Using alternative data to fuel decisions: Examples from top marketing firms

Benjamin Seror, chief product officer, Similarweb, explains how marketers can use digital data to make effective strategic marketing decisions.

A red fuel pump.

Businesses are under a tremendous amount of pressure at the moment. With the Bank of England expecting the UK economy to enter a recession and inflation continuing to rise, the current economic environment is extremely difficult to navigate. Businesses are fighting to maintain profitability.

We can already see the impact of the tightening economy in action. Over 100,000 employees have been laid off since the start of this year in the tech sector alone. Other industries are facing similar circumstances, with household names such as Disney and Goldman Sachs laying off 7,000 and 3,200 employees, respectively. Money is tight and every sector has to be careful with spending.

Digital marketing professionals are particularly facing stressful circumstances. Due to rising inflation and energy prices that are fuelling the economic downturn, 49% of consumers are spending less on luxury purchases, leaving them with less disposable income. This means that marketers are now operating in a far more competitive landscape than before. And on top of this, as organisations are making cuts, there’s less budget for marketing spend. Marketers are having to fight harder than ever to produce results.

With lower budgets and a more competitive landscape, marketing professionals are having to think up new ways to get results. But what can they do?

Fuel marketing decisions with alternative data

One solution could be alternative data, which is the use of non-traditional data sources such as web traffic and keyword research, which can be used to increase the chances of having a successful marketing campaign.

Using alternative data can help marketing professionals gain a complete overview of demographics and platforms. For example, social media data can provide insights into the interests, behaviours, and preferences of consumers.

Additionally, web traffic data can reveal which platforms are most popular among different age groups and demographics. Marketing professionals can make informed decisions about which platforms to target and how to craft their messaging to resonate with their audience by using alternative data.

This will allow marketing professionals to stay ahead of the curve. Traditional data sources such as surveys and focus groups can be time-consuming and expensive, and by the time the data is collected and analysed, it may already be outdated. In contrast, alternative data is often available in real-time, allowing marketing professionals to quickly adapt their strategies based on the latest trends and insights.

This isn’t just hearsay and we are seeing first hand how alternative data is revolutionising the way marketing professionals make business decisions. By leveraging non-traditional data sources, professionals can gain a complete overview of demographics and platforms, stay ahead of the curve, and make informed decisions that drive business growth.

But what does using alternative data to fuel marketing decisions look like in practice? Below I have listed five companies identified in Similarweb’s 2023 Marketing Awards, which have used alternative data to execute strong digital marketing campaigns over the last year.

1. Panasonic

While Panasonic is a globally recognised brand, it is still massively dwarfed by competitors such as Sony and Samsung. However, in 2022, it used alternative data to maximise its marketing efforts, far outperforming competitors.

In 2022, Panasonic identified an opportunity to increase web traffic by heavily focusing on mobile search marketing. The company invested $1.6 million dollars in mobile PPC advertising. This was 4.2 times higher than their spend on desktop PPC, which was $380,000 for the year.

By focusing on mobile PPC, Panasonic was able to increase their mobile web traffic from 2.8 million visits in 2021 to 4.2 million visits in 2022. By effectively using data to identify a need for increased mobile PPC efforts, Panasonic was able to increase their mobile web traffic by 49%.

2. Shein

Shein’s growth has been prolific, with 2022 seeing its contemporaries’ traffic nose dive while Shein became the most searched-for fashion brand in the world. However, even when at the top, there isn’t time to sit around and get comfortable.

Shein used alternative data to analyse its marketing position and realised that they had reached maximum brand awareness in the US. The retailer used this opportunity to expand its awareness within other countries.

The organisation applied its learnings of growing brand awareness within the US to the Brazilian retail market. Shein continually pumped money into ads well after web traffic had already risen. This resulted in six months of month-over-month increasing traffic in 2022.

3. Pizza Hut Japan

Pizza Hut Japan used alternative data to gain an accurate overview of their target marketing and identified an opportunity for a strong referral marketing strategy.

The brand partnered with the popular anime series, Blue Lock, during the 2022 World Cup, resulting in impressive growth in referral traffic. In December, the brand experienced over 50% growth, proving the effectiveness of their affiliate strategy.​

In addition to the partnership with Blue Lock, Pizza Hut Japan executed a successful PR campaign that helped to bolster their efforts. By utilising a combination of referral marketing tactics and strategic partnerships, Pizza Hut Japan was able to stand out in a competitive market and increase their market share.

4. Lululemon

Lululemon was facing a daunting market in 2022. As consumer spending dropped, non-essential purchases began to fall too. The organisation had to keep itself front of consumers’ minds to successfully navigate these difficult circumstances.

To do so, Lululemon used data to identify a need for increased mobile paid search advertising. The organisation increased spend by 4 times, which led to their mobile web traffic doubling in 2022.

Additionally, the organisation identified an increased need for direct-to-consumer marketing. As such, they increased focus on email marketing. Lululemon’s email marketing campaign led to a 62% increase in email referral traffic. This peaked on Black Friday, when email referral traffic reached 2.5 million visits.

5. Hey Dude

In the highly competitive digital retail landscape, many up-and-coming footwear brands struggle to compete against established giants like Nike and Toms. However, Hey Dude was able to use data to successfully break into the market.

The brand effectively used keyword research to capture an impressive 94% of paid desktop traffic for the keywords “heydude shoes.” This success is partly due to the brand’s strategic use of the reach of Google and Amazon. By securing prime real estate on both platforms, Hey Dude was able to meet high-intent searchers with the exact message they were searching for. This targeted approach helped Hey Dude stand out and gain a competitive edge against its larger competitors.

Overall, Hey Dude’s success story shows that even in a world dominated by giants like Amazon, smaller brands can still carve out a space for themselves by leveraging the power of data driven insights, strategic marketing tactics and platforms.

With the current economic environment being extremely difficult to navigate, businesses are fighting to maintain profitability, while marketing professionals are facing a more competitive landscape with lower budgets. However, despite these challenges it doesn’t mean there aren’t ways for businesses to succeed. By using alternative data sources, firms can harness valuable insights into demographics and platforms, allowing them to make informed decisions that drive business growth, as the companies listed above have demonstrated. By using alternative data, marketing professionals can stay ahead of the curve and gain a competitive edge in challenging times.

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