Data & Analytics In 2016: Superstar Industry Experts Weigh In

What's in store for data & analytics in the coming year? Columnist David Booth asks well-known experts -- Justin Cutroni, Jim Sterne, Daniel Waisberg and more -- for their 2016 predictions.

Chat with MarTechBot


The best thing about today’s data and analytics industry is the people that make it up. Every day, I count myself lucky to be surrounded by people who are truly on the bleeding edge of the technology, techniques, processes and applications of data, pushing the boundaries of how we collect it, analyze it and use it to make better and smarter decisions.

So this month, I decided to reach out to industry heavyweights in this incredible community (including some of my colleagues and fellow columnists) and ask them one simple question:

“What gets you out of bed in the morning when you think forward to data and analytics in 2016?”

True to what you might expect from this group, the technology partners, industry advocates, colleagues, friends, and even my closest competitors have come back with some really insightful thoughts that you’ll want to consider as you put the final bows and ribbons on your 2016 plans.

Avinash Kaushik

Author, Blogger, Digital Marketing Evangelist

New possibilities. I’m most excited about the new possibilities. Here are two…

  • The accelerated death of last-click measurement opens new possibilities about marketing as a portfolio strategy rather than a silo strategy (with huge implications on your team’s org structure).
  • The accelerated death of demographics/psychographics as the only way to think about a company’s customers shifting to massively awesome “See-Think-Do-Care” intent clusters (with huge implications on the purpose of your Owned, Earned, Paid marketing, and again, your team!).

Just these two could double your bottom line. And there are more of these. Be more open-minded about new possibilities.

Jim Sterne

Founder, eMetrics Summit and Board Chair, Digital Analytics Association

Looking into 2016, I see more organizations getting serious about the analytics they have been fumbling with for years. We got a tool and thought that was enough. Then we hired some people and thought that was enough.

Now we understand the need for a shift in corporate culture to take advantage of the people, process and technologies we’ve implemented.

What gets me excited? The possibility that digital interactions are actually going to get better based on analytics. It’s our best hope yet for an improved customer experience.

Justin Cutroni

Author, Analytics Evangelist at Google

Gosh, this is such a hard question! So many things are changing — and they’re changing fast.

I think the one thing that really excites me is the continued convergence of data. Businesses are merging more first- and third-party data sets to draw deeper insights about existing customers, attract new customers and, ultimately, increase revenue.

Gary Angel

Principal, EY Digital Analytics Center of Excellence

2016 will be forever remembered as the cognitive year — when the Turing Test was definitively met and we all decided that being able to talk and think like a human was a pretty low bar to set for intelligence.

Seriously, I’m excited about the leap that machine-learning tools have made in the last 18 months — both in embedded solutions and open-source capabilities.

Digital analytics needs a real methodology, and we at last have a set of analysis tools that might actually be well-suited to the unique requirements of the discipline. If we can bring method and tool together intelligently, we might have the makings of a mature analytics discipline in digital.

Stéphane Hamel

Digital Analytics Thought Leader

Maybe not something that keeps me awake at night, but the growth of ad blocking — and especially the increased awareness of the phenomenon is likely to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As the general press continues to talk about it, more people will realize their privacy is just a few clicks away — be it enabling a feature or installing a little tool, and voilà! No more ads, no more perception of being spied on.

Even if popular ad blockers generally white-list “good” trackers like Google Analytics, it is bound to be disruptive and redefine the way marketing will be done in the future.

The general perception — YOUR customers and THEIR perception of YOUR brand — is rather negative about ads and many of today’s tactics like remarketing, profile building, and a practice I myself find very annoying: personalized emails from marketing automation systems that purposely pretend to be genuine and use a too familiar writing style. Marketers and analysts will need to adapt and be very creative!

Daniel Waisberg

Analytics Advocate at Google, Founder & Editor OnlineBehavior

Last year, Dave Booth (the author of this piece) wrote about data and analytics governance, advising companies to make it a priority to build a Data & Analytics Center of Excellence to ensure business-wide cohesion. I hope you followed his advice, as that step is critical to succeed with data.

I believe that in 2016, you should focus on making sure that all your departments are speaking the same language and looking at the same data. This can be achieved through deep integrations between all your tools into a centralized data analysis platform. (Here’s how you do it with Google Analytics.)

In summary, don’t let your data organization become a Tower of Babel!

Josh Manion

CEO & Founder, Ensighten

2016 is going to be all about the theme of data security and privacy. The recent consumer privacy breaches will continue, and enterprises are going to be launching significant initiatives to secure and safeguard their users’ data and privacy.

In particular, I think this will result in companies focusing on first-party data vs. third-party data collection to power their ad tech/martech analytics and personalization efforts.

Additionally, I predict that more and more enterprises will start to invest in robust privacy and security management of their online data.

Evan LaPointe

Product Management, Adobe, Creator of Adobe Dynamic Tag Management (formerly Satellite) & Co-founder, Search Discovery

I think what’s most exciting right now centers around empowerment, communication and the slow but steady turning of the ship away from magic bullets toward genuinely good experiences.

First, empowerment is my favorite, because it really boils down to one thing: awesome people doing awesome things. Empowerment is coming in a number of ways: one huge example being through tag management systems like Adobe Dynamic Tag Management, where technology is allowing people who used to depend on other arms of the org to just dig in and do work themselves.

We’ve watched highly competent practitioners who used to struggle to get anything done or get recognition now running departments because they are freed up by technology to deliver the value that was always there, but not always appreciated.

Second, communication is improving through better analysts and inspiring leadership from people like Lea Pica, and also through technologies that make the communication of data so much easier. Better presentation of data means more people’s brains are thinking about problems and opportunities in the same way, which means better solutions will appear with wider organizational support.

It’ll be a slow march, but I dream of a day where asking 10 people to name the company’s biggest problem and a solution to it doesn’t yield 250 different answers. Getting to that nirvana is all about effective communication of data, context and meaning, followed by the appropriate empowerment of the people best suited to solve problems and tackle opportunities.

Last, the turning of the ship toward experience is a wonderful thing to see. Where will the next wave of success in marketing come from? Some new channel or magic technology?

It has to be something other than fundamentals of good experience, right? Imagine the horror of businesses actually having to look at and spend money improving their sites and apps!

But alas, businesses are increasingly investing in these core engines of conversion and customer affinity, learning to not trade short-term gains for longer-term customer value, and slowly looking at whether spending $92 of marketing for every $1 spent on experience is the best allocation of budget.

Change will take time, but observe how trivial it would be to double the budget for site/app design, build, optimization, improved user experience, better analytics and more by taking just one of those 92 dollars from the marketing budget. It begins a virtuous cycle where improvements to experience will refund that $1 many times over.

This change of mindset to move away from the next magic bullet to the fundamentals of what makes the business/customer relationship really work has been elusive, but it is a no-brainer that is finally gaining momentum.

Elissa Fink

Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Tableau Software

The great thing about data and analytics is that marketing is really where it’s at — you have the data, you know the markets and you can get out there and engage in so many ways.

2016 is going to prove that in a major way. The customer journey is more and more becoming a data-rich experience, and it’s making preset dashboards almost obsolete.

To that end, I think mobile advertising will also hit its mark in 2016. The amount of data we’re seeing come in from mobile is akin to what we saw with web analytics, and it’s giving marketers the insights they need to more effectively target their customers via the right channel at the right time, and that’s enhancing the customer experience across the board.

Allan Wille

President & CEO, Klipfolio Inc.

Business users will continue to migrate towards self-serve, cloud-based solutions — expecting access to up-to-date metrics on any device, at any time. At Klipfolio, we believe three key data and analytics trends will dominate 2016:

  • Out-of-the-box integrations into the most common cloud applications and services will be the de facto way users begin their journey.
  • The self-serve promise will extend beyond data visualization to support powerful data mashups.
  • And real-time data from IOT and personal devices will find their way into business use cases.

Andrew Edwards

Author, Co-founder Digital Analytics Association, Director Digital Intelligence Cardinal Path

For me, three things:

  • Accuracy: I am expecting in 2016 we will see more focus on ensuring data accuracy. Many organizations now want sophisticated analytics, but too often the efforts fall short because stakeholders don’t trust the data. Digital environments are more complex than ever, and it’s a task in itself to ensure data integrity.
  • Actionability: Organizations continue to struggle with making changes based on data. Therefore, strategic changes will continue to be hampered by inertia. That said, we are beginning to realize most optimization needs to be automated and responsive, so I believe we will see increasing use of marketing automation tools.
  • Monetization: Content sites need to figure out a sustainable business model. I see consolidation in the content space, where sites that cannot deliver a differentiated audience are forced to close. The survivors will deploy a mix of paywalls, subscriptions and more targeted advertising.

Matthew Tod

Partner, Customer Growth, Digital & Analytics, PwC

I’m still excited by putting great insight into the hands of marketing decision makers, at all levels. People making smarter decisions every day leads to improved performance and personal satisfaction.

To do this, we have to do a lot of heavy lifting, joining data sets that have never been brought together before, applying robust scientific methods coupled to beautiful visualization. Who wouldn’t want to do that for a day job — making your clients happier while working with a bunch of cool people?

Alex Langshur

Co-Founder, Cardinal Path & Director Emeritus, Digital Analytics Association

The word of 2016 is “activation,” as in data activation. This is the year that companies will get serious about stitching together the various stores of data across the enterprise, and through this be able to activate the data to drive a serious competitive advantage through data science.

That means a big shift from just collecting and trusting your data towards using it, and that means more than just looking back at what happened. With integrated data sets, we can peek into the future and predict the best solutions for all kinds of problems.

How should we allocate our media mix? How are online channels contributing to offline sales? How can I incorporate behavioral data and customer attributes to ensure I’m targeting the right person at the right time with just the right message?

Julien Coquet

Digital Analytics Veteran & Chief Evangelist, Hub’Scan

I’m lucky that, in our line of work anyway, each engagement is unique. I get to be the analytics midwife during the birth of a beautiful digital project. And because you can only manage well that which you measure well, here is hoping that digital marketers and IT professionals will join forces in making data quality and machine learning top priorities.

I for one welcome our new data-driven overlords.

Simo Ahava

Senior Data Advocate at Reaktor, Google Developer Expert for Google Analytics

In 2016, I’m looking forward to the same thing I look forward to every year: paradigm shifts. We spent the whole year talking about IoT this and IoT that — maybe next year we’ll actually see it mature from a fad and a buzzword into something that actually drives business, using data as its fuel.

I want to see the whole digital industry continue its exodus from focusing on single verticals (the web browser, the mobile app, the A/B-test) to comprehensive measurement, where insights are derived from a vastly heterogeneous mass of data, some of it yet undiscovered.

I want 2016 to be a year of disruption and maturity — the year we all finally realize how short-sighted we actually are when it comes to the potential of data.

Rob Jackson

Head of DBi, Havas Media

The modern digital marketer is under increasing pressure to deliver greater relevance to consumers through joined-up communications, campaigns and content. The fuel for this relevance is data.

As programmatic continues to grow and expand into new channels, there is a thirst for first-party data and better integrated systems. Data analytics professionals who can deliver strategy and implementation services around data collection, insights and activation are well-placed to help brands navigate the complex worlds of ad and martech.

Changing consumer behavior and increased expectations mean the old model of marketing is becoming obsolete. Brands who fail to address this will fall behind.

Robbin Steif

CEO, LunaMetrics and Industry Veteran

2016 will be the year of visualization and integration.

Visualization: Top executives will care enough about the data to want to see it in a digestible format.

Integration: Marketing and Technical are tired of stove-piped systems and want to see it all in one place (still).

Feras Alhlou

Co-founder & Principal Consultant, E-Nor

In the old days of web analytics — that’s only a few years ago — life was simple. More or less, marketers had a few marketing channels and one device (desktop) to figure out.

Today, the combination of channels and devices is one complex web of systems that makes it very challenging for marketers and analysts to measure and understand their customer journey.

While advanced (and potentially expensive) technologies will be needed to guide us through the maze of attribution and channel performance, there is still no substitute for smart analytics folks who are not afraid of sailing in the uncharted attribution waters of 2016.

The opportunities for understanding the behavior of prospects and customers in a user-centric way have never been as tangible as they are today — it’s now up to us, the practitioners, to do the synthesizing and analysis necessary for achieving broader-reaching, holistic insights.

Juan Damia

CEO & Founder Intellignos, Endeavor Entrepreneur

With the arrival of Google Analytics enabling just about everyone in 2005, there were huge expectations on how data and analytics can change the way we make decisions (and money) on the internet. Now, 10 years later, things have actually gotten worse, and managers feel that they’re drowning in data.

The digital marketing landscape evolved much faster than the capacity to process and analyze data, and while most companies are now focusing on big data solutions, the problem is actually not technical but cultural. Most organizations were born in a time when data was scarce, so they developed a culture based on this information scarcity.

The “Big Data Revolution” has happened so fast that companies were not prepared for the cultural shift to a data-driven culture. The answer is in analytics governance. Establishing formal governance generates an environment that avoids inferences while forcing the business-oriented decision-making to zero in on the common objective of driving the business forward.

Keep Moving Forward In 2016!

As for me, well, I echo many of the insights and thoughts of all these industry veterans and data and analytics greats, so I’ll leave you with one last thought: What gets me excited about next year, the year after that and the year after that is this trailblazing community and what it continues to achieve in these revolutionary times.

I hope you’ve picked up some ideas and inspiration to put into play at your own organization. Happy 2016 planning!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

David Booth
David Booth is a co-founder and Partner at Cardinal Path, where he helps organizations use data and digital intelligence to gain competitive advantage in their markets. He is an author, adjunct professor, and public speaker, and as a consultant David has worked across five continents helping audiences ranging from C-level executives to technical implementation teams with digital analytics, business intelligence and digital marketing.

Fuel for your marketing strategy.