Ten Mega Trends Transforming Marketing Measurements

Following is also my latest MediaPost column…

Ten Trends Transforming Marketing Measurements

by Max Kalehoff, November 10, 2006

Last week I presented a primer on consumer-marketing measurements to a diverse group of communications professionals looking to increase their digital and media savvy. Rather than dive into tactical minutiae, I presented 10 recent mega-trends that are collectively transforming media and marketing measurements as we know them.

1. Digital network adoption. Mass adoption of the Internet and digital networks is fundamental, if obvious. Their impact on how we share and manage information is now perhaps the most significant influence on the evolution of metrics, among all that follow.

2. Attention erosion. Our networked society has resulted in massive increases in consumer choice and, from a marketer perspective, an erosion of attention. Many economists postulate that we’re undergoing a transition away from an economy based on shelf space to one based on attention scarcity. From a measurements perspective, there are two major implications: first, there is a growing demand by marketers to tap into measurements to embrace this shift. Second, many data collection and measurement methodologies–such as surveys–are susceptible to the very same attention scarcity. In market research circles, this is often referred to as the “continuing drop in panel participation and response rates.”

3. Speed of measurement. The near-real-time intelligence delivery that characterized the Bloomberg terminal is permeating nearly all facets of marketing measurements. Even if measurements are not delivered instantaneously in a slick, colorful dashboard, the expectation of faster data and actionable insights is growing. Speed is a competitive advantage.

4. Democratization of data and analytics. There was once a time when access to vast piles of market-research data and processing power was contingent upon huge budgets. While that’s still true in many cases, digital networks have made more data more accessible–even sometimes to the point of open-source or free. An interesting manifestation is the growth of free metrics services like Alexa, Google Trends and BlogPulse to understand Web behaviors. These services are not heavy-duty market-intelligence tools, but nonetheless are valuable, directionally significant and influencing perceptions and decisions around the things they report. Don’t forget Google Analytics and Salesforce.com, which are offering low-cost marketing and CRM dashboards that any company can implement overnight. (Disclosure: BlogPulse is an R&D platform and demonstration tool from my employer.)

5. Observational measurements. In digital networks, people often passively emit both anonymous and identifiable gestures, whether it’s visiting a Web site, programming a TiVo, commenting in a public discussion forum or a host of other activities. Observational research techniques–sometimes called digital ethnography–are not a replacement for more overt data-collection methods, like face-to-face surveys, but they are an important addition when attempting to obtain natural, unprompted insights into the behavior of customers and prospects.

6. Unstructured data. Included with the arrival of observational measurement is analysis of unstructured data. From news stories to discussion forums to blogs to multimedia-sharing sites, people increasingly publish data abundant with insights and trends. People now have digital megaphones in which to share their facts, opinions and experiences, and this is forcing businesses into a new era of listening.

7. Beyond demographics. Traditional demographics–like gender and age–will always be important, but observational techniques are helping marketers to understand and segment their customers in new ways. For example, based on past behavior, what are their interests, psychographic traits, life stages, passions or emotional depth?

8. Customer-centric measurements and planning. The trends above have one thing in common: customers increasingly are at the center of the universe, versus companies, brands, products or media. This is causing big marketers to base their planning more around those people.

9. Data integration comes of age. With more customer and data touch points come the need for more data integration and better market modeling. In forecasting, planning, adjusting and evaluating, data integration is where myriad measurements will achieve clarity, dimension and action.

10. Reevaluating relationships with whom and what we measure. Finally, as consumers become more empowered, the disciplines of measurement and research will increasingly cater to them (just as marketers are doing in general). Top-down, “people-are-subjects” measurement approaches will need to evolve toward greater propositions of relationship, loyalty, value, trust and reciprocity.

Where do you think measurements are headed?

You can comment on the MediaPost blog here.

(Cross-post with Engagement By Engagement.)

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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