Marketing analytics: A big annoying pain in the butt

Published on the 14/10/2020 | Written by Jonathan Cotton

Marketing analytics_Gartner

Nearly half of CMOs “unable to measure marketing ROI”…

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it, they say.

But what about when you do measure it and you still don’t know what the hell you’re doing? Welcome to the baffling world of marketing analytics.

Despite heavy investment in marketing data and analytics, only around half of CMOs are actually basing their marketing decisions off their analytics, say researchers at Gartner.

“Though CMOs understand the importance of applying analytics throughout the marketing organisation, many struggle to quantify the relationship between insights gathered and their company’s bottom line,” says Lizzy Foo Kune, senior director analyst in the Gartner marketing practice.

“Marketing leaders are either optimistic about the future potential of marketing analytics, or are so far ‘in the hole’ with their investment that they don’t want to turn around.”

Gartner recently released its Marketing Data and Analytics Survey 2020, which finds CMOs struggling to turn marketing analytics into real McCoy marketing insight.

“In fact, nearly half of respondents in this year’s survey say they’re unable to measure marketing ROI… This inability to measure ROI tarnishes the perceived value of the analytics team.”

And this comes despite CMOs having prioritised marketing analytics as a key enabler in supporting their marketing strategy for the last three years. Investment or not, marketers now cite poor data quality, inactionable results and the lack of clear recommendations as the top reasons for not relying on marketing analytics to make decisions.

So what’s going wrong in the marketing department?

CMOs cite ‘a lack of clear recommendations; and a lack of ‘actionable results’ as reasons for not relying on analytics and that’s part of an ongoing struggle, says Gartner, as marketing teams fight to demonstrate the value – and sometimes even the functionality – of their organisations’ analytical capabilities.

That’s a fair cop – as anyone who’s battled with the backend of Google Analytics can attest – nevertheless, it’s a poor workman who blames his tools, and one wonders if at least part of the disconnect between analytics and insight is one of willed ignorance: Gartner finds that one major reason analytic data is ignored is because ‘the findings conflict with [the business’s] intended course of action’.

“Confirmation bias plays a large role in this,” says the report, “as marketing leaders often seek out data to help them make the case for a desired course of action, cherry-picking data to make them look good.

“Indeed, our survey reveals that respondents who cite their data findings conflict with an intended course of action were also most likely to cite that data analyses fail to present clear recommendations.

“Seventy-three percent of respondents agreed that they would utilise marketing analytics in more decisions if the quality of the output was improved.”

So there’s lots of room for improvement. Despite the current hurdles however, the industry is strangely upbeat: Marketing analytics is still a top area of investment, with almost three-quarters of those surveyed planning to increase investments in the next year, and just under half planning to increase their marketing analytics team’s size over the next two years.

It’s a strange situation, says Gartner, one not necessarily sustainable in the long term.

“Marketing leaders continue to invest despite not seeing expected returns, hoping to realise those returns ‘some day’,” says the research and advisory company.

“Marketing leaders are either optimistic about the future potential of marketing analytics, or are so far ‘in the hole’ with their investment that they don’t want to turn around.”

Not everyone’s anticipating growth of course – 18 percent expect their teams to shrink. The top two reasons respondents give for shrinking or holding their analytics team size steady are cost cutting due to the impacts of Covid-19 and the belief that their current teams are adequate.

Beyond that, it’s all robots, says Gartner, as marketers look to offload the tedious work of preparing all that hard-won data for human consumption.

“The next two reasons for not growing the analytics team are due to investments in data automation and decision automation.

“These two responses appear to be a direct attempt to address the most-cited impediments to achieving analytics success, which respondents claim are manual data preparation, connecting analytics to business value and connecting analysis to insight. Marketing leaders hope that automation will help solve these challenges.”

But while this could be taken as a call for analytics teams to upskill their current capabilities, marketers simply aren’t prioritising skill development, right when they need it most, says Gartner.

“There is an opportunity to develop new skills within the analytics team that will effectively complement the role of automation to increase the impact of those analytics efforts and bridge the gap between data, strategy development and marketing execution.

“By prioritising skill development, particularly in areas like advanced modeling, consultation and persuasive communication, analytics teams can expand the breadth of their influence and depth of their impact.

“Reprioritising your analytics effort to complement the role of automation will elevate marketing analytics to a higher-value function that serves as a critical strategic partner to the CMO.”

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