OPINION: The disconnect between brands, agencies and customers

Avrill D'Costa
By Avrill D'Costa | 21 May 2013

You cannot deny reality – it’s happening everywhere. Agencies request data from brands only to receive a generic response such as, “We’re unable to release this data for security reasons” or best-case scenario, “I’ll make an internal request”, which can take weeks for approval and preparation. Sound familiar?

The pressure and expectation to continuously drive growth and success for brands never fades. From small businesses to large enterprises, the necessity to create feedback loops to continuously monitor results is the only way to drive sustainable growth. As it was explained to me in layman's terms: plan, do, check, action. As an overview:

1) Plan an ad campaign.
2) Do what you set in the plan.
3) Check whether the plan worked.
4) Action any improvements.

Seems simple enough, so where does it all go wrong? In reality, everywhere. But let's focus on steps three and four.

Without the need to ask, agencies can already access potential customer data to observe their behaviour and see how they react to various ad campaigns. This is great, but to drive brand success, agencies need to analyse the actual data that impacts their campaigns – not just metrics such as clicks and impressions that are limited to the feedback they provided. To do this requires instant access to the complete sales conversion funnel, a process that is rarely done correctly.

Brands seem to hold up a stop sign to these requests and are usually vague when they do decide to share this information with their agencies. There are many problems to this, the majors being misinterpretation of data and inaccurate analytics. Restricting access to these underlying factors makes measuring success impossible. Just as the potential customer data comes in via various ad monitoring platforms, the product sales and conversion data needs to be provided in a consistent and timely manner.

We as customers gladly provide our user data, via automated feedback reports, sharing our location, our clicks, impressions and even 'likes' or tweets. Yet the fact stands that agencies that primarily use this data without the sales conversion funnel aren't focusing on improving sales, but are simply optimising the interaction between potential customers and their experience with the ad itself.

Questions are left unanswered, the ability for us to make a purchase is complicated, and we feel disconnected with the brand and subconsciously or not, we don't buy the products. Whatever the reason may be, if an ad campaign isn’t optimised to make sales they will never perform as well as they should.

In an ideal world this would be a simple problem to solve, yet the vast amounts of data from the various business intelligence platforms on both the brand and agency sides are in different formats and don't integrate. There is no common link that consolidates this data in one location for every user to reference and analyse. To solve this problem brands need to first generate the business questions they need answered and capture the supporting data necessary to validate the decision-making process.

The data-capture process is a complex task in itself, but there are several platforms that specialise in doing this for various purposes, such as Google Analytics, Double Click, MediaMind, MailChimp, SalesForce and SAP. The difficultly comes when combining these datasets together to produce the answers you need, ad placements, engagement, media spend, website/store traffic and sales. 

Then there’s the complex task of forming relationships between these datasets to answer the right business questions. Traditionally the solution is to export data into spreadsheets, form a team to mine the data manually, and produce static reports on a weekly or monthly basis. With the vast amounts of data being generated daily, this is no longer possible. Brands and agencies need to work together and automate this process to get the answers they need in real-time.

At the end of the day, if brands want to know what impact their ad campaigns have on product sales, it starts by empowering agencies with the data to create accurate success measures. Brands need to become more transparent in the way they operate internally and treat agencies as an extension of their business rather than a standalone entity.But all is not lost – there are brands that are evolving to embrace this data age, and with history on our side, it only takes one to start a revolution.

Avrill D'Costa
Head of Data Analytics & Product Design, Co-Founder
BigDatr

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