Big Brands Find Data Is As Much A People Challenge As A Technology Challenge

biz peepsLinking up internal data assets is a great start – but while this can lead to nifty business results, it also has the potential to disrupt numerous employees and departments within a company.

Brand marketers from Macy’s, Sephora and Walmart told their stories about combining customer and marketing data sets during a panel at LiveRamp’s RampUp conference last Thursday in Santa Clara, Calif.

“It’s definitely a new concept and somewhat difficult for people who aren’t involved in the ad tech or marketing tech space to grasp,” said Lindsay Chastain, director of digital marketing at cosmetics retailer Sephora. “There was a lot of education that had to happen internally, with our IT organization, our analytics group and especially our legal team.”

Nikhil Raj, VP of marketing and advertising products at Walmart, said brands should “draw a line in the sand” regarding their data, figuring out what assets they want to involve and which assets they don’t.

Sephora needed to figure out exactly how working with LiveRamp would affect the privacy of its client data as well as the security of its own sales files, especially since it would be entrusting that information to a third-party partner.

Even after the sell-in, however, businesses need to figure out how to work with the data solution.

“Once you sell it at the highest level, you need to figure out how to get it adopted and for it to become part of the DNA of what you do,” said Macy’s Abhijit Shome, VP of marketing and omnichannel customer.

At Macy’s, the LiveRamp solution sits in marketing, co-owned by the digital marketing and customer infrastructure teams. But Sephora – a relatively new LiveRamp customer – is still figuring it out.

Chastain said, “We have a smaller structure in terms of how we tie our customer data back to marketing. It’s definitely an involving process trying to figure out who is the right owner for this kind of partnership.”

Sephora is also trying to reconcile budgeting between digital marketing and retail marketing teams, especially as data linkage shows how digital marketing affects in-store spending.

“That continues to change the organization’s focus in allocating marketing spend,” she said.

Harnessing data is as much a process challenge as a technology challenge, which in turn makes it a people challenge.

“If you approach it as a shiny, new technology solution, it will cause you a lot of heartburn,” said Shome. “You really have to realize that it’s a change you’re bringing in. Who’s going to be doing what and how does their job change? And what do they think and feel about that? Does it scare them? How do you deal with that? You’re putting in a new technology and a new way of thinking.”

Macy’s bringing in LiveRamp coincided with an agency change, another factor the retail giant had to work through. Agencies often have their own way of measuring and reporting. If that’s the case, they’ll have to work through the brand’s new processes, even as the brand itself is trying to figure it all out.

“Those are pretty significant challenges, and the larger the team involved, the exponentially larger that challenge becomes,” Shome said.

Sephora’s solution was to measure test campaigns to figure out the effect LiveRamp might have on its business, people and processes.

“Starting small in specific campaigns to get some initial measurement was helpful for me selling it internally and helping people understand what this actually could mean,” Chastain said.

And once that’s in place, businesses can consider scaling up.


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