The last few years has seen the marketing industry turn its attention omni-channel marketing, attribution and personalisation as part of a whole new set of tools offered to maximise the opportunity afforded by online advertising.

However, a recent survey undertaken by Ensighten and Econsultancy for the Customer Experience Optimization report revealed that marketers are overwhelmed by data.

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of survey respondents reported feeling overwhelmed by the volume of incoming data, and a staggering 85% said they were unable to extract the full value from the data sources they have access to. 

Use and perception of data (company respondents)

So how do we work to change this, and whose job is it to help marketers get to grips with their data?

Why is big data such a big problem?

Marketing technology has meant that the scale of the data we’re dealing with has grown exponentially.

It’s now possible to collect data on every branded touch point with a single customer – and that means every time a display or pre-roll ad is served across Facebook or YouTube, or a search is conducted via desktop, tablet or mobile.

And as consumers spend more time online, the volume of available data only increases.

Alongside this, we often find that data is siloed within businesses and across third-party vendors  – meaning data from display, email, social and mobile app data, CRM systems and web analytics, is all kept separately.

This poses a huge challenge to marketers looking to piece together customer journeys across online and offline platforms and devices.

What this largely leads to is wasted ad spend with marketers unable to recognise the channels that are driving success at different stages of the marketing funnel.

However, it also leads to the kind of targeting that evokes a negative response from consumers – the ‘why am I being followed round the internet with an ad for something I bought yesterday’ complaint that’s all too familiar.

How do we fix this?

What’s missing for most brands is a comprehensive and standardised dataset that they can link to a customer profile, across devices.

This kind of dataset enables marketers to paint a detailed picture of an individual and act on that data across all digital touchpoints – allowing for ad spend to be allocated effectively.

This also has the added benefit of moving marketers away from using last click, and into thinking more about how different online advertising tactics drive brand awareness, as opposed to just focusing on bottom-of-the-funnel activity that directly corresponds to a rise in conversions.

Brands also benefit from being able to understand the entire customer journey, delivering personalisation and improved customer experience as a result.

Whose job is it to make this happen?

From a privacy perspective we need to make sure that data stays in the hands of the brand marketers.

This means that brands need to start thinking about how to collect first-party data from areas where they have traditionally relied on third-party data.

What we should be doing is making sure brands have the tools and knowledge to do this themselves. For agencies this means advising clients on the different tools out there, and helping them make educated, impartial choices about what solutions suit their business needs.

Alongside this, as vendors we need to be clear in the language we use when we describe our products.

We also need to make sure our offering is user friendly and offers easily manageable and digestible reporting.

This will give brand marketers the agility required to make constant adjustments to campaigns to drive performance, as well as empower them to quantify the business benefits of what they do when they are inevitably asked to justify their spend.

Josh Manion

Published 18 May, 2015 by Josh Manion

Josh Manion is CEO at Ensighten and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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Comments (3)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

(1) "It’s now possible to collect data on every branded touch point with a single customer."

No. No it's not. That would require that every "touch point" is reported and that you have 100% identification: neither of which is even close.

Email is a classic example of under-reporting. You know nothing about which shoppers see your email in their in-box, and you often don't see the event when they open it.

Identification issues happen everywhere. When someone clicks-through on an email, you don't know if it's the original recipient, or someone it was forwarded to. Whenever someone uses your website on a shared computer, or one where they never identify themselves, you can't correctly record the resulting "touch points". And if your content gets copied and reused, you have no chance of knowing who read it.

I'd guestimate that we have data on less than 25% of touch points.

over 3 years ago


Mark Bolitho, New Business Director - Ecommerce at more2

Hi Josh

Nice post, bang on the money, not read the report yet though. There's certainly a lot of data available but not sure anything is broken. Thinking that everything needs to be collected is the first mistake, one that no doubt causes brands to feel overwhelmed. Things do become 'broken' when brands have this mindset and become fixated on the wrong things. They then bite off more than they can chew: we're often called in after 2 or even 3 years of someone trying to piece together every scrap of data using great tools, failing and then being unable to work out what to do with it anyway.
Not everything is important, understanding this can be helpful at the outset.

I think maybe just the thinking is 'broken', not the data itself.


over 3 years ago

Laurence Armiger

Laurence Armiger, Sales Director at Zizo

As pointed out in this article, organisations have been looking to delve deeper into customer information in order to improve retention and drive up sales. This concept of data enrichment is not new – leading retailers, for example, have integrated demographic data sets to enhance customer data not only to improve customer understanding but also inform key strategic decisions. However, the sheer volume of data can be endless and just as it presents opportunity, therein also lies a problem: How can organisations begin to experiment with these data sets without incurring prohibitive costs?

Big data is all about being first - organisations need to be able to experiment with data sets quickly, effectively and cheaply. The latest generation of analytics database technologies have been designed not only to manage vast data quantities but also to compress that data into manageable – and affordable - volumes and provide the business with the insight required.

Laurence Armiger, Sales Director, Zizo

about 3 years ago

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