Truth about actionable insights for marketing

Alastair Sim, vice president of Global Marketing, Asia Pacific, SAS Institute

Marketing in today’s connected, dynamic, customer-led and always-on environment requires more than insights. It needs actionable ones.

It begins with a clear view of what data means to your firm. “If you look at the data as a sea of numbers, you will not be able to do any actions,” Alastair Sim, SAS Institute’s vice president of Global Marketing, Asia Pacific said.

It is where analytics’ role becomes prominent. It allows you to unearth hidden insights into customer behavior patterns from different data sources. These can help you to determine the right actions to take.

“Analytics is important here because behaviors do not stand out [in data] unless you apply it,” Mr. Sim said.

Three dimensions

Before deploying analytics, it is important to understand what are the “components” that drive it. According to Mr. Sim, there are three.

The first, data, is obvious. It fuels the "engine of decisions, which is analytics," Mr. Sim said. The gears to this engine will be the levels of sophistication you are looking for, which is the second component. Customer behaviors form the third as they are vital to understanding how and when to apply analytics.

All three components help CMOs to derive actionable insights from analytics. Mr. Sim noted that you need to only look at the mobile telco industry to understand how these work together.

“In the saturated and competitive mobile telco industry, CMOs are no longer focused on customer acquisition. Rather, it is about customer churn and offering the right services. So, the hypothesis should be around a revenue stream,” he said.

Then CMOs can apply different data sources, at various levels of sophistication, and use diverse behavior models to forecast outcomes when you change the capability of a product or service.

Holistic advantage

Mr. Sim advised a holistic approach when deploying analytics. After all, offering actionable insights to more than one department in a firm can improve its return on investment.

For example, HSBC Holdings wanted to combat fraud effectively. It was more than cost savings for the bank. It needed to protect its reputation and customer trust—the real currency in banking.

The SAS Fraud Management solution helped them to safeguard debit and credit cards from fraudulent activities. SAS Institute also followed up by developing and deploying new models to detect new evolving threats.

The analytics platform used grid technology and multi-thread analysis to identify fraud in seconds. “So, the bank can know whether the card is being used fraudulently, or genuinely by the customer quickly. There is, after all, no use waiting half an hour for this [analysis] to happen,” Mr. Sim said.

CMOs can use the same platform for their marketing campaigns. Essentially, SAS Institute’s open platform, which uses a single repository across the entire business, enables different functions within a firm to get timely and relevant actionable insights from the same data.

“So, there is a benefit in taking a holistic approach to analytics,” Mr. Sim said.

Visual Edge

One area where SAS Institute is leading the charge in actionable insights is data visualization. It is especially vital for decision makers who are often visually-driven.

“[Studies show that] 65% of senior executives are used to getting high-level macro views of business visually. So, data visualization provides a visual context,” Mr. Sim said.

Visualization also helps to simplify a complex problem and learn about the root causes before deriving actionable insights. “It allows one to ask complex questions, understand the current situation and develop the right hypothesis,” Mr. Sim added.

Sizing up challenges

Deriving actionable insights through analytics depends on three factors: People, business process, and technology.

First, you need the right people to understand the value of analytics in enabling fact or evidence-based decisions. Also, you need someone who can work in today's marketing departments where functions are converging. “That means you need people with holistic skills that are digital-centric,” Mr. Sim said.

The right processes ensure data is accessible, reliable and is of high quality. “In fact, the real issue here is accessibility. If you are unable to tap into certain data for some reason, it becomes a major issue for analytics,” Mr. Sim said.

Data management plays a huge role in addressing this. “Without addressing the data management aspect, analytics will not be worth anything,” he added.

The right technology can help to properly collate data sources, and integrate them into “a single thread” that goes across the entire business. “It is why we have a huge movement toward building a platform rather than using a collection of tools for analytics,” Mr. Sim said.

Partner right

Tackling all three challenges is not easy, especially when operational issues and a competitive environment makes business difficult. Building business analytics competency center, "which serves the whole business," helps, Mr. Sim said.

More importantly, partnering with a firm like SAS Institute ensures access to key solutions and expertise. With the years of experience, deep insights and a vast pool of analytics consultants, they can provide the right foundation and steps forward to discovering those elusive yet treasured actionable insights.