After nearly a decade working at Google – where she holds the distinction of being the first YouTube employee in the Asia Pacific region – Aleetza Senn, along with fellow Google alumnus, Vinny Vijeyakumaar and Timo Josten, struck out on their own with the launch of Sparkline.
Founded in May of 2013, Singapore-based Sparkline is a consultancy firm that shepherds companies along today’s evolving path of digital strategy and analytics – a dizzying landscape where some estimates say that ninety percent of the data that exists today has been created in the last two years.
Branding in Asia recently caught up with Senn to talk about her work, her time with Google back in the day and how businesses can get a better grasp on the abundance of big data available to their marketing teams.
What’s been keeping you busy lately?
This is an interesting question. As a working mum with young children and a business owner in the technology industry, 24-hours is just never enough when there is so much to do!
At Sparkline, we have been really focused on addressing critical issues like bridging the gap in talent for analytics skills with our training programmes to get people action-oriented and confident in their roles.
If you are digital, gone are the days of being given 3-4 months to work on an analytics project, where you have time to cross T’s and dot I’s. This is about being nimble, agile, and iterative.
We are also putting our efforts into educating businesses about the importance of data governance and data accuracy, and as a start-up, we are super proud that we are achieving these large goals.
I am currently on the lookout for great talent – If you are entrepreneurial, creative, a self-starter and a digital fanatic – please let me know. We are looking for unique people to join us and enjoy our amazing culture.
Along with being YouTube’s first employee in the Asia-Pacific, you spent nearly a decade at Google building its presence in the region. What was that experience like?
It was a great experience where I first learned about how the technology business works. I also had the pleasure of meeting a diverse pool of interesting people that have done extraordinary things, like space missions and building Tetris.
Google is a very fast-paced organization that teaches you how to be agile, nimble and courageous. It was heaps of fun and I am glad to be part of amazing alumni with former colleagues who are now friends.
You’ve said that one of your goals in founding Sparkline is changing the perception of marketing as a cost center, to a profit center. Tell us more about that.
Traditionally, the marketing function has always been viewed as a cost center by the organization. However, with the advent of digital technologies, with the use of data analytics strategy as the core of the marketing technology stack, marketers can maximise ROI from optimisation of their campaigns, and drive profits for the organizations.
For example, marketers are now able to leverage data-driven insights to understand the customer’s journey thus lowering the costs of acquisition per customer, and accelerate business growth.
In an interview earlier this year, you talked about how you aim to democratize the digital landscape and make it more actionable. What’s your view of the current landscape and in what ways can it be made more actionable?
The digital landscape is complex – over 5000 tools exist for marketing alone. It is also rapidly changing, and marketers now believe the skills they have today will be irrelevant in the next 3 years.
Democratizing the industry really means providing data-driven skills to all organizations. As the world becomes digitized and more data points exist on everything we do, like the temperature we like our living rooms to be etc, the more these tools, skills and ways of interacting become important to businesses of all sizes.
The digital landscape landscape is complex – over 5000 tools exist for marketing alone. It is also rapidly changing, and marketers now believe the skills they have today will be irrelevant in the next 3 years.
Businesses need to understand that technology is constantly evolving, and the need to embrace digital transformation to stay at the forefront of this digital disruption and remain competitive.
Can you share examples of organizations in the region that have used data analytics to maximize ROI on their campaigns?
Reebonz, who came to us to understand how they could gain better clarity of their customers across devices and invest their ad dollars for maximum impact. We recommended using Google Analytics 360 to implement a single view of a customer across devices. We also worked closely with the Reebonz team to incorporate app & web tracking on a single property via each User ID.
Upon set-up, our analysts investigated the data and found that when mobile web is part of the path to purchase, conversions improved by up to 2.8 times.
Armed with this knowledge, Reebonz implemented a robust marketing approach which doubled cross-device conversions and saw an overall increase of 50% Return On Ad Spend on search advertising.
What advice do you have for organizations looking to better grasp how big data can help their businesses thrive?
Big Data, and data, in general, is complex and ongoing. It’s large, messy and fast. If you are digital, gone are the days of being given 3-4 months to work on an analytics project, where you have time to cross T’s and dot I’s. This is about being nimble, agile, and iterative.
Data itself has challenges such as accuracy and governance. This includes basic housekeeping such as ensuring tags are firing and analytics implementations are consistent throughout the organization.
Businesses that are reticent to use data to acquire and retain customers will ultimately become irrelevant. We already have many proof points that show data driven businesses drive profitability, so it is worth the investment.
Data management is to avoid overload. When tool sets are not consolidated and infrastructure is not well defined, measurement metrics can spiral out of control, sometimes reaching 2,000 to 3,000 metrics, making it impossible for meaningful decisions.
There are key strategies that help businesses become data-driven faster. They include having analysts span across teams to inform decision making across departments, having analysts as part of strategic discussions so they understand context to analysis, instilling a test and iterate or fail fast culture. No suggestions are guaranteed success, having a culture where it’s OK to fail, empowers teams to implement suggestions analysts make, learn and iterate.
Finally, investment in education – identify the power users, train for basic data hygiene and usage, so that cross departments have interest and capability to maximise ROI from marketing tools but also run data-driven strategies.
Businesses that are reticent to use data to acquire and retain customers will ultimately become irrelevant. We already have many proof points that show data-driven businesses drive profitability, so it is worth the investment.