Online sellers face both a challenge and an opportunity to manage the flood of data from ecommerce—and figure out how to put it to use in building customer loyalty and growth in sales. The top executives in charge of managing information and marketing must work together to make that happen, writes Grace Liu of Seagate Technology.

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Grace Liu

While ecommerce has been on the up and up in recent years, 2020 has been a year like no other. Even prior to the recent holiday shopping season, which often eclipses all retail activity during the year up until that point, ecommerce saw record-breaking demand. According to the US Commerce Department, consumers spent $50 billion more from July to September than during the same period in 2019.

The quick and dramatic shift to online buying as a result of the pandemic also resulted in a dramatic increase in the creation of data. This is inevitable, as with more transactions comes more data. This presents a challenge and an opportunity for businesses that need to manage this data and garner insights from it to maintain customer loyalty and growth. The new consumer buying behavior we’re seeing is here to stay too, with one report revealing that 82% of shoppers will continue buying online even as stores reopen.

So, businesses need to act. Data holds the key for businesses to unlock potential insights and ultimately, value. As with all data though, volume is not the issue. It’s how businesses process it

Removing silos

The idea that every area of a business—from marketing to IT—needs to work together is not a new one. However, it is still an important one. Today, we see that the companies that emerge as market leaders tend to take an agile, integrated approach to data management. IT must become more customer-centric, and marketing must become more data-driven to succeed. This can—and does—happen when chief information officers and chief marketing officers work together.

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Despite the proven benefits of collaboration, integration between CIOs and CMOs is still rare. That means a lot of missed-out potential to deliver a compelling customer experience at scale. A seamlessly integrated platform allows businesses to create better predictive models that optimize their operations and anticipate customers’ needs across shopping, payments, order tracking and customer service.

DataOps for data value

So how can a business get better integrated? According to the recent Rethink Data survey by IDC, companies need to find new ways to garner business value as they face an influx of data. In fact, North American businesses show the greatest (49%) projected data growth. Enterprises of all sizes need a more integrated approach to data management. DataOps—an emerging discipline designed to improve the speed, quality, and value of data analytics by connecting data creators with data consumers—is the missing piece of the puzzle.

DataOps means breaking away from traditional uses of data and widening a traditional data analytics approach to become more holistic. Instead of looking to data for answers to a problem seen as distinct from each other, which tends to create data silos, a DataOps approach helps businesses manage data from multiple parts of an enterprise effectively. Companies looking to address this and create a streamlined relationship between CIOs and CMOs can do so by considering the following:

1-Process

Consumers and businesses are creating more data daily than ever before, generating data that is fed to decision-makers. But what is the purpose? How can this data be unpacked and analyzed? CIOs and CMOs must work together to gain a clear understanding of how and where the data is gaining in volume and what data should be collected from which sources. In other words, they must help their organization recognize the value of its data, align on how to classify various types of data, and understand how to manage data effectively across the entire organization.

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2-People

CIOs and CMOs must also align when it comes to talent. In a modern enterprise, educating employees about the need for a coherent data strategy and how their roles fit into the picture is as important as any other part of the onboarding process. Creating and maintaining constant, coherent visibility into data can help to nurture a spirit of innovation, while empowering teams to embrace experimentation and agility.

3-Processes

Taking data out of its proper consumer context can result in its mismanagement. Context must be used to frame the data collected, before leading into a more holistic set of decision-making which is aligned with company priorities. Amid an ecommerce boom increasingly integrated with data, closer collaboration between CIOs and CMOs will yield the valuable insights a business needs to succeed in an increasingly competitive landscape.

With the holiday shopping season this year generating significantly higher sales than last year, and almost a third (30%) taking place on digital channels (vs. 23% in 2019), a new precedent has been set for ecommerce. This is set to continue into 2021 and as greater demands are placed on ecommerce. It’s important that businesses set themselves up for success by understanding data and using it effectively. But this understanding needs to come from all areas of a business—from the front end to the back—creating a culture that breaks down silos and unlocks truly impactful value.

Grace Liu is vice president of IT Strategy and Global Operations at Seagate Technology, a provider of data management technology and services.

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