Big data analytics has proven to be the trend that won’t go away, with companies still extremely keen to invest in this function and achieve the holy grail of marketing - a thorough, detailed understanding of consumer behaviour and a grasp of how to affect it.
This has had a tangible impact on the marketing recruitment field, with digital analysts now in hot demand across the sector.
Because big data and the technology involved in handing it are still relatively immature, the huge increases in the volume of business being conducted online has caught many firms on the hop, meaning that people with the skills to fulfil this function are extremely valuable.
Understanding how different campaigns and user journeys affect both customer experience and purchase patterns is essential if companies do not want to be left behind by their more tech-savvy counterparts.
Dave Peters, chief executive officer and founder of Emagine International, recently highlighted the importance of data awareness in an article for the Digital Marketing Magazine.
"In today's crowded marketplace, increasing margin and growth pressure mean that marketers must find new ways to keep existing customers happy, stop them from transferring their business to a competitor and increase their revenue.
Customer data is the key to this search. Harnessed effectively, the collection, analysis and application of customer data can revolutionise marketing as we know it," he declared.
Obviously, companies have always been able to analyse consumer information, albeit in a relatively simplistic way. However, the emergence of big data technology represents a shift in how firms are approaching the process, meaning they can take a more sophisticated approach and produce more actionable data.
"Now that technology is at the point where big data analysis and machine learning platforms can process hundreds of millions of records every day, applying algorithms that can be used to solve a problem or find a link a thousand times faster than conventional computing methods, marketers can finally harness the full power of these new data streams," suggested Mr Peters.
Harnessing the technology
Powerful tools such as Google Analytics have emerged to allow companies to access, store and examine this kind of information. While many of them may be relatively intuitive, it is generally best to ensure there is some in-house analytics expertise, particularly if investing in an expensive software package.
Naturally, it will sometimes be the case that people with limited experience need to be given analytics positions, simply because the field is so new. Assuming they have most of the requisite skills, this shouldn’t be a problem, especially if they can learn the ropes alongside more experienced co-workers.
However, if businesses want to really get the best they can out of their data analytics, they are well-advised to try and find hires with the right level of expertise.
“Big data and machine learning represent the next step in the evolution of customer marketing; extracting more value from data and enabling faster, more intelligent customer interactions that are based on relevance, value and personalisation, and living up to the promise of one to one marketing,” added Mr Peters.
Return on investment - analytics can help
Despite the fact that many marketing budgets have increased over recent years as the economy begins to recover and more emphasis is placed on engaging marketing, many executives in the sector are still being asked to justify their spend with a clear return on investment (ROI).
This can be difficult to do, especially when your focus is on relatively intangible metrics, such as brand awareness or reputational growth.
One way in which businesses can improve in this area is by developing their analytics teams, which can produce reports showing how advertising spend is having an overall impact on an organisation’s performance.
For marketing leaders under pressure to produce a strong ROI or at least explain why they need to spend more in certain areas (such as digital and mobile), investment in analytics functions can prove a real boost.
Key trends for digital analysis
Both candidates and potential employers in this sector may find themselves turning to recruitment consultancies, as they have the specialist knowledge of the area that can ensure connections are made.
For businesses, it is important to be aware that - because it is currently a hirers market - they may need to bump up salary levels in order to compete with rivals for the best talent.
EMR advises that potential candidates should stress their numerical skills, as these are often what can help them stand out from the crowd if they come in conjunction with a strong technical grounding.