Many marketers look at predictive analytics, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) like they do the Jetsons: as a future where an AI-based robot Rosie intelligently takes care of tasks while the people worry about working a three-hour week.
The reality, however, is much different. As predictive analytics plays a growing role in the marketing suite, a pragmatic approach informs how marketers can apply predictive analytics to hone their work today.
While ML and AI may, in their final stages, automatically take actions for marketers based on data inputs and predictive algorithms, that is not the case today. Marketers instead have the opportunity to rethink their expectations of these technologies and how they can help make us more effective in lead generation, conversion and building long-term customer value by balancing the smarts of predictive technologies with the best of marketer expertise.
The customer journey is the best place to start resetting expectations around predictive analytics, which I define as an umbrella term for using a bunch of techniques to analyse current data to make future predictions.
From modeling and validating to measuring and optimising, predictive analytics in the customer journey can help make us all more productive marketers.
When Predictive Analytics Meets the Customer Journeys
The customer journey is no longer a linear path. In fact, any one person might take any of a myriad of paths. While these paths may seem random and much like the path of a disc in a plinko game, predictive analytics can help us become smarter marketers by connecting digital breadcrumbs that aren’t readily apparent otherwise.
With individualised modeling powered by data insights, marketers can target both at the segment and individual level. They can optimise campaigns, content and more for prospects as they move along the path to purchase — with technology that allows them to do so at scale.
Validating customer journeys has traditionally been an intensive, manual exercise to understand the key campaign elements, like lead prioritsation, nurturing, content and more, that provide better insights and validate what is the best course of action for a marketer to take at a given point in the customer journey.
Applying predictive analytics allows us to more quickly and efficiently confirm that we are capturing the steps that prospects take, identifying important milestones in the journey that keep them moving forward and flagging previously unknown gaps. Capturing data points in real-time validates what’s the best content, nurturing, or other step to take, and in some cases will make recommendations or potentially automatically take action to deliver the right touchpoint to the right person at just the right time.
Measurement has traditionally offered a lagging view of success. Yet, ML and predictive analytics can give us a more real-time measurement of what’s working and what’s not. As algorithms are able to take a wide variety of data inputs, quickly correlating massive amounts of data, marketers can within moments have insight into metrics like lead velocity that help us not just automate, but optimise our processes.
People prefer to do business with companies who make their experience more relevant at every turn. Predictive analytics can help achieve this by not just personalising but individualising the customer journey. Smart marketers apply predictive analytics insights to go beyond mere automation to create a customer journey optimised for individual prospects and specific business outcomes.
For example, marketers at an electronic component manufacturer took customers’ digital breadcrumbs and combined them with measures of what was working to optimise customer touchpoints. By tailoring content to different prospects at different times in the buying process, the marketers successfully increased its conversion rate by over 1000 percent.
When to Apply Predictive Analytics
When to use — and just as importantly, when not to use — predictive analytics is important when balancing automation and marketing expertise. Let’s quickly assess three areas that play a role in optimising the customer journey.
Content — Predictive analytics can validate what content performs best across measures, such as among certain market segments, and/or at certain stages of the buying journey. More than just measuring content, predictive analytics can auto-recommend content that will best help the prospect move forward in the process, and can even automatically take action to serve content to a specific prospect at the time they will be most receptive to it. These data-driven actions are constantly assessed and updated for constant improvement.
Nurturing — Predictive analytics is helpful to honing marketer effectiveness by illustrating what nurturing activities work best for which market segments. For your defined segments — whether they be people living in a specific geography, or more nuanced — predictive technologies can inform the best way to nurture a given segment. These data-driven systems will update your nurture flows to create a virtuous cycle of nurture paths that drive greater and greater value to your organisation, and to customers.
Leads — Marketers can expect predictive analytics to help float top targets to the top, with the combined use of prospect profiles and behaviours. Predictive analytics shines when it comes to analysing mounds of prospect behaviour, and it can quickly connect the dots between valuable activities and those touchpoints with lower influence, and recommend which activities lead to faster conversions and are therefore of higher value. Predictive analytics is “always-on,” constantly collecting new data points that can help marketers develop a process of continuous updates to lead scoring, getting prospects in front of the sales team at the optimum time.
At the end of the day, customers are interacting with brands in more ways, through more channels, than ever before. As the customer journey becomes less linear and more individualised, there is a clear opportunity to pragmatically apply predictive analytics, ML and AI to make sense from the noise. Marrying the smarts of predictive technologies with the best of marketer expertise, smart marketers can create competitive advantage through modeling and validating, measuring and optimising the customer journey.
About the Author
Adam Mertz is the vice president, Marketing & Strategy at Act-On. Adam has more than 20 years marketing experience including leading Customer Marketing, Field Marketing and Product Marketing teams.
Factors That Affect the Direction of the Stock Market
A stock price represents the value of a particular stock of a particular entity, asset or another financial instrument. It is calculated by calculating the price per share of the stock at a particular price and period in time.
There are various factors that affect the direction of the stock market. These factors include interest rates and inflation rates as well as the state of the economy. If one of these factors is not in the favor of the stock market, then it could bring about a downfall of its value.
The stock prices are also affected by various stock indexes, which provide information on a particular company or industry. It helps to analyze the trends of the stock market and makes better decisions when buying and selling.
However, there are some major factors that can influence the performance of the stock market. One such factor is the state of the economy. The state of the economy refers to how well the economy is doing economically. If there is an economic decline in a particular country, then the state of the economy would be affected and the stock market would also take a hit.
Economic conditions can also affect the performance of the stock markets. For example, if the state of the economy is poor and the population is experiencing unemployment, then the economy will suffer and the stock prices will definitely take a hit.
Political turmoil can also bring about a negative effect on the stock markets because it affects the economic conditions and the way people relate to the government. When there is a lack of confidence in the state of the economy and people tend to sell off their stock at cheaper prices, the stocks of the company would suffer.
Another important factor that influences the direction of the stock market is the change in the global economy. It has been proven that the changes in the global economy are very large and it can affect the direction of the stock market in a major way. For example, during the global recession in 2020, the stock prices of many companies suffered a great deal and so did the profits of the company.
The most important thing that determines the direction of the stock market is the state of the economy and the state of the country in which the stock market is based. It is therefore, very important to invest in the stock market as a company that is in good condition. This is because it will help in ensuring the stability in the economy.
The price of the stock market is also affected by the political stability of the country in which the stock market is based. If there is a rise in the political instability, then the price of the stocks would surely go up. However, when the political stability improves, the prices of the stocks will definitely fall.
The factors that affect the direction of the stock market include the conditions in which the economy is doing. It is therefore, very important to have a good understanding of how the economic conditions in a certain country are progressing. This will help in making better investments.
There are certain countries that are very stable and these countries have a very high demand for the stocks of other countries. This means that people from those countries will invest in stocks of countries that are in good condition, and these investments will yield profits for them.
There are also certain countries that have very bad economic conditions and these countries have a very low demand for the stocks of other countries. These countries are also in need of investments and these investments will yield huge losses for them. Therefore, investing in these countries is not advised because these stocks will yield zero returns.
The stock markets are not stable unless there are good economic conditions prevailing in a country. This means that one has to know the economic condition of the country in order to make investments. Investing in the stock market is the best way to do this because investing will always yield returns, as long as the country in which one is investing is stable.
How has the online trading landscape changed in 2020?
By Dáire Ferguson, CEO, AvaTrade
This year has been all about change following the outbreak of coronavirus and the subsequent global economic downturn which has impacted nearly every aspect of personal and business life. The online trading world has been no exception to this change as volatility in the financial markets has soared.
Although the global markets have been on a rollercoaster for some time with various geopolitical tensions, the market swings that we have witnessed since March have undoubtedly been unlike anything seen before. While these are indeed challenging times, for the online trading community, the increased volatility has proven tempting for those looking to profit handsomely.
However, with the opportunity to make greater profits also comes the possibility to make a loss, so how has 2020 changed the online trading landscape and how can retail investors stay safe?
Interest rates offered by banks and other traditional forms of consumer investments have been uninspiring for some time, but with the current economic frailty, the Bank of England cut interest rates to an all-time low. This has left many people in search of more exciting and rewarding ways to grow their savings which is indeed something online trading can provide.
When the pandemic hit earlier this year, it was widely reported that user numbers for online trading rocketed due to disappointing savings rates but also because the enforced lockdown gave more people the time to learn a new skill and educate themselves on online trading.
A volatile market certainly offers great scope for profit and new sources of revenue for those that are savvy enough to put their convictions to the test. However, where people stand the chance to profit greatly from market volatility, there is also the possibility to make a loss, particularly for those that are new to online trading or who are still developing their understanding of the market.
The sharp rise in online trading over lockdown paired with this year’s unpredictable global economy has led to some financial losses, but with a number of risk management tools now available this does not necessarily have to be the case.
Protect your assets
Although not yet widely available across the retail market, risk management tools are slowly becoming more prevalent and being offered by online traders as an extra layer of security for those seeking to trade in riskier climates.
There are a range of options available for traders, but amongst the common tools are “take profit” orders in conjunction with “stop loss” orders. A take profit order is a type of limit order that specifies the exact price for traders to close out an open position for a profit, and if the price of the security does not reach the limit price, the take profit order will not be fulfilled. A stop loss order can limit the trader’s loss on a security position by buying or selling a stock when it reaches a certain price.
Take profit and stop loss orders are good for mitigating risk, but for those that are new to the game or who would prefer extra support, there are even some risk management tools, such as AvaProtect, that provide total protection against loss for a defined period. This means that if the market moves in the wrong direction than originally anticipated, traders can recoup their losses, minus the cost of taking out the protection.
Not a day has gone by this year without the news prompting a change in the financial markets. Until a cure for the coronavirus is discovered, we are unlikely to return to ‘normal’ and the global markets will continue to remain highly volatile. In addition, later this year we will witness one of the most critical US presidential elections in history and the UK’s transition period for Brexit will come to an end. The outcome of these events may well trigger further volatility.
Of course, this may also encourage more people to dip their toes into online trading for a chance to profit. As more people take an interest and sign up to online trading platforms, providers will certainly look to increase or improve the risk management tools on offer to try and keep new users on board, and this could spell a new era for the online trading world.
By Paddy Osborn, Academic Dean, London Academy of Trading
Whether you’re negotiating a business deal, playing a sport or trading financial markets, it’s vital that you have a plan. Top golfers will have a strategy to get around the course in the fewest number of shots possible, and without this plan, their score will undoubtedly be worse. It’s the same with trading. You can’t just open a trading account and trade off hunches and hopes. You need to create a structured and robust plan of attack. This will not only improve your profitability, but will also significantly reduce your stress levels during the decision-making process.
In my opinion, there are four stages to any trading strategy.
S – Set-up
T – Trigger
E – Execution
M – Management
Good trading performance STEMs from a structured trading process, so you should have one or more specific rules for each stage of this process.
Before executing any trades, you need to decide on your criteria for making your trading decisions. Should you base your trades off fundamental analysis, or maybe political news or macroeconomic data? If so, then you need to understand these subjects and how markets react to specific news events.
Alternatively, of course, there’s technical analysis, whereby you base your decisions off charts and previous price action, but again, you need a set of specific rules to enable you to trade with a consistent strategy. Many traders combine both fundamental and technical analysis to initiate their positions, which, I believe, has merit.
What needs to happen for you to say “Ah, this looks interesting! Here’s a potential trade.”? It may be a news event, a major macro data announcement (such as interest rates, employment data or inflation), or a chart level breakout. The key ingredient throughout is to fix specific and measurable rules (not rough guidelines that can be over-ridden on a whim with an emotional decision). For me, I may take a view on the potential direction of an asset (i.e. whether to be long or short) through fundamental analysis, but the actual execution of the trade is always technical, based off a very specific set of rules.
To take a simple example, let’s assume an asset has been trending higher, but has stopped at a certain price, let’s say 150. The chart is telling us that, although buyers are in long-term control, sellers are dominant at 150, willing to sell each time the price touches this level. However, the uptrend may still be in place, since each time the price pulls back from the 150 level, the selling is weaker and the price makes a higher short-term low. This clearly suggests that upward pressure remains, and there’s potential to profit from the uptrend if the price breaks higher.
Once you’ve found a potential new trade set-up, the next step is to decide when to pull the trigger on the trade. However, there are two steps to this process… finger on trigger, then pull the trigger to execute.
Continuing the example above, the trigger would be to buy if the price breaks above the resistance level at 150. This would indicate that the sellers at 150 have been exhausted, and the buyers have re-established control of the uptrend. Also, it is often the case that after pause in a trend such as this, the pent-up buying returns and the price surges higher. So the trigger for this trade is a breakout above 150.
We have a finger on the trigger, but now we need to decide when to squeeze it. What if the price touches 150.10 for 10 seconds only? Has our resistance level broken sufficiently to execute the trade? I’d say not, so you need to set rules to define exactly how far the price needs to break above 150 – or for how long it needs to stay above 150 – for you to execute the trade. You’re basically looking for sufficient evidence that the uptrend is continuing. Of course, the higher the price goes (or the longer it stays above 150), the more confident you can be that the breakout is valid, but the higher price you will need to pay. There’s no perfect solution to this decision, and it depends on many things, such as the amount of other supporting evidence that you have, your levels of aggression, and so on. The critical point here is to fix a set of specific rules and stick to those rules every time.
Good trade management can save a bad trade, while poor trade management can turn an excellent trade entry into a loser. I could talk for days about in-trade management, since there are many different methods you can use, but the essential ingredient for every trade is a stop loss. This is an order to exit your position for a loss if the market doesn’t perform as expected. By setting a stop loss, you can fix your maximum risk on a trade, which is essential to preserving your capital and managing your overall risk limits. Some traders set their stop loss and target levels and let the trade run to its conclusion, while others manage their trades more actively, trailing stop losses, taking interim profits, or even adding to winning positions. No matter how you decide to manage each trade, it must be the same every time, following a structured and robust process.
The final step in the process is to review every trade to see if you can learn anything, particularly from your losing trades. Are you sticking to your trading rules? Could you have done better? Should you have done the trade in the first place? Only by doing these reviews will you discover any patterns of errors in your trading, and hence be able to put them right. In this way, it’s possible to monitor the success of your strategy. If your trades are random and emotional, with lots of manual intervention, then there’s no fixed process for you to review. You also need to be honest with yourself, and face up to your bad decisions in order to learn from them.
In this way, using a structured and robust trading strategy, you’ll be able to develop your trading skills – and your profits – without the stress of a more random approach.
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