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The Marketing Analytics Practice Is Evolving: How Can You Adapt?
As the digital marketing industry matures, marketing analysts may find themselves at a crossroads. Columnist Kohki Yamaguchi discusses what lies ahead for those in this position.
As the saying goes, the only thing that is constant is change. But in digital marketing today, change is not only constant but also rapid and all-inclusive, and applies not only to marketing practice but also the practitioners.
The past few years have given rise to marketing technologists: those who are equally adept at marketing and technology. A recent study by Forrester profiled the “modern marketer” as a marketer who develops data-driven personas, employs intelligent targeting, understands the customer journey, leverages cross-channel measurement solutions, and so on.
That begs the question: If understanding and being able to leverage modern technology and concepts characterize the modern marketer, what specifically defines the modern marketing analyst?
I am starting to see a dramatic shift in job descriptions and requirements posted for digital marketing analytics positions. Nowadays, the bar for new marketing analyst hires is noticeably higher than it was a few years ago, and it will continue to rise as the space becomes more competitive.
What will it take to stay at the forefront of marketing analytics in the next few years? I will try to point out some possible directions in this article.
Examining Industry Trends
Before we get into the details, let us first take a look at some macro trends that will help us understand what is driving this change.
- Growth and evolution of algorithmic solutions, both demand side and supply side (e.g. the continuous Penguin is a recent supply side example)
- A continuous increase in marketing landscape complexity with new media, channels, platforms, and devices appearing continuously
- Increasing fragmentation of data sources with very little standardization in format and taxonomy
- A trend towards extracting insights from increasingly granular data, in particular at the event (touchpoint) level
- A growing focus on accountability, and pressure to quantify marketing impact on bottom-line revenue
These trends unanimously point towards a growing diversity in what data is analyzed, where it is collected, and how it is applied to inform decisions.
Marketing organizations are currently dealing with this problem by hiring more analysts, and training marketers on quantitative methods. However, I predict that within the next few years if not sooner, a cap will be reached on the number of analytics positions available, while the complexity of data and analysis requirements will continue to grow at a faster pace than can be fulfilled via training.
This inevitably means that each analyst will end up being responsible for analyzing increasingly complex and diverse sets of data. Analysts who are able to scale themselves — those who have or acquire the skills and know-how to cope with the complexity — will be the ones who provide the most value, and will remain in the highest demand.
How do these macro trends affect job requirements and expectations? I predict that analysts of tomorrow will be expected to have at least some of these skills and traits:
- Technically self-sufficient, able to perform ETL (extract, transform, load) from large and unstructured data sources to enable their own analysis
- Have the know-how to analyze fragmented, granular, and complex data sets using statistical and computational methods
- Understand and leverage technology to combine manual and automated analysis, generating insights as efficiently as possible
- Have expertise in multiple marketing domains, able to decipher and optimize performance across multiple channels and platforms
- Able to think strategically as well as tactically, using data to show how marketing efforts are impacting the larger business
It will be exceedingly difficult to try to satisfy all of these expectations at the same time, but this is not necessary; all that is required is to satisfy one or two very well. The choice of which expectations to pursue will be determined by what role you would like to evolve into.
The Analytics Quadrant
One simple way to think about this choice is to envision the quadrant below, which simplifies the problem into two directions: technology vs. strategy, and applied skills vs. domain expertise.
(As a note, the above diagram places technology and strategy on opposite ends of the spectrum for directional contrast, but these do not represent actual opposites: technology can of course be applied in a highly strategic way.)
Here are basic descriptions of the four quadrants:
Data Scientist: A data scientist combines statistics with machine learning and computational methods to design scalable algorithms and extract insights from complex data sets. Their work represents the bleeding edge of what is possible in marketing analytics, and their importance will only continue to grow in the foreseeable future.
Analytical Technologist: The analytical technologist does not hesitate to automate what makes sense to automate, and leverage any tool that enables greater speed to insight. Armed with a comprehensive understanding of how technology and data interact, they will be integral to creating a modern and scalable analytics practice.
Quantitative Strategist: The quantitative strategist has extensive domain expertise, and understands how data can be applied not only to channel-specific optimization but also to cross-channel strategy. They will play a key role in breaking down data and organizational silos, and will spearhead integrated marketing analytics in the years to come.
Data-Driven Influencer: With strategic vision and numbers to back it up, data-driven influencers shape and answer the ultimate question of how to maximize impact of marketing on business outcomes. As both analytics evangelists and practitioners, they insure that data is used to inform key decisions and raise quality of decisioning throughout the organization.
Do any of the options above seem more appealing to you than the others? Regardless of which you choose, you are sure to be valued highly within your organization.
The Marketing Analysts Of Tomorrow
As the digital marketing space continues to evolve and become more complex, so will the job of marketing analysts. The unicorns of today will become the norm of tomorrow, as individual skill sets diversify out of necessity.
This comes with both benefits and drawbacks. On one hand, we have a multitude of options to further our skill set and our career path. On the other hand, there is constant pressure to keep our knowledge and skills current. I personally consider it a blessing – marketing analytics is a truly exciting space to be in. I hope you agree.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.