities continue to coalesce, the role of the marketer will need to evolve. What lies ahead?

Enter the CDO

With technology playing a more defining role across the marketing landscape, the role of the CMO has had to evolve in turn, with leaders familiarising themselves with new technologies and tactics to stay ahead of the data game. In fact, 80 percent of Indian marketers expect their organisations to invest in more tools and technologies in the coming years as data continues to be positioned at centre stage. With that said, CMOs have needed to gradually transition into new positions as Chief Digital Officers, driving new avenues for experimentation, exploration, as well as digital transformation in their organisations.

Whether it be through investing in new software and tools or encouraging employee upskilling, the role of the Chief Digital Officer is no longer one that can exist as an extension to the CMO, but may very well be one in the same. Consider the synergies when it comes to developing new customer-facing solutions fit for the digital journey or establishing new digital business models and optimising the digital experience for consumers — these are all workstreams that fit under the remit of today’s joint CMO-CDO role. With their proximity to data-centric applications, CMOs will play a more active role in shaping tech investment budgets. In fact, Mirum also found that 90 percent of surveyed marketers stated that improved marketing ROI and efficiency was the key motivator in adopting new MarTech tools.

To keep pace, CMOs must step up to the digital transformation plate and embrace how their position has evolved to become a wholly integrated one. This means not only espousing a more digital-first approach when it comes to consumer engagement strategies but equally when re-engineering internal company culture to one characterised by agility and adaptability. One potential vulnerability that CMOs will need to watch out for is the need for constant upskilling — as technologies continue to mature and new innovations appear on the horizons, employees across multiple departments — and clients — will need to be adequately trained to engage with new tools to fully realise their potential. No longer limited to the world of campaigns and creatives, the CMO is equal parts digital driver and data native.

Rearchitecting the tech stack

CDP, CRM, DAM — another acronym, another day. The number of new platforms and new tools across the MarTech and AdTech ecosystems is only growing. In 2020 alone, the MarTech landscape jumped from 7,040 vendors and solutions to a new total of 8,000. While it may be easy to succumb to a fear of missing out on the latest and greatest tech, CMOs would do well to avoid engaging in impulse investments. However, that in itself, can be tricky — without a clear view of when investments took place and for what purpose, duplication is bound to take place. Think about a software your team might have invested in a year ago? What’s it being used for? What objectives is it helping you to meet for a client?

Without a holistic view of their returns, engaging in a techstack overhaul can be hard to undertake. With all the emphasis on digital solutions, the worst case scenario for marketers is a bloated, duplicated tech stack — one that’s highly fragmented and necessitates frequent human intervention to consolidate insights and results. With that in mind, marketing leaders need to remember that cost-savings are not only a matter of the financial benefits, but also in terms of productivity and efficiency. Rather than opting for product bundles, aim for a “best-of-breed” approach instead — one that recognises the strengths of different solutions to deliver the most value for your organisation.

Lastly, one area that CMOs can no longer afford to ignore is that of data compliance. Within an increasingly privacy-centric digital landscape, investing in the right infrastructures such as sufficiently encrypted CDPs that can ensure that all data collection and analysis activities abide by relevant data protection frameworks will be key.

Knowing your consumer

Within a crowded commercial landscape, having an adequate personalisation strategy will be critical to distinguishing oneself from the competition. Data, naturally, will be a key driver to enabling this. Like many other nations that have looked to espouse a digital-first national strategy, India has made similar strides through its Digital India initiative which looks to transform the country into a knowledge-based economy. From boosting internet infrastructure, establishing a cohesive digital identity infrastructure, to cashless payments, the data points that can be reaped from a more interconnected society should be an exciting proposition for marketers in the country.

In line with this, regulations are also bound to evolve accordingly. With India’s own Personal Data Protection Bill in the works, how today’s existing MarTech solutions will perform against proposed guidelines is something that marketers will need to watch. In anticipation, Indian data privacy consultancy Arrka launched its own Privacy Index, evaluating the state of the country’s digital platforms and applications across multiple industries. Through its research, it found that the average Indian organisation has a score of 32/100 on the Flesch Reading Scale which assesses the accessibility of privacy policies. Meanwhile, 93 percent of websites in the country knowingly had embedded third-parties tracking users for advertising and tracking purposes. While the emphasis on data and its use for personalisation is certainly a given, the sector will certainly need to evolve to keep pace with changing compliance standards.

After all, global developments are already underway as the third-party cookie falls out of favour with Google Chrome, prompting brands and publishers alike to make a more concerted first-party data play. Though certainly a boon for privacy advocates and marketers hoping for more high-fidelity data, this also places new restrictions on how data can be gathered, demanding the most explicit levels of consent from users. For publishers, this will mean investing in new business models, for example, such as paywalls and freemiums, to naturally imbue data collection in their user engagement efforts. Other approaches include first-party data federations that allow a consortium of brands and publishers to engage in data collaboration with only ethically-procured data points, ensuring that personalisation can take place according to relevant data protection laws.

Growth on growth

In 2019, the global MarTech market was valued at US$121.5 billion and with ongoing digitalisation reaching new heights, that number is surely only set to grow. While much of the growth was driven by North America and Europe, it’s worth noting that over 40 percent last year’s APAC MarTech landscape was dominated by Indian companies, pointing to the country’s rise even among its regional peers. India certainly isn’t lagging far behind, facing the same challenges as many of its peers in the West when it comes to a lack of understanding of new technologies, the need for constant upskilling, and the vital role that MarTech now plays in shaping the customer experience.

With digital now the cornerstone in the brand-consumer relationship, marketing leaders who can adapt to and embrace the emergent innovations in the online landscape are those who will ultimately excel in the data-driven world.