Research is a driving force behind any strategy and so understanding what your data is telling you is vital to the success of your strategy. You may have a specific research function and separate insight team, both together or neither. Whatever the capabilities within your organization it is important to bring broader research into your digital strategy. Figure 2.1 is an interesting piece of digital research that clearly demonstrates that the percentage of consumers buying online is, in most countries, far beyond the percentage of businesses selling online. Understanding this data for your specific market will allow you to understand where the gaps are for your business to exploit.
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The data you gain from your activity will inform future plans and tactics and even the shape of your strategy. This data, however, has one main restriction that takes two forms. This restriction is simply that it can never tell you what it doesn’t know. That may sound obvious but when we look at the two forms we can begin to understand why the broader picture is vital. First, your data cannot tell you what has not happened yet.
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But how can you build a strategy without understanding what is going to happen? By gaining insights into your customers’ and consumers’ behaviours, understanding what motivates them and how they respond to other materials, you will be able to gain an advantage that will set your strategy on a positive path from day one. Second, your data is digital and so is not tracking anything outside of your digital marketing. You may be able to use search volumes to give an indication of the success of a television advert but you cannot see directly what people thought about your creative.
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You may be able to see a peak in response rates when you send an e-mail about a specific product but you cannot see whether people think your competitors’ products are better. By using both qualitative and quantitative research from across the organization you can understand buying patterns, interests, competitive analysis, creative feedback, customer behaviours, primary areas of dissatisfaction and many other data sets that would otherwise be unavailable to you at the start of your strategy or even when it is very mature.