Building Your Own ‘Starship Enterprise’ to Monitor and Manage Digital Marketing Performance

CMOs have lots of technology but little insights through data. Ann Ruckstuhl, CMO at SOASTA explains how to combine “art and science” to build a Star Trek-style command bridge, showing insights that mean revenue

As a marketer, I love branding projects, because they enable my teams to flex their creative muscles and tell stories that build awareness and sell. Marketing has always been an “art,” and the creative side of any marketer’s job is what draws you in and keeps you going. Our art helps us differentiate brands, facilitate awareness, and ultimately to drive nurture, acquisition and retention.

Over the last 20 years or so, marketing has become increasingly reliant on science that gets paired up with said art. The pace of innovation has brought us a staggering number of tools, like CRM and marketing automation, as well as personalization and segmentation technologies that help us micro-target customers with relevant, timely and appropriate messages. We’re trying to connect with customers across paid, earned and owned media, as well as social channels, to deliver a Customer Experience (CX) that makes people hit the “buy” button.

The problem with this proliferation of systems and customer channels/touch points is that they all generate their own unique streams of data, which must be harvested, processed and analyzed. IT can be focused on building a high-performance technology stack, but marketers need to understand what’s really happening with digital marketing across the enterprise to be proactive and efficient managers. We’re dealing with multiple streams of data, across multiple platforms, with no single source of truth. Many of us find ourselves adrift, without a meaningful way of connecting marketing performance and sales or to answer a key question — is your team’s “art” driving sales? We need to ask ourselves which customers are converting and why. How is marketing moving the needle and making customers hit the “buy” button? Why? And, more importantly, why not?

The answer to these questions lies in understanding the empirical relationship between customer experience and marketing programs. CMOs are increasingly in control of greater amounts of IT spend and building partnerships with IT and operations. Marketing is no longer a cost center but has become a responsible party when it comes to topline revenue.

For these reasons, leadership needs an integrated and actionable view of how the multitude of marketing campaigns and programs channels are performing and driving conversions. Across mobile devices and traditional networked PCs and laptops, CMOs need the ability to see in real time what customers are doing and how they are interacting with an organization’s digital assets — in other words, how they’re voting with their eyeballs and wallets. A vast majority of CMOs do not possess an integrated view of marketing performance, due to the simple fact that so many systems, platforms and tools generate data, and it is a tedious chore to gather data from each — and then interpret it. And this typically only occurs after the fact, not in real time. What’s more, they aren’t able to drill down — and while they may be able identify trends, they can’t explain why they happen.

What I would argue, then, is that each CMO needs his or her own Starship Enterprise. Like Captain Kirk, CMOs should be sitting on their own virtual bridge, in command and in control of their digital business, receiving constant reports as to the state of the ship’s health, getting real-time streaming data about what’s happening across the galaxy. We call this “bridge” a Digital Operations Center (DOC), giving CMOs the information needed to measure the many facets of performance already existing within an organization, as well as to bridge departmental data siloes and integrate with measurement and analytics tools, to collect data over time and recognize patterns. You can use the DOC to see what’s happening in real time, use past data to identify trends, and make future plans by leveraging predictive analytics to run “what if” scenarios.

Knowing about global performance (and conversions) across the IT and marketing stacks gives executives a clear sense of where to prioritize and focus. My company, SOASTA, has created a metric called the Conversion Impact Score, a ranked prioritization of the pages on a given e-commerce site that drive the most ROI, in order to help understand real-time performance. If the indicators are green, then the page is good. If not, then Big Data and analytics come into play to understand the how’s and why’s of performance issues and prioritize a coordinated response from marketing, operations and IT. And because our teams can’t “boil the ocean” or cover the entire galaxy, Big Data helps us pinpoint what part of the customer experience to optimize.

Big Data in the form of geo-targeted forensics provides a big part of the CMO’s ability to “navigate” to a solution. Data forensics enable teams to drill down and understand what is and isn’t working, parsing and deriving meaning from petabytes of marketing data. With truly advanced analytics, CMOs can understand what, where and when problems are occurring. For example, is my website slowing things down due to JavaScript and CSS issues? As little as a four-second delay in response time means that customers will navigate away, taking with them the money they had planned to spend. Because a typical web page has more than 60 services integrated with it and as many as 18 of those services are third-party, an e-commerce site is only as strong as its weakest link.

Leveraging data insights for marketing performance has powerful implications for CMOs. For example, a large retail organization recently found that conversions across a particular page were faltering for no clear reason. Their Conversion Impact Scores were falling, and by drilling down into mobile performance data, they were able to uncover that a certain brand of Android mobile phone, on a certain European-based carrier network, was causing the problem. The dashboard identified the problem, and Big Data analytics helped them learn that among the multiple carrier networks and 18,000 Android-based mobile devices around the world, ONE combination was costing them sales. Once they fixed the issues relating to these particular phone and carrier variables, it was a case of “problem solved,” and they saw a return to normal operations.

For e-commerce at scale, uncovering snags like the one above can make a real difference, and this is where art meets science. Walmart.com knows that a one second website delay means a 2 percent drop in conversions, leaving some $244 million on the table! Even the most compelling, artfully crafted marketing message can’t get through if your systems aren’t working properly. By building their own Starship Enterprise and leveraging advanced tools, CMOs can facilitate cross-functional collaboration, foster performance-driven cultures, reach for higher levels of customer satisfaction, innovation, and customization, and elevate performance to the next level.

This article was originally published on MarTech Advisor