lifeTechnological progress or not, without the interpretation ability of the marketer there would be little usefulness with a large part of collected data. In short, humans still come on top and not machines, although data is kind of gold and a key success factor in the digital marketing of the future, because companies today have increasingly access to sophisticated technologies to address each customer individually based on data.

However, it should be clear as well that even the best marketing platform alone cannot work miracles and campaigns cannot run successfully without the expertise of marketing professionals. Modern data androids achieve their greatest benefits mainly when used for automatic data acquisition, storage, classification and synchronization. Still, they are not ready for world domination over the digital marketing reign, as the analysis is still not fully possible without human beings.

Automation vs. creativity
When thinking of smart technologies, the futuristic "man vs. machine" scenarios à la Terminator and Robocop come in general relatively quickly to our minds. Thanks to Hollywood! There, the machines operate on a par with men or are even superior to them. With today’s digital marketing solutions, however, these cyborg heroes have barely something in common, as a view into the daily practice proves: If I am looking for a cell phone, I am usually searching for several weeks online for information before buying. However, if I just bought one, I have no more interest and perhaps I am even annoyed when I am still getting digital ads displayed for mobile phones. A software cannot understand that by itself and such shifts in the behavioral profile of the customer are mathematically very difficult to handle.

Analytics cannot foresee people’s actions
Tools will probably never completely autonomously be able to foresee a human being, because he/she does not always behave consistently and according to some equations, since exceptions are always possible. The magic word here is consumer insights, which means an interpretation of the data collected about the target audience. Coming back to our mobile phone example: Only by linking behavioral data and purchase history with the human interpretation, modern marketing solutions can provide real and unique experiences. Hence, after the purchase of the mobile phone, the customer does not get displayed more banner advertisement for a mobile phone, but for instance a suitable protective case for the new smartphone. Unfortunately, data can’t always give a clear direction. Sometimes it is also the right gut feeling, or the longtime experience of marketing executives, that lead campaigns to success. However, creativity and gut feeling, as we all know, tend not to belong to the proven strengths of software systems.

The algorithm can’t make decisions
Machines have to function, but we cede the thinking to people. The idea, the integration, and the value creation of the action can never assume an algorithm - at least for the time being. Only when the strategy is defined, the technology can be let off the leash.

Big Data or not: Marketing without people will not work in the future, because someone has to set, at least in the beginning, the logic a software should pursue. Data optimized marketing will therefore only be as good as the person who evaluates the data and draws the right conclusions. Only when strategy and target group are clearly defined, technologies can act when it comes to quite simple things in the sales process and human support is not really needed.

A new version of retargeting via beacons is a good example: If a potential customer in a clothing store is interested in a particular jacket, it is registered via the small transmitter and mobile app. If the customer leaves the store without buying the jacket, he can get a reminder regarding this jacket in the following days, via all relevant digital channels, or get a particularly good offer in the same context. This data-driven approach is possible in a fully automated way, as direct connection between the physical and digital shopping world. Once initialized, the marketer actually really takes on only the pure control function.

Man is still at the wheel when it comes to data analysis
Data optimized marketing has a technical aspect, which is not to be underestimated. Clever tools help the marketers to automate data-driven campaigns and lead it to success, but they follow at the end as well the human knowledge formation. It is not about collecting data itself, but about doing the right thing with the right data. Certainly, without technology, the data optimization is hardly possible, because a computer can cope much better with millions of structured data records than a human brain. However, a human being will always better hypothesize and know what successful campaigns need to have. Even the best analysis tool cannot make it on its own. It needs the support of the human counterparts, and especially the logical combination of the correct data, in order to get a comprehensive view of the customer. Therefore, all employees of a company are invited to contribute their part.

The relationship of ‘man vs. machine’ in data-analysis can be most likely compared best with the classic motoring: The man behind the wheel directs and sets the pace; the technology performs and potentiates the power of man to a higher level. Today’s digital marketing has already plenty of power under the hood –now it's to the marketers to rev up and profitably exploit its potential in the digital race for customers.

By Daniela La Marca