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Expedia challenges analytics to boost ROI

Gurmej Bahia, Expedia's director of customer marketing, explains why he will warn marketers at BrandMAX next month about the dangers of too much data.

Understandably, how to get the best ROI from your marketing budgets is a big part of the agenda for the inaugural BrandMAX Summit on 21-22 September this year.

As Guy Hayward, chief executive of JWT UK, who will chair the event on the first day, explains: 'The marketer's biggest challenge is deciding where to spend their money. It has been said that there have never been more ways to reach a target audience, but it has never been as hard to connect with them, and that is true; clients need a range of connected solutions, rather than just an above-the-line campaign with a digital element tagged on.'

So, from Andy Street, managing director of John Lewis Partnership, to Nina Bibby, global chief marketing officer at Barclaycard, we will hear different answers to this challenge. With a background in online and analytics, Gurmej Bahia, Expedia's director of customer marketing, has yet another take on it.

He thinks that marketers can struggle with too much data in a mobile-enabled, socially networked and digital world. 'Today, you have more data on the consumer than you had before. Organisations find it very hard to go through that data to find the metrics that matter,' he warns.

This is key to understanding what the ROI is for your marketing activities.

'In the online marketing world, there has always been a good understanding of what money you spend and what you get back. In the offline world, it has been harder to attach a firm ROI to brand metrics,' says Bahia. 'Because Expedia is an online business which has grown by understanding the needs of the customer, it is very driven by analytics, very driven by making sure the brand has a clear ROI, but applying ROI to softer brand metrics can mean drowning in data unless you apply very firm KPIs.'

Complexity is added, however, by the changing consumer and marketing landscape, 'especially with the introduction of social', argues Bahia. 'Everyone is trying to find ways of using social and trying to understand it as a form of communication in different ways: brand engagement or PR, customer service, direct acquisition.'

He adds: 'I don't think there is anyone that has really figured it out 100%. Everyone is still trying to find their feet. Potentially, at a PR and brand level, there is an easy way to create engagement - by creating fan pages and so on. But it's about going beyond that and looking at how that platform can work and its relative role with other channels and other media such as a branding thing that you air on TV.' In effect, digital is adding layers and layers when there is communication, and consumers think about a brand.

This is the thinking that will drive Bahia's keynote speech, entitled 'Competing on analytics - real time, marketing investment' at BrandMAX. At the heart of it, he intends to answer the following question: if organisations now have access to better data, and can therefore make choices on investment and channels more rapidly, based on evidence, then why are so many still saying that they know that a percentage of their spend is wasted, or that they aren't confident about how channels interact together to achieve multiplier effects?

Expedia has a partial answer. It has focused on the challenge of rapidly turning data into actionable insight. Additionally, it has recently moved to phase two: understanding why things happen, what is working at an optimum level and what's not - in real time. This challenge required Marketing Effectiveness Technology (MET), and Expedia has turned to MET provider marketingQED for this phase of its development. John Dawson, co-founder at marketingQED, is presenting one of the hub workshops at BrandMAX (see above).

'We knew that the science existed to enable marketers to measure the effectiveness of their marketing efforts,' says Dawson, explaining the ideas that power marketingQED's software. 'We had also seen that when marketers acted on this information, they could really improve the performance of their brands. However, we also knew that the existing approach to solving this puzzle was expensive, slow and difficult to do.'

So Dawson and his partners decided that to solve these puzzles, companies weren't going to go out and hire hundreds of rocket scientists who could work the slow, expensive software favoured by academics. Instead, they believed that simple-to-use tools were exactly what marketers needed. 'That's why we started marketingQED - to make the insight accessible. Quickly and easily,' adds Dawson.

Thanks to this approach, Expedia has been able to use analytics for competitive advantage - and understand the true ROI of its marketing on a continuous basis.


When high ROI does not lead to marketing effectiveness: marketing QED brings fantasy brand optimisation to life at BrandMAX

Delegates at BrandMAX are to be challenged to put their money where their mouths are in a fantasy brand optimisation workshop, at which marketingQED will show the science behind marketing effectiveness technology.

In the hub session, delegates will be able to adopt the role of a fantasy brand director with a decent-sized budget to spend on media, and, thanks to marketingQED's advice and approach, they will soon find out if they are spending wisely.

This interactive workshop will also enable delegates to discover how brands like Expedia and Orange can work out how their marketing decisions, and other factors, such as competitor actions affect their business performance, and thus predict their next move.

'We've planned this session to share top tips for how to optimise marketing spend. We will be using an interactive workshop approach to bring an example to life,' says John Dawson, chief client officer at marketingQED. 'You will get to see what you need to make the right decision and, more importantly, what you should definitely not use. You may be surprised to know that a high ROI is not an indicator of where to place your marketing spend.'

One of the key advantages of QED's approach is that its software puts easy-to-use tools in the hands of marketing teams, so they can have the analysis, far more quickly (sometimes weeks quicker) than with traditional consultative and modelling methods. This makes it easier to judge which marketing messages work and which don't, so you can refine your campaign.

'At BrandMAX, we will show you an easy way to get the best returns from your spend and argue your case in the boardroom,' adds Dawson.



Delegate places are going fast, but if you want to hear more at BrandMAX, please contact celia.miranda@haymarket.com immediately.


Date: 21-22 September 2011

Venue: Altitude 360, Millbank Tower, London

More information: www.brand-max.net


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