eBook Overcoming Marketing Challenges Part 3: Insights

Meaningful insights are the pinnacle of marketing intelligence

  • Do you know how many people visited your stores, purchased, or left without buying?
  • Do you know what you most loyal customer looks like and how to find more of them?
  • Do you know how to monitor track trending behaviors such as repeat refunders?
  • Do you know how to shadow customers to determine when the right time is to contact them?

Controlling and connecting multiple data sources is one thing. Taking customer data and incorporating responses and behaviors to create truly meaningful insights is another key challenge for marketers. But getting close to your customer is what every marketer wants. Insights from big data sources, turned into understandable and actionable segments, enables more exciting and better targeted campaigns.

Marketing Pain Points – turning data into insights, and insights into actionable segments

The Econsultancy ‘Marketing Pain Points and How To Overcome Them’ 2015 report revealed the two highest challenges revolved around insights.  Two thirds of marketers are at migraine level turning data into insights, and insights into actionable segments. We know we have to do it to be effective, but most of us struggle. Insights present marketers with specific problems, different to data. Despite having so much data, marketers find the process of making this information useful and actionable considerably problematic.


The report revealed:

  • 49% of respondents said turning insights into actionable segments was a significant pain point for their marketing team
  • 45% of respondents said turning insights into actionable segments to drive effective marketing content was a significant pain point for their marketing team Marketing Pain Points – turning data into insights, and insights into actionable segments
  • 4/5 Nearly four in every five marketers stated turning data into insights and insights into actionable segments as either ‘very’ or ‘considerably’ important for the success of their campaigns.

What problems do you solve by getting insights from your data?

With 90% of the world’s data having been created in the last two years, there is not enough attention to go around. This is partly through passive collection (think online behavior tracking, storing of location-based information) but also through the amount of digital content that is being produced every second by brands and users.

Consumers are drinking from the firehose when it comes to content and this is intensified by the rapid increase in mobile usage. In this landscape, data needs to be collected and analysed in real-time, and furthermore be instantly actionable, preferably in a predictive way. Without these capabilities, marketing messages are less compelling and response rates fall.

Conversely, those brands that embrace real-time contextualization through powerful and flexible big data see huge uplifts in campaign responses. Marketers are now recognising the imperative of these omnichannel, contextualized communications with their prospects and customers. The more personalized the experience, the happier the customer. The happy customer isn’t just a customer who wishes to purchase more, it’s a customer that is retained, upsold and – perhaps most importantly – the customer who becomes an advocate for your brand.

What marketers said:

“We don’t have proper analytics capabilities which means we are limited in ROI view, optimization and progressing the digital experience.”

“Connecting all the activity and data across multiple channels and departments, and unifying them for monitoring measurement, evaluation and future marketing activity is challenging.”

“Disparate systems and data make it hard or impossible to personalize campaigns and gather, test and analyze customer data.”


Insights - how to achieve true marketing nirvana

As a powerful customer and marketing analytics tool, insights enables the understanding of a customer’s behavior, which in turn leads to a world of actionable and valuable data.

Insights are not just about answering questions – they are about ‘what can I do with this information?’

Do you really know your customers?

  • Do you know how many people visited your stores, purchased, or left without buying?
  • Do you know how long it takes for a customer to make a return purchase, and then another?
  • Do you know when a customer becomes inactive or lapsed?
  • Do you know what your most loyal customers look like and how to find more of them?
  • Do you know how to apply what you learn about your customers – what when where – and turn that into personalized conversations?
  • Do you know how to monitor changes in consumer behavior and act on this quickly?
  • Do you know how to use affinity reports to not only determine ‘the knowns’, ie people who buy this also buy that, but also ‘the unknowns’ – affinities which don’t conform to a set behavior but proffer new marketing opportunities, through those affinities, brand, product or otherwise?
  • Do you know how to shadow customers to determine when the right time is to contact them – learning their propensity to buy?
  • Do you know how to track trending behaviors, such as identifying repeat refunders or repeat returners – for example customers that buy three items online and return two in-store?


Insights questions are only as valuable as the ability to put the answers into action.

Marketers need to be able to act on data, not just pore over numbers in spreadsheets – there is a difference between a data question and an insight targeted call to action. Marketers need guidance about what is relevant, what are customer indicators, what are churn indictors and how to action all of this in an automated fashion. Basic reporting, such as how many customers shopped online, how many abandoned a sale etc arguably add to the volume of data out there, but it just adds to the information that marketers struggle with.

Ask yourself the question – if for example you knew that 40% of customers who shopped in the last 3 months were new to your brand, and out of those, 10% have bought again and most within 2 weeks of their initial purchase – would that be a valuable insight? And if you could then use a tool that identifies all those new customers who have not repurchased by 2 weeks and automatically re-engage with them leveraging relevant content using your marketing cloud software, this shows why an insights solution is absolutely critical to your marketing success.

Marketers need to be able to act on data, not just pore over numbers in spreadsheets.


The rise of mobile consumers and social media are creating a thunderstorm of data for marketers

Coping with the surge in data is a key marketing issue

Using insights technology makes it easy for marketers to identify the right channels, products and offers to engage customers for their next purchase. It’s defined by the data that companies collect on their customers’ activities, how customers respond to campaigns, behave on their website, what they purchase online and in their stores, which devices they use, where they live, and so on. The majority of companies need help to provide a 360º view of their customer and the ability to predict their next purchase. Every customer’s interaction with the business matters. Knowing that the person visiting their website now, is the same person who purchased from the store a few days ago for example, is essential to building a long-lasting relationship. Also, customers will be at different points of the marketing adoption curve with different wants and needs as they grow.

Truly understanding customer buying behavior by integrating existing ERP and other data sources using an insights tool will lead to all customer, marketing, web, social, locationbased and transaction data in one place. Insights technology gives the ability to perform advanced segmentation and marketing performance analysis without being reliant on analysts, IT or 3rd parties. Insights are the brain that powers your messaging, timing, offers…

How to deliver meaningful consumer insights

Getting closer to the customer is what every marketer wants. To know what your customer wants instead of just guessing. Using intuitive marketing intelligence technology lets you do that. Insights takes big data from multiple sources and delivers quick and easy to understand customer segments (such as automated RFM and loyal customer analysis for instance), which in turn creates more exciting, better-targeted campaigns.

It is revolutionary intelligence made simple

  • Understand past and predictive customer behavior and business performance in seconds
  • Instantly identify your most effective marketing channels – find the revenue needle in the big data haystack
  • Keep your best customers loyal and find new ones just like them
  • Identify purchase patterns, such as affinity items commonly bought together, and show your customer what they want before they know they want it
  • Grow revenue from existing customers by identifying and promoting products based on those commonly purchased together


Insights - the most vital tool for marketers

Every marketer needs a platform that genuinely listens to and learns from their customers. To provide intelligent messaging, via contextually unique engagements, through any digital channel. To do this, it needs to be able to cope with various types of data from multiple sources in various formats. Data, content and channels, the three pillars of marketing, need to be in complete co-ordination for a successful marketing strategy to perform.

Data and Insights

It is vital to have an insights tool that is:

  • Able to react with large amounts of structured and unstructured data very quickly
  • Able to identify signals in data that drive optimal marketing engagements
  • Able to provide reports and create dynamic one-touch segments without IT involvement
  • Able to provide reports in a zero latency manner to the business to support instant and effective decision making
  • Able to on-board very large amounts of data at speed both in real-time and batch

Your insights tool must:

  • Support full attribution
  • Support RFM (recency, frequency, monetary value)
  • Support propensity models
  • Support loyalty models
  • Enable deep and interactive visual data analysis through dynamic portals
  • Provide reports that are dynamic and interactive
  • Allow instant availability via portals and email distribution of reports

Insights tools use machine learning algorithms to identify signals and data patterns that a marketer can use to predict audience behavior and to make real-time recommendations. In addition, the usage of advanced natural language processing (NLP) techniques enables advanced tagging and interpretation of complex information enabling a richer understanding of customer communications, behavior and trends.


Data Types

In our age of big data, brands must be able to fully exploit all sources of data and content for insight

Relational databases versus Big Data stores
Big data solutions offer a way to avoid storage limitations or reduce storage costs for massive amounts of data. Relational databases cannot solely deliver a real-time contextual solution. It will hinder a marketer’s ability to source actionable insights, as well as the ability to react in real-time. Big data is a valuable tool when you need to handle data that is arriving quickly and that you can process later. You store the data in its original format and then process it when required using a query that extracts the required result set and stores it in a relational database. Put simply, a relational database operates like someone finding a book in a library – by choosing their category first and then sourcing the chosen text alphabetically. A big data solution will immediately find the result – the same way Google does when you type a query into their search bar. As an open source framework for distributed storage and processing of large sets of data on commodity hardware, solutions built on Hadoop for example enable businesses to quickly gain insights from massive amounts of structured and unstructured data.

Structured / Unstructured / ERP
Brands need to be able to extract information not only from structured data (usually a fixed field record or file), but also from unstructured data (anything that doesn’t reside in a traditional rowcolumn database). Unstructured data includes both text and multimedia content. It is estimated that 80% of organizational data is unstructured and this figure is growing at twice the rate of structured data. It has traditionally been very difficult to analyse unstructured data. Insights however does this effectively – it extracts meaning from the large volumes of information found in both these forms. ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) is more traditionally known as ‘accounting software’. It reflects a more core solution capability that can manage supply chain, operations, reporting and HR. Yet again, insights can find meaning and capitalize on the opportunities found within precious ERP data.

ETL (extract, transform and load) refers to a process in database usage and data warehousing. These are the three functions needed to get data from one big data environment and put into another data environment. The process of data transformation is made far more complex because of the staggering growth in the amount of unstructured data. Given the growth and importance of unstructured data to decision making, ETL solutions are now offering standardized approaches to transforming unstructured data so that it can be more easily integrated with operational structured data. ETL now can support solutions to provide big data extraction by insights and other data management platforms.

Using social media, brands have an unparalleled opportunity to hear what their customers and potential customers think and feel about them, gathering insight and intelligence. Current approaches to natural language processing (NLP) combine both linguistic or grammatical approaches as well as machine learning techniques. The holy grail of NLP has been to convert unstructured data (text and multimedia) into structured data. This leads to insights solutions such as social segmentation and therefore more targeted marketing campaigns. NLP should be used in insights, offering capabilities such as personalized email, recommendation and mobile apps.

Insights come from many and varied data sources, including:

  1. Browsing behavior
  2. Census information
  3. Purchase history
  4. Social activity
  5. Social influencers
  6. Previous campaign activities
  7. Survey responses
  8. Multivariate testing
  9. Browsing devices
  10. Similarity clustering
  11. Language learning preference
  12. Color preferences
  13. POS activity
  14. Browsing behavior
  15. IP address

Smart Insights – THE marketing solution

Smart Insights, as part of The Message Cloud by SmartFocus, is the brain that powers your messaging, timing and offers.

Drive marketing ROI and achieve a 9% lift in annual revenue, with:

  • Higher AOV
  • Lift in conversion rates
  • Increased customer purchase frequency
  • Improved open rates
  • Better click-thru rates
  • Improved customer loyalty
  • Enhanced order values

The Message Cloud Customer ROI analysis – 9% lift in annual revenue, with:

Smart Insights allows you to harness all the data currently trapped in your systems, and leverage EVERY interaction with the customer to make them more loyal and profitable. Smart Insights gives you the ability to perform advanced segmentation and marketing performance analysis without being reliant on analysts, IT or 3rd parties.

  • Get an instant view of all your segments in one place
  • Create targeted actionable customer groups to improve the relevance and effectiveness of marketing campaigns
  • Evaluate the performance of your marketing programs by measuring the changes in key customer groups over time
  • Get instant access to interactive dashboards that let you easily drill down through your customer data
  • Optimize omnichannel marketing activity with ready to use customer data
  • Easily identify your loyal customers
  • Discover your most effective marketing channel and channel mix
  • Enhance cross-selling and up-selling opportunities


  • A true big data platform that provides real-time actionable insights
  • Built using the same technologies that power Facebook, Google, Twitter
  • This is NOT a relational model
  • We chose instead to use next generation architectures, designed to answer the unknown unknowns
  • Designed to provide a single aggregated customer view and any reports our customers may need

Data challenges and insights solutions

1. Get rid of the guesswork – Trying to make sense of pages and pages of marketing program results is no one’s idea of fun. Insights eliminates that. Its business intelligence tells you outright which marketing channels to focus on with no interpretation required. So you can save time and money by doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

2. Creating loyalty – Bringing in first-time buyers is one thing, getting them to buy again is a different story. Crush customer churn by knowing what they want before even they do. Insights helps you understand customer behavior past and predicted, enabling you to find more of your best customers and help re-engage lapsed ones.

3. Making sense of big data – Insights technology is designed for marketers not data scientists. It’s designed for ease of use. With out-of-the-box dashboards and custom analysis/reporting, insights gives you everything you need to turn data into revenue and customer loyalty – quicker and more effectively than ever before.

  • Easily drill down through your customer data
  • Optimize omni-channel marketing activity with ready to use customer data
  • Begin your customer analysis with pre-defined RFM segments to help you maximize your future income
  • Helps you monitor customers and identify your loyal customers
  • Get an instant view of all your segments all in one place
  • Evaluate the performance of marketing programs by measuring the changes in key customer groups over time
  • Build flexible and customizable reports for multiple customer segments, transactions, campaigns and marketing data
  • Discover your most effective marketing channels and channel mix by analyzing the customer conversions across online and offline sales activity
  • Enhance cross-selling and up-selling opportunities by revealing patterns and connections that drive customer purchasing decisions

Case Study: Helping a leading retailer achieve success through actionable insights


  • One of UK’s leading department store groups
  • The client wanted to understand customer behavior across all their engagement channels, in-store and online


The client’s marketing teams were continuously tasked with creating unique shopper experiences that build loyalty and drive sales, but without a consolidated view, efforts to drive loyalty and engagement were severely hampered

Through a single customer view the client wanted to gain better insight into the effectiveness of their acquisition marketing, increase customer retention, engagement and campaign performance, higher conversion rates and revenues

Historically the client’s customer insights came from eleven different sources making aggregating and analyzing customer data very challenging, with high costs and long turnaround times

Solution used:

  • Smart Insights by SmartFocus
  • Delivered a fully operational single customer view along with insights and multichannel messaging capabilities to enable the client to gain deep insight into customer loyalty, product and channel preferences


Using the Smart Insights functionality the client’s marketing teams easily grouped their entire customer database with powerful RFM modeling, enabling them to target campaigns at increasing engagement levels and drive repeat buying behavior

By analyzing cross-channel behaviors and through micro-analysis of existing personas the client’s marketing team now can:

    – Drive engagement by sub-segmenting based on gender, products purchased and spend for single and multiple purchases

    – Identify pockets of opportunity to engage further based on purchase affinities and product knowledge

“By using SmartFocus’ innovative technology, we are able to uncover actionable insights from a wealth of customer data and deliver relevant and consistent experiences for every customer – across all of our channels.”
Director of Global Multichannel Online Trading

Smart Insights allows you to gain genuine insights to convert the anonymous into the known, the reactive into the pro-active and the customer into the brand advocate and ambassador. 

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