Is there any doubt left that product and marketing decisions today need to be data driven? Several factors have transformed this once forward-looking concept into an everyday must-have – and those forces stretch across industries and regions.
First, uncertainty is at a high water mark in business and everyday life. From war in Ukraine to lingering COVID concerns, the need for a foundation of clear, reliable data to guide decisions is undeniable.
We also know that competition has never been more fierce. Startups have access to sophisticated, wide-reaching tools, putting added pressure on massive incumbents. And the breadth of real-time insights available to anyone and everyone has leveled the playing field of consumer success. The result: No one can afford to operate by instinct and anecdote alone.
Another key factor: Everyone has data. It would take a deliberate effort to avoid amassing data on customers and prospects in today’s world. The simplest forms of doing business generate information, and even the most luddite businesses are likely to leverage that learning.
Finally, data has begun to look beyond the present and recent past, stretching its view into the future – with surprising accuracy. Thanks to AI and other resources, companies can “predict” tomorrow with a high degree of confidence, leaving those without sophisticated data to guess with increasing difficulty.
In a world where fact-based business guidance is now a given, what does the next generation of data-driven decisions – and decision makers – look like? Technology will continue to evolve; algorithms will grow smarter. So what will separate the smartest decisions from the simply mundane in tomorrow’s world? How will the wisest brands break through the “success barrier.”
Keeping pace is not enough
At a time of unmatched competition and extraordinary uncertainty, tomorrow’s decision makers need to do more than simply keep up. Staying even with the pack may seem like an accomplishment to be prized; but this is a fool’s comfort zone. Demanding true innovation – the kind that leaves the competition suddenly three generations of evolution behind – will be the mark of the best forward-looking, data-driven decisions. Reaction is no longer enough; action is essential.
Emphasizing curation & customization
In today’s extreme data overload, the best decision makers will become data connoisseurs. Simply acting on whatever information is at hand will be replaced by a demanding approach to data. The goal will be an increasingly customized and connected flow of insights, carefully chosen and speaking directly to company needs. Dashboards will be increasingly dynamic and actionable, reflecting human needs and discernment as well as AI-driven sorting.
Adding gut to intellect
We might normally think that data-driven decision making is a brain-centric, logical process – an equation where everything points to a crisp solution. But consumers are not so easily understood or predicted; they may believe one thing with all their hearts, and then do something else when it comes time to make a purchase. So the products meant for today’s customers need to reflect something more than Spock-like rationality. The decision makers who move ahead in tomorrow’s world will have a knack for balancing intuition and intellect, and will prize both “soft” and “hard” forms of data.
Focusing on trust
Whether measuring or interpreting, curating or customizing, trust in resources will be key. Brands cannot leap into the future if they do not have faith in the data and insights that are powering their acceleration. More and more, quantities of data will be replaced by qualities.
How do we break through the barriers to tomorrow’s success? Even a year will completely change our marketplace; getting ahead will mean demanding better, risking more, and having the best information at your fingertips as you do.
Driving exponential insights
The key to data-driven decision making for today’s marketers is making 2 plus 2 equal 5 on a consistent basis. Whatever insights the company may have, the artistry lies in bringing them together in a way that makes them greater than the sum of their parts. It may require some custom research – complementing high-quality software and data -- to truly sew everything together; but making a meal out of sometimes-incongruous ingredients (think The Food Network) is a must-have skill.
Seeking consultation & guidance
Tomorrow’s data-driven marketers will not go it alone. With so much information to assess and apply, and so many other tasks on their plates, the best decision makers will ask for help, in the form of consultative guidance – formal or informal. They will reach out within groups of like-minded marketers, and also call on the knowledge of those who know their industries inside and out.
Respect the science – and scientists
This is a new era of data science in decision making, and many marketers simply do not have that background or skill. They need to own this need and take it seriously – or risk missing out on the full value of the data at their disposal. The trend toward hiring and elevating data analysts is growing, but definitely not at full flower. And sometimes these essential, super-helpful data geeks are hidden away from the marketers and brand stewards, in a remote corner of the WFH universe. Seek them out – ask for their time and help, and make them part of your decision universe.
In today’s climate or crisis and confusion, the data-driven marketer’s world has changed as much as any consumer’s. We are entering a new phase of data intelligence and challenge, forcing marketers and others to reassess the decisions they have to make, the data and experts at their disposal, and even their own knowledge and vision. To be ready for tomorrow’s business world, marketers need to be discerning, humble, and always on the lookout for excellent collaborators. There is no time to waste – but wasting resources on poor-quality data or incomplete understanding may be the worst kind of waste. Deploy resources and intelligence carefully, and you will be ready for the data-driven future.