Trends Rise of the Data Team

jared_blank
By Jared Blank

It’s no secret that harnessing cross-channel customer data comes with its challenges. We talk a lot about how difficult it is to tie all of the data together and make smart decisions in real-time, but there’s one important data-related challenge that seems to have fallen by the wayside: Governance.

 

Governance Goes Haywire with Unified Customer Data

Once you start to tie different types of customer data together to enable smarter decision-making and obtain a unified view of customers, managing that data becomes significantly more complicated.

When marketing was siloed by channel, data management was fairly straightforward: The email team managed email data, the social team managed social data and so on. But when you pull everything together, management becomes a lot murkier. For instance, who manages cross-channel customer profiles? And who has access to that data and is allowed to make decisions off of it? If you’re looking at data from one channel to inform actions on another (e.g. using Facebook to target people who don’t open emails or are likely to unsubscribe), determining the appropriate person or team to handle that data isn’t always obvious.

 

(Re)Introducing the Data Team

The murkiness surrounding data governance today gets even more complicated in light of the growing amount of data in play. With the rise of big data, we have far more complex data created at a greater velocity and in greater volumes than ever before. In response to all of these changes, the role of the data team has started to make a comeback in a very big way.

 

Who’s on the Data Team?

Who exactly comprises the data team is a hot topic in and of itself. For example, what’s the difference between data scientists and data analysts? I like to differentiate it as follows: Data scientists use data to tell us things we don’t know (i.e. make predictions), whereas data analysts aim to bring clarity and understanding (i.e. actionable insights) to data.

So what does all of this mean for building a data team? Without getting too bogged down in the weeds of it all, most companies now have piles of data and know they need a “data person to do something with it,” but they don’t know how to accomplish that goal. In order to handle big data in a way that can make a business impact, retailers at the very least need a “data team” that consists of:

  • A data engineer who can set up data pipelines and infrastructure
  • A data analyst who can glean actionable insights from what the data engineer has done

 

What Does a Data Team Do in the Digital World?

When you think about it, the trend of data analysts and other data team roles typically found on CRM teams migrating to digital actually makes a lot of sense. These are roles that have traditionally crossed different divisions to integrate data into warehouses, analyze the findings and select target audience segments. Combining multiple types of data sources from different databases in that way requires a specialized skillset. That need, along with the quantity of data and the unstructured nature of it, makes the integration, segmentation and targeting skills of data analysts and scientists a necessity.

Of course there are also several new skills that are unique to data teams that have become relevant in the digital world. For example, data teams in the retail space are now expected to work with multiple teams and datasets to aggregate data and make predictions and suggestions based on it (i.e. decide what to do next). Specific responsibilities often include:

  • Using data to explain and anticipate business problems
  • Working with cross-functional teams like product and marketing to deliver more customer-focused solutions
  • Communicating key data findings with non-technical audiences
  • Organizing data to inform customer segmentation and lifecycle marketing efforts
  • Running predictive models to help determine the best campaigns and messaging
  • Tracking performance of various efforts against KPIs

Fortunately, most retailers already have resources with the skills needed to properly manage data in the burgeoning digital world — it’s just a matter of knowing where to look.

 

The Future of Retail Marketing is Channel Agnostic

The rise of the data team is one of many impacts of digital that will come to fruition quickly. Taking more of a long term view, we’re on the fast-track to a world where marketing is channel agnostic, meaning strategies will be anchored around the best way to engage with individual customers, not the best way to engage on each channel. In other words, instead of having strategies for email, onsite, Facebook, etc., strategies will evolve to look at how you can go after each customer in the appropriate place based on their individual preferences and behaviors.

The truth is, we already have the data to enable these types of strategies, it’s just a matter of getting the right governance in place since achieving success in this new channel agnostic world will require a holistic view of data and a savvy data team to manage it all.

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