According to Sizwe Dlamini, Head of Commercial at Idea Hive, South Africa’s digital footprint is expanding at breakneck speed, creating a greater need for marketers to put their best foot forward through analyses of their customer behaviour.

Data has played a crucial role in the emergence and evolution of digital marketing. It is the fuel that drives the engine of digital marketing. However, the quality of data you have and what you infer out of it determines the success of your digital marketing efforts.

For many years, companies have been collecting data for digital marketing. However, as digital technology evolves and grows at a colossal rate, data analytics too have had to adjust to innovate the brand marketing approach that is being embraced by some of the most prominent brands in the industry today.

Gone are those days when you could develop a product and then look for buyers. Digital marketing analytics has given rise to a superpower that data holds, that can help a brand gain access to who (will buy), what (will it serve) and where (will it sell) in your potential market. These three critical inputs will assist you to strategically place your product or service into an ideal market and you can avoid shooting in the dark – mitigating unnecessary risk.

Understanding consumer behaviour is at the forefront of any marketing intervention. However, data has brought in much-needed precision to be present at the right place at the right time, for the right person. In the past, some marketing efforts have relied on guesswork as there was no ready-to-consume analytics.

Organisations today are looking to connect with their customers and gain their loyalty to strengthen their presence. Although their products and services do play a crucial role here, it depends on how you make your customers feel valued and showcase that you have solutions to their problems. Personalised communication therefore becomes critical, where a brand can showcase that they know their customers and what they are looking for.

Data has enabled us to segment customers and build user personas who will be apt for a particular product and then target them on their desired touch-point, thus building a long-lasting bond. While you have built that connect and targeted the right people through your campaigns, it is equally important to gauge ROI based on the performance of your campaign. Digital marketing analytics not only allows you to measure all those efforts that have worked for you, but also those that did not.

It is possible to track the user journey, organic and campaign level efforts. Using real-time insights, we can take actions on campaigns to improve conversions and also monitor the overall health of the intervention. There is a need to extract the relevant data and make sense out of it in order to determine the correct strategy moving forward. Big data analysis is not just a way of understanding your numbers, but a way of telling your brand story and placing customers at the heart of that.

Brand storytelling is essentially communicating. It is something we do every day, whether we are conscious of it or not. From an email to a body posture, we are constantly communicating to those around us and every moment is an opportunity to tell our story. This is an innate human need, something we do via reflex, rather than consciously. So why should brands behave differently when communicating? To reach a consumer in a way that is non-interruptive and enriching is a goal all brands should strive for.

Today’s decision-makers don’t want a sales pitch. They want to hear your story and how it aligns with their own. When you tell a story soundly, it gets audiences deeply invested, increasing the value of a product or service substantially. When identity, values and experiences are core brand differentiators, storytelling becomes essential. Vital to this is data, that helps marketers understand customers and makes stories more meaningful. The way we think about marketing transformation is changing with the rise of content marketing and thought leadership – data and storytelling are important additional layers to enable your marketing to be more innovative and strategic.

Brand storytelling should be emotive and engaging. It needs to grab the attention of consumers while informing them about your product or service. Emotive and engaging might not be words normally associated with data. However, the information we can gain from data analysis is extremely personal and can give us insights into the wants, needs and desires of our consumers.

Through assessing how your consumers think, feel, and interact with your brand, you can tap into something and forge an emotive connection that will carry your brand to the front of mind in the consideration process, making your brand memorable for all the right reasons. Data should be used to understand how to personalise a customer’s shopping experience and it is able to identify flaws in your strategy and point out weaknesses, to enable you to adjust to a more customer-centric focus.

Brand storytelling can use data analytics to improve a company’s marketing experimentation process. Using data provides a feedback loop, allowing digital marketers to easily transition from one marketing approach to another until they find one that yields better customer response and product interaction.

Analysis can provide newer insights into marketable approaches that were never available before. Translating and defining data to obtain new marketing views that will make your brand more responsive to the demands of your market is key.

It is up to brands to use this data and combine it with human empathy and understanding to create compelling stories. The more we learn to communicate our insights effectively, the more we will be able to reap the benefits that data has to offer. As people increasingly use data analysis as part of their strategies, minds will be enlightened to new possibilities never before seen in their brand’s story.