Why you should mind the (data) skills gap

Why you should mind the (data) skills gap – and what you can do to side-step it

The way a business interacts with its customers, and what those customers expect from businesses is changing, and changing at rapid speed. As consumers, we are all becoming more comfortable with sharing aspects of our lives in the digital world, whether that’s buying products and services online or sharing our innermost thoughts on social media. Our willingness to engage with and embrace everything online provides brands with an enormous opportunity to develop a much more purposeful and meaningful relationship with us as current or potential customers. Every click of a button, every share of a page – all these actions now hold meaning or indicate intention. For brands to understand and make sense of these actions, in a way which will positively impact their business, new skills are needed. Individuals who are able to analyse customer data and understand how to translate that analysis into meaningful business decisions are hot property as those with data analytics skills and experience are in short supply.

According to a 2015 Harvey Nash-KPMG survey of Chief Information Officers across the Asia Pacific region, a vast majority believe that their organizations would be better able to keep up with the pace of change if not for this pesky skills gap. Data analytics is gaining traction, but there remains a lack of qualified individuals even as demand continues to boom. However, the solution is right there in front of you, in your existing pool of employees. Putting the power of information in the hands of your business, can and should start with enhancing the potential of people who already know your brand inside and out.

Data analytics as a skill-set needs to be demystified. Good data “scientists” in businesses perform very much the same tasks as a business analyst would. So no, you don’t need someone with a PhD in statistics, but you do need someone who possesses an in-depth understanding of your business and its concerns. Regular skills training can help build greater capabilities among existing teams, and help your company catch up to the latest analytic trends, making the most of your data and opportunities. Training people who are already familiar with the needs of your business will enable you to better connect with customers at scale. It’s not just about getting up to speed, but also being able to stay on-trend with future developments. Equipping your current employees with data analytic skills can also provide a foundation for them to drive new product innovation, based on new understandings of consumer demand.

How then to go about finding the right training for your people? The most important thing is to find trainers who understand the language and world of business, who can help you translate raw data insights into actionable business insights. Cleaning up your data will do very little unless they can teach you how to effectively utilize this information for your business. Look for a training company that takes an honest and straightforward approach to the world of data, who can cover both the theoretical and practical aspects of data analytics. Get trainers who empower their trainees with an understanding of analytics that will help them get to the heart of information and discern usable insights. Some might try to sell you technology that isn’t right for your particular needs, so find one who will take the time to understand what it is that drives your business, who can point out the right tools for you, and teach you how to use them well. Hire trainers who don’t shy away from answering the difficult questions about data analytics.

Through training your staff, it is entirely possible to cleverly side-step the skills gap instead of waiting on the vagaries of the hiring pool. The people you already have are in the best position to do your brand a world of good in the new online marketplace, from finding the right audiences for your marketing efforts, to making changes to your digital infrastructure and therefore better serving your customers. The sooner you take action, the sooner your business will benefit. Skills gap? What skills gap?

Aleetza Senn

Managing Partner & Co-Founder

Sparkline

Unravelling the mysteries of media attribution

The Mysterious World of Media Attribution:  what it is and why you should embrace it

In 1929, John Wanamaker, one of the earliest US proponents of advertising and marketing, said: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” Sometimes it seems as if little has changed. Despite decades of technological advancements, the explosion of digital and more people living (and purchasing)  in a multi-screen, multi-channel world, there is still little tracking or measurement of a customer’s online interactions and activities which may (finally) result in a purchase. And this is despite the technology being available for almost a decade to enable practitioners to see how different channels affect behaviour and therefore how to assign a value to them as part of a marketing campaign. Enter media attribution, a statistical model that can help make the task of measurement much simpler and therefore the decision-making on digital campaigns much more informed. Everyone in marketing talks about media attribution.  And CMOs are well aware that it’s an area that demands their attention but adoption is not always easy and can be a real challenge, for a number of reasons. Many CMOs are ready to dip their toe in the water but need help navigating the different attribution models available as well as help in gaining the confidence needed to often instigate a change in mindset within their organization that comes with a better understanding of attribution and how it can really benefit a company’s bottom line.

Most CMOs still rely on ‘last click’ media attribution models, even though they know that this method ignores the entire decision-making funnel, simply because they don’t know how to move beyond it. There are reasons for this, some of which are revealed in a recent Adobe Digital Directions Report which found that the main challenges faced by CMOs in executing digital campaigns included budget limitations (50% of respondents) and limited capabilities, knowledge and experience (47%). In addition, and probably due partly to budget constraints but also often company culture, marketers aren’t given the freedom to fail – essential when there is no ‘one size fits all’ attribution model and to get the best out of any campaign measurement takes constant refinement and iteration. Much easier is to continue to doggedly use a measurement model that, whilst it ignores customer behaviour, simplifies the media buy.

But consider this. Multi-screen/cross-device usage is higher in Asia than anywhere else in the world. A recent Nielsen Southeast Asia Digital Consumer Report, which examined the digital media habits and attitudes of Southeast Asian consumers, revealed that Singaporean digital consumers were the heaviest internet users in the region, averaging 25 hours online per week, followed closely by digital consumers in the Philippines and Malaysia who averaged 21.5 hours and 19.8 hours online per week. A recently released 2014 AdReaction Report from Millward Brown shows that multiscreen users in the Asia Pacific region consume seven hours of screen media per day in a five hour period. This is mostly on their smartphones, ahead on all digital channels on the global averages, except TV.

So there you have it. Millions of people, potential consumers of your product, online, always switched on. And yet, the complexity of the digital space and customer behaviour within it, coupled with internal pressures to get it right first time sees many CMOs just too nervous to risk  trying another approach. The result of this mindset however is that accurately assigning a digital marketing budget (which  79% of CMOs are looking to increase this year, according to CMO Council Asia Pacific) becomes a complete shot in the dark.

Adoption of multi-media attribution models which can measure micro conversions and therefore help you to understand the role each activity plays in getting to the ‘macro conversion’ or purchase means you can then accurately attribute value and budget. Common sense, right? So why aren’t more CMOs taking that step? Any topic involving the words ‘digital’, ‘multi-channel’ and ‘data’, can strike fear into the hearts of many a marketer and with budgets always being scrutinised and squeezed, it’s no wonder that many avoid making what they perceive would be complex, risky and above all, expensive changes. But that’s not the reality.

Firstly, we’re not talking about making big sweeping changes. Step by step experimentation and testing is key to successful media attribution in a multi-channel environment, given the shifting nature of digital. Unfortunately the good old days when marketing used to be simple, where you could push your messages out to people through the right combination of repetition, are long gone. So it doesn’t make sense to make big scale changes when the digital landscape is changing every day.

We’re also not talking about expensive changes. Multi-touch attribution is no longer a technology only for those with mega budgets. Most publishers and many platforms provide metrics which enable you to evaluate effectiveness beyond last- click. Affordable technologies now also exist that allow marketers to evaluate performance beyond the last-click.

The fear of the unknown is also a barrier to change so seek help from experts who have the technical know-how to be able to pinpoint and analyse your customer data, and who can then work with you to turn that analysis into real and measurable changes you can make to your marketing strategy by helping you identify the points in the online customer journey which require attention or investment.

Picture this. Imagine being able to know why you spend a certain amount of your budget on a particular  digital channel or medium and what the implications are if you don’t? And imagine understanding the influence every channel has on your customer’s purchase-making decisions and that by just tweaking a few variables, you can influence that decision-making and therefore your bottom line, literally overnight? Don’t you think it’s worth taking that step into the unknown for benefits this great?

Aleetza Senn

Managing Partner & Co-Founder

Sparkline