The value of marketing metrics at Visa

By Kelly Levoyer, Marketing Editorial Director, SAS

Editor's note: In this Analytical Marketing series, learn how a few dynamic executives at top brands have led their organizations into the modern world of data-driven marketing.

Looking at a company the size of Visa, it’s obvious that there’s a sophisticated marketing machine behind its portfolio of digital advertising, television commercials, sporting event sponsorships and credit card offers. Maintaining a position of leadership in the financial space requires complex processes, critical and creative thinking, and, according to analytics exec Ramkumar Ravichandran, a pervasive analytical mindset.

As director of analytics A/B testing, Ravichandran supports executives and other decision-makers across the product, marketing, and sales and relationship areas of Visa. He says, “We are the custodians of the data, so our responsibility is to enable our users to have confidence in the decisions they make using that data.”

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Ramkumar Ravichandran, Director of Analytics A/B Testing, Visa

Intermingling strategy and analytics

One of the biggest changes of analytical era of marketing is that things need to happen faster than ever. “We used to have a very linear approach,” he says. “Now when something is going live, there’s already an immediate need to respond. We need to be able to take action on the fly.” Because of those changes, Ravichandran says that marketers can no longer think about analytics as something that support them or a function that just one person (like a chief digital officer) would perform. Rather, analytics is now an integral part of marketing’s value chain.

The enduring value of intuition and vision

Ravichandran says that data by itself is historical. That’s why while there is a need to use data and analytics to inform campaigns, it still comes down to marketers sometimes using their gut to make the best decision possible. Because data and analytics are now so intertwined with marketing strategy, expectations for leadership on the marketing side have changed. “It’s no longer acceptable to say you’re a marketer but you’re not a numbers person,” Ravichandran says. “Executives are demanding more data literacy as a prerequisite for being a good marketer.” And it’s not just in the marketing space, he adds. “All of our chief executives are comfortable with numbers and data-driven approaches.”

Ravichandran is quick to clarify, however, that a focus on data, numbers and quantified measures should not replace the value of vision. “I have an enormous respect for data, but I also believe all of it has to be driven by strategy, the business case, benchmarking against the industry, all those things that provide a broader perspective. You have to understand what specific metrics you’re trying to impact with your actions.” He advocates pausing to first understand your company’s business model, then applying and measuring the right things to truly understand your competitive position and your customers’ needs.

“Companies must break down barriers between stakeholders and decision makers and take the time to understand each other’s perspectives. We must focus on connecting emotionally to our customers and making products more usable and valuable for them. That is our common, corporate ground."

Marketing analytics’ future

What does Ravichandran see as the most meaningful trends in the marketing analytics space? “First, the accessibility of analytics is huge . . . making it easier for everyone to use. This is by far the biggest shift I’ve seen; second, our ability to react as close to real-time as possible; and third, marketing automation technologies and our ability to understand what our customers are doing, react to it, and even predict their next action, is very cool. But underlying all of this is the obligation I see on behalf of all modern marketers to advocate for the value of analytics and continue to make its use more widespread.”


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