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Today, marketing revolves around data. Yet gathering enough of it is no longer an issue for most businesses. Rob Roy, chief digital officer at Sprint, agrees: “We believe data is our oil, our gold, but having hundreds of millions of terabytes of data that isn’t actionable really does nothing for me.” With an abundance of data, the challenge now is making more sense of the data you have to drive meaningful improvements for your business.

In the age of assistance—when consumers expect brands to give them exactly what they want in a hurry—leading marketers use integrated data and technology to understand their audience and make those timely connections.

Three of those marketing leaders—Bayer, Tapestry Inc., and Sprint—are profiled in “The Data-Driven Transformation,” a new report from Google on MIT Sloan Management Review. The report notes that, according to a recent study by the Association of National Advertisers, “companies that are spending the most on marketing technology are also the top performers.”1

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While many of those top performers start with an integrated marketing and advertising stack, it’s what that technology allows marketers to do next that really matters.

1. They understand the customer in the moment

Intent signals from shoppers that might be weak on their own become powerful when integrated: things like search intent, videos viewed, and content read across the web. These help marketers engage and assist customers at just the moment they need it.

The more information sources you organize and connect, the richer the picture of your audience becomes. Nearly 90% of marketers, across all types of organizations, agree that understanding user journeys across channels and devices is critical to their success.2 Technology that operates on top of an integrated data strategy can provide marketers with deeper insights into those audiences.

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For example, the team at Bayer started by connecting its content management and analytics systems, and assembling a marketing insights platform that could ingest and analyze a wide variety of customer behaviors with a single customer ID. Then Bayer created a digital measurement center of excellence to guide the transformation, bringing together team members with skills in marketing, data, and technology. As a result, Bayer has reduced wasteful spending by 30% while improving customer engagement by more than 50%.3

2. They connect internal teams

Technology can often be a catalyst for change. However, you need the right talent to extract the gold that data is offering you. And your teams need real daily access to that data: 86% of senior executives (senior VP or higher) agree that eliminating organizational silos is critical to expanding the use of data and analytics in decision-making.4

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Built-in intelligence and machine learning can bring those gold nuggets of insight to the surface more quickly, so your team can spend more time taking action. Marketers can use machine learning to inform creative messaging, and serve different ads to different audiences. It also helps predict frequency capping across open auction and programmatic direct campaigns. Using an integrated platform helps bring teams together too. It provides access to insights that serve as a bridge to teams around the office and around the globe.

Tapestry Inc., the fashion company formerly known as Coach, took advantage of those opportunities when it added Stuart Weitzman and Kate Spade New York to its portfolio. As the team brought data from all the brands’ touchpoints into the fold, they also needed to consolidate it across three brands.

The company's Global Data Labs team put a major focus on enabling teams to use data in their decisions, even saying, “We’ve spent about 50% of our time on cultural change.” Part of that change included creating customized tools and platforms to give employees access and more options to work with data.

3. They focus on relevance

When your teams work together, and they’re using integrated analytics and ad technology, you can start to be there with the assist when your customer needs you most.

“We believe data is our oil, our gold, but having hundreds of millions of terabytes of data that isn’t actionable really does nothing for me.”

One of Sprint's experiments looked at the impact of paid search on in-store traffic. The question: Could those digital investments be driving retail traffic and sales, as well as online conversions? Over eight weeks, Sprint increased paid search spending and got its answer: Digital sales grew by 20% and in-store sales rose by 32%.5

Yes, data is gold. But companies see the real value when they use integrated data and technology to deliver those engaging, relevant experiences that consumers love—and demand.

To learn more about the Sprint, Bayer, and Tapestry Inc. stories, read the full report: “The Data-Driven Transformation.”