By Jeremy Levine

Across many different industries, 2020 has been about reacting to an unpredictable series of events — a global pandemic followed by a recession that made consumers more pessimistic than they were in 2008. This year has somewhat darkly reinforced the truism that nobody can predict the future.

What marketers can do, though, is observe the landscape and project where their business ought to be going. Marketing teams help their product-focused peers shape the future with insights from customers. Looking forward to 2021, analysis is the watchword. Close analysis of user data can give marketing teams superpowers, elucidating the best customer acquisition and retention strategies. The more marketing teams know about their best customers, the more likely it is they will be able to replicate those customers through similar marketing campaigns.

The future of customer analytics
The analysis of user data to make business decisions about marketing and product is Customer Analytics. To understand how analytics can revolutionize marketing look first at a base-level analytics product like Google Analytics. It became ubiquitous among web marketers in large part because it was so easy to install. All it took to start gathering insights about web traffic and how customer segments converted through the funnel was a single line of code embedded in your company’s website. Now Google Analytics is even easier: if you own a WordPress or Squarespace or Shopify site, just click the box that toggles analytics on and off. My mother is proficient enough with the internet to conduct this level of basic analysis. As a new baseline has emerged, marketers have engaged data teams within their organizations to glean far more granular insights from user data stored in a cloud data warehouse.

Cloud data warehouses (CDWs) have broken through to the mainstream in 2020, most significantly with Snowflake’s IPO in September. The proliferation of CDWs underpins every use case of user data, from analytics to production. With each passing year, CDWs become cheaper and easier to operate, accelerating the value a marketer can get from their data. The insights gleaned from analysis of that data will become a standard necessity for marketers. Customer Analytics platforms that connect directly to a CDW and integrate easily with Snowflake, Google BigQuery and others will provide marketers visibility into the customer journey at every touch point. Next year, we’ll see significant movement toward those sorts of integrations, and within the next five years we will have moved past questions of access to greater and more specific and actionable insights.

A marriage of marketing channels
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly altered how companies engage with their customers in ways well beyond the advent of no-contact delivery. This year has driven nearly every interaction online. As the virus subsides and our lives revert to a pre-pandemic rhythm, customers will still expect a cohesive experience irrespective of the channel — on their laptops or mobile devices, in-store or by phone. Omnichannel marketing, with all that entails, is the new normal. Companies large and small will invest huge sums into digital transformation, including artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to support omnichannel marketing goals.

If your business has the cash or credit to spare after a difficult year, look to align all major communication channels and make sure your data stack is adequately indexing and categorizing each potential customer interaction. Over time, email opens, chatbot sessions and app engagement reveal patterns of behavior that can distinguish your best customers and identify those most likely to churn. It’s then up to the marketing team to get the most lifetime value out of those customers.

Beyond the horizon
By the end of 2021, most companies will not have utilized customer analytics to their fullest potential, but once you’ve established a CDW and woven insights from user data into your marketing and product decisions, what is there left to do? Look beyond the limits of today’s analytics platforms and start to plan for what’s on the horizon.

There are two distinct ways customer analytics can improve for marketing teams — reducing the time necessary to gather actionable insights and making it easier to integrate those insights into your business.

The former is nearly possible. Viewing complex user data in real-time will allow companies to see how even the smallest changes can impact the customer journey. Combined with machine learning, these capabilities will unleash more insightful analytics — proactive, predictive, and prescriptive. Predictive analytics allow organizations to anticipate customers’ needs and deliver content through hyper-personalized marketing tactics.

The real game changer, though, will come when the analytics platform can be trained to adapt to the insights it reads. If the purpose of Customer Analytics is to drive revenue, the analytics engine can steer your business to your best-performing customers and replicate the best-performing user experience across all channels. It might be five or more years from now, but imagine telling your analytics platform what your goal is and having it light up the correct path.

Data analytics frees marketers from rote trial-and-error based change. The data accelerates that process and tells us what the right decisions to make will be. Technology will continue to improve and marketers will acquire better tools to track the efficacy of their campaigns, but the ultimate guide to better marketing in 2021, or any year, is to listen closely to the customer.

Jeremy Levine is the CEO and Co-Founder of Indicative, a Customer Analytics platform for product and marketing teams. He is a serial entrepreneur and a veteran of New York City’s Silicon Alley. Jeremy Co-Founded Xtify, the first Mobile CRM for the Enterprise, acquired by IBM in 2013. He also Co-Founded MeetMoi, a pioneering location-based dating service for mobile sold to in 2014.

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