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Jonathan Becher, chief marketing officer, SAP

SAP CMO Jonathan Becher discusses the actionable aspects of big data.


Big data — it’s not just a technological challenge, it’s a cultural challenge, according to SAP Chief Marketing Officer Jonathan Becher. In a keynote presentation at the Brand Innovators Big Data Summit at SAP Global Marketing in New York last month, Becher noted that the technological explosion that has triggered leaps in data collection and processing has created a pressing need to educate marketers — who are entrusted to bridge the gap between consumer and corporation.

In the past. companies have talked about customer centricity, but now, with today’s technological tools at their fintertips, companies are forced to mean it — walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

To accomplish this, marketers need to do 4 things: 1) Listen to customer signals, 2) Find actionable insights, 3) Personalize experiences to every person the company interacts with and 4) Ensure consistency in each interaction. The problem, he said, is that “marketers need to do all 4 of them and most stop at 1 or 2.”

Big data, said Becher, is at the heart of these 4 actions, and the MIT Technology Review seems to agree; “Big data is revolutionizing commerce in the 21st century. When it comes to business, big data offers unprecedented insight, improved decision-making, and untapped sources of profit,” it was observed in an October report that attempted to define the term (complex data is “big,” but high volume of data does not necessarily mean ‘complex'”).

So how does one sort through the oceans of consumer data that is available today to even firms of modest means?

Sift through it not randomly, Becher instructed, “but to listen with an objective in mind.” Sort out your strategy of inquiry upfront:
“What is your goal?” Data parsing merely as organizational tool is not an end unto itself, Becher noted, citing a favorite quote, Albert Einstein’s “Not everything that can be counted counts.”

Einstein__counting Traversing the socialogical spectrum, Becher said “It reminds me of when people say, ‘Hey, cool, I’m on Twitter and I’m listening!’ And I say, ‘Why?’ And they say, ‘Because I’m supposed to, social media is a good thing.’” But social media, like other marketing tools, is simply a means to a business goal.”

In the end, it’s not about big data, “it’s about big outcomes.” And the outcomes he envisions can be “tremendous.” Becher cited reports indicating (over thousands of tests) that “virtually every campaign can be improved with big data analytics and on average it can be improved by 25%.”

Other studies suggest that if the “marketing community” – described as “roughly the top 5,000 companies” globally – “all agreed to use big data in a relatively holistic way, we can save somewhere between $100 billion and $200 billion in marketing investment and redirect it somewhere else.”

Despite such compelling figures, a study involving approximately 1,000 brands revealed that “only 10% of them were using big data analytics to make decisions in more than 50% of the cases, and only 1% were using them to make decisions in 75% of the cases, so the majority are not.” (Interestingly, the stats shifted rather dramatically with regard to the agency world, where one-third of respondents said “they were using big data for everything.”)

The takeaway: many companies are still in the early stages of their big data journey. “Do not feel like you have to be at the maturity curve on day one,” Becher advised. “This is a start small. Assess where you are” and take a look at your corporate culture. Think carefully about what kind of marketing department and what kind of company you have. Are you an analytical department or one that manages by gut?”

Citing as an example the privately-held online gaming firm Bigpoint, which connects some 250 Playstation fans around the globe and allows them to play a selection of 64 games, for free. “So how do they make money? The good news is 2% of the people that use Big Point pay – they pay for extras, buying an extra shield, or an extra cloak of armor, or extra instruments that cost $1 or $2.”


Becher-BigDataGraphic The ah-ha insight for Bigpoint was the realization that customers were more likely to buy if the extra was offered at the precise point in the game where it could make a difference in their advancing, or their very survival. “What they’ve come to realize is every interaction in the entire game is a datapoint that tells them something about the gamer and their likelihood to buy at that point,” Becher noted. In repositioning sales that way, the company increased revenues by 12% in one month, Becher reported.

In transitioning to a data mindset, there are certain circumstances to prepare for. “The first thing you should do is get comfortable with the duality of when the numbers say X and the boss says Y. How are we going to resolve those issues? Do the numbers win or does the boss win? When do they tie? You can actually be an insight-driven company – and say ‘Aha! This is really what’s going on!’ – before you can be an action-driven company. Despite what the consultants say, you don’t have to close the loop on day one.”

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by Brandon Gutman
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Brandon is an expert connector and seasoned business development professional. As Principal of Brand Approved, he's led the advisory to become the bridge between brand marketers and best of breed service providers that are reshaping the industry.

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