You Need to Add the ‘Why’ of Data to Build New Business

In our Marketing Analytics
& Data Science
interview series, we are catching up with thought
leaders in the industry to hear their take on how to cut through Big Data, the
state of data science, how analytics helps build business, the most important
marketing metrics today, and the future of marketing.
In our first edition, we sat down with Vicki
Draper, Director of Consumer Analytics & Research at Aol. Here’s what
Draper had to say:
How do you cut
through Big Data to get the real ‘people analytics’? 
Draper: You need
to add the why to move from data to insights - one way to do this is by
combining big data findings with primary research data to get at things
that big data has trouble measuring by itself, like psychographics and emotion.
How does data science
help internal stakeholders inform decisions today?
Draper: I’m on
the primary research team so we’re often using marketing analytics as a
starting place.  For example, from our analytics we’re starting to
see the proportion of traffic coming from off-network increase vs on-network.
So we start with that and then use primary research to explore the ways we can
make that off-network experience as good as possible to get people more engaged
with our properties. Another example is all the primary research we’ve
done to uncover insights around how people shop. We have product teams that are
using these insights in combination with A/B testing to test emotional
engagement metrics as well as transaction metrics to find the best performing
Why are marketing
analytics so important in today’s hyper connected world? 
Draper: On the
primary research team, marketing analytics helps us apply what we learn
from our primary research by giving us a way to test and learn based on what we
see in the real world.
How can data and
analytics help build new businesses?  
Draper: It feeds
into a virtuous cycle. You can launch a product and start collecting user data
which feeds back into your product development cycle so that you can build
better products that maximize metrics like time spent and conversions. In our
shopping research, we talk a lot about how people use the shopping cart as a
wish list or a place to put things that inspire them, even if they are not
intending to transact during that session. So even if they don’t transact
during the session, there is a high level of brand engagement there which is a
good thing. We can then use data science to help discover the triggers that get
people to go back to that cart. We can also look to improve the experience with
the cart by helping people with the real reason they are putting things in
their shopping carts so that we deliver on emotional cues not just utilitarian
What’s the most
important metrics, in your opinion?
Draper: It
depends on what your objective is, but in the digital space the
primary focus is often conversions, while brand metrics are often
forgotten or secondary. However, our shopping research shows that people are
window shopping online all the time, even if they have no immediate intention
of making a purchase. And while they are doing all this window shopping, they
are building a reservoir of product knowledge and brand experiences, good or
bad so when the time comes to make a purchase they are not starting from square
one. Our research shows that the more often people window shop online, the more
likely they are to know what brand they’ll buy before they get into the active
shopping window. In this environment, it’s important to create deeper
brand engagement online and focus on metrics that measure that connection
to make sure your brand gets into people’s consideration set before they
decide they need to make a purchase.
How can data and
analytics help tell a marketing story? 
Draper: As an
example, let’s look at content marketing or whatever you’d like to call it
‘ branded content, sponsored content, branded entertainment, or native
advertising. We have built a data and insight toolkit for content
marketing that informs and/or validates these programs through their entire
lifecycle ‘ from guiding strategy to inspiring program development to
measuring campaign effectiveness. So, for example, we use our Content
Segmentation research findings around why people use and engage with
content to inspire our content marketing team to build a creative program that
increases consumer engagement for a client. 
Then, we not only measure the effectiveness of that program,
we combine the measurement data across all our programs into our Normative
Database of campaign effectiveness. Before we built this database, there wasn’t
really a standard way to measure these types of programs. We built a
methodology that enabled us to hone in on content marketing and understand how
exactly these programs have driven brand impact, a primary KPI for many of
these programs. Over the past three years, we have measured over 50
programs, 250 marketing activations, and over 45,000 consumer experiences that
we’ve collected on behalf of well-known brands spanning many
categories. As we ran more of these content marketing campaigns and
baked this research into the campaign measurement, we aggregated the data
together into a normative database. So data and insights are not only
driving better performing programs, but they are also providing proof points
for the marketing story through the Normative Database.  
Where do you see
marketing going in the next 5 years? 
Draper: Data will
be critical to marketing success, and no longer optional. Marketing has already
started to combine data with creative, and the power of data will be even more
significant in the next 5 years. Also, the relationship between the brand and
consumer will no longer be a one-way conversation. More and more branded
content will come from consumers as brands give up trying to have complete
control over their brand, and will engage with consumers to tell their story.
With technology, brands will be able to personalize consumer experiences at
scale like never before. Finally, it will be increasingly necessary for brands
to think about optimizing towards the things that are important, like
connection with the brand, not just the things they can easily measure. 

Want to hear more from Vicki Draper? Attend the Marketing Analytics
& Data Science Conference June 8-10 in San Francisco, CA. She will be
presenting a session, ‘The Missing Metrics Link: What Digital KPIs Don’t Tell
Us About Shopper Behavior.’ To learn more about the conference or to register,
click here