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The Year of Data-Driven Marketing? Not for the E-Commerce Marketer

Are you tired of hearing that 2015 is the year of data-driven marketing? You really can’t escape this theme if you tried. A Google search (2015 + marketing + data-driven) returns over 36 million results on the topic; virtually every marketing blog, journal, pundit and analyst has data on the brain.

While to some this might be novel and relevant, as e-commerce marketers, you’ve been living in data since commerce went online. For you, data is not new. It’s the critical backbone that informs every marketing campaign and merchandising decision you make.

Is Data Outpacing the Marketer?

I spent 2014 talking to hundreds of marketers in the e-commerce space, and from those conversations I’ve seen a consistent theme emerge: E-commerce marketing is ultra-competitive and the channels that serve them move fast; take your foot off the gas, and you fall way behind.

Yet a seemingly endless mountain of data and an increasing number of acquisition channels have outpaced the marketer’s ability to maximize effectiveness and ROI while best serving their customers. E-commerce marketers need new ways to sift through the data they already have, automate campaigns with the precision and frequency to optimize each channel, and continuously test and refine.  And that’s going to take more than data analyzing chops.

For a good example of this fast channel/fast marketer mix, look no further than the evolution of paid search. Just two years ago, paid search (text ads) ruled the e-commerce acquisition space. Now, product level ads (PLAs), especially via Google Shopping, are the acquisition rock stars.  Understandably, in 2014, marketers threw a lot of money at the PLA channel (72% more than in 2013), but budget alone won’t help brands see an optimal return on PLAs.

2015: The Year the Marketer Caught the Data

The smartest marketers are now shifting their focus from the creative to the quantitative; reallocating time from perfecting ad and landing page copy to product bid adjustments based on a product’s real-time performance. The algorithmic-based PLA channels demand that marketers speed the way in which they assess and assign the positioning of each and every product in their catalog, every day.

But even the most talented data scientists will fall short of the competitors if they don’t employ greater degrees of automation and algorithmic decision making than is available in the traditional platforms. The bottom line: for marketers, It’s not about the speed at which you can work, but the speed at which automation can work for you.

For the e-commerce marketer, 2015 isn’t the year of the data driven-marketer. (Flash back to 2002 for that.) 2015 is the year to deploy methods by which you can compute data and make decisions faster, removing yourself as a bottleneck, and letting the data work for you.

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