Inside AKQA’s Data Play

Inside AKQA’s Data Play

Being rich in data is one thing, but having the correct systems and people in place is crucial for businesses looking to succeed in the data-driven economy.

As it stands today, many businesses are hindering their marketing performance with legacy systems, siloed data, and an emphasis on operational data.

That’s according to experience design agency AKQA, which recently snared 16 Cannes Lions Awards, including six from AKQA Melbourne.

Behind the agency’s best-ever performance at Cannes has been a series of strategic and concerted data investments, including partnerships with Microsoft and Google.

Speaking to B&T, AKQA AUNZ’s executive technology director Eric Orton [pictured right] and newly appointed data & insights director Rodney Greenfield [pictured left] shared some insight into how they are using data to help their clients and some of the common pitfalls that are holding businesses back.

Measure the right things

When it comes to how data is actually being used, some businesses are finding themselves caught up with “vanity metrics” and limiting systems.

“Typically, a lot of systems will have Google Analytics, they will have different ways to track basic interactions, but when it comes to a customer’s intent and actually extrapolating and connecting that with the business strategy – that’s where we find some of our businesses falling down and needing our help to connect those things together,” said Greenfield.

“It’s more important to ensure customer engagement is connected by an informed measurement framework that’s linked to desired business objectives and outcomes.

So what is the difference between these ‘vanity metrics’ and genuine data relating to customer intent?

“Often people have a very basic analysis of page views, unique impressions, etc, but they don’t understand the customer, what they were after and how engaged they were,” Greenfield continued.

An emphasis on customer satisfaction scores has also contributed to the prevalence of vanity metrics, Greenfield added.

For AKQA and its clients, the focus is now on finding data that can help businesses create engagements with customers that are “relevant, personalised and meaningful”.

Siloed systems are also an issue, according to Orton, as are data systems that fail to look at customer engagement.

He explained that AKQA is working with its clients to help connect this data where internal teams might be unable to do so.

“We think – because we’ve got a fairly cross-functional set of teams, we’re bringing data specialism and connecting to our specialisations already in marketing technology, ad tech and customer engagement systems – we can really make sure that we can create that single view of customer,” Orton said.

One of these clients is Kiwi dairy company Fonterra.

Fonterra digital marketing manager Richard Nash said AKQA has helped the business supercharge its data strategy.

“AKQA has been pivotal in allowing us to better understand our current state data, analytics and insights across the NZMP business unit of Fonterra.

“Their in-depth knowledge, variety of experience and high-level output has put us in the best position to help drive our journey into Digital Intelligence for the future.

Getting the data right

When businesses talk about the data they possess, the emphasis is often on operational data – data that relates to day-to-day activities at the company.

For Orton, these businesses will not be able to successfully use data to learn about their customers.

“They’re strong in operational business data, but quite weak with the volume of data that comes from marketing technology and ad technology systems, which you need to understand the customer and understand what you should be doing within that,” he said.

AKQA is working to address this gap, by helping clients understand their customers, collect first-party data and build the right infrastructure underneath this data, Orton explained.

“We’re working from our space by being able to bring that high volume of customer data in, create the right strategy for businesses, help them build the right infrastructure and teams around supporting that. [This can] help them move forward,” he said.

Making customer experience and data work

The emphasis on operational/organisational data is even visible when you look at the data science teams, added Greenfield.

“A lot of our clients have very strong data teams, but they’re typically data scientists that are generally focused on organisational data,” he said.

“So when it comes to transactions and financial performance, they’re all over it. But when it comes to customer engagement and what it means – around digital assets, website performance and other things that relate to customer experience – they don’t have the skills.”

When it comes to using data to enhance customer experience, looking to find what data is missing is often more important than looking at the data that is already there, said Greenfield.

“What’s been the common pattern for a lot of businesses is to look at the data that they have and to essentially work from that,” he said.

“What we look to do is flip that on its head and to look more from a strategy perspective.

“We’re looking at; what data do you need to be able to drive that outcome, what data do you have, but also more importantly, what data is missing? What data do we need to capture to inform those moments, and how do we prepare and coordinate and collate a dataset that’s useful in that channel and also enable that across multiple channels.”



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