Ad hoc reporting: The what and the why

Reporting Analytics Strategies

Over the last few years, different marketing reporting services have come and gone as businesses alter their ways of working, their needs, and their resources. Some services are entirely a thing of the past, some are still popular (all hail Excel!), and some totally new machine learning tools have appeared.

What we know for sure is that the world has changed, and the old methods aren’t working. It’s not because the old services were bad. It’s just that they weren’t designed to cope with modern conditions. Let’s see what the current state of play is and what can be done to ease marketers' lives.

The current state of marketing reporting

As harsh as it may sound, we have to admit it: marketing analytics and reporting systems aren’t geared for marketers. If it were up to marketers, we’d have a big button with the words “Give me the report I’m thinking about” on it. Unfortunately, instead of this fairytale, marketers have to deal with enormous numbers of data sources, figure out how to get a report based on data from all these sources, and determine whether that report can be trusted and how to apply the obtained insights when decisions need to be made as soon as possible.

Let’s see what obstacles stand between marketers and their marketing goals and what can be done to boost marketing performance.

How is reporting going today?

With the ongoing digital transformation of businesses, classic analytical tools cannot fully accommodate marketers’ needs.

The fact is that 84% of marketers have difficulty accessing data and insights, and for companies, this means that management decisions aren’t made based on real numbers. Rather, they become a guessing game. In terms of money, it means that your budget can just as well go down the drain.

It’s logical that 86% of marketers think they need better tools for getting insights. Let’s see a typical way of working with data in a company.

  • Google Sheets, etc. — Marketers build reports manually, spending time on routine, non-core work.
  • Out-of-the-box tools — Marketers use standard reports that help to monitor spending, but it’s hard or even impossible to get a report designed to answer specific questions or to build ad hoc reports.
  • Teams of analysts — In midsize and large companies, analysts help marketers and prepare reports for them, but they’re always overloaded and you have to wait for reports.

Though working with a team of analysts sounds like the most sophisticated option, it’s still not perfect. Usually, marketers wait a long time for reports and often don’t get what they want. A dashboard can answer one question perfectly, but the problem is that the answer will give rise to deeper questions that the marketer needs answers to in order to assess the situation. Thus, marketers fall into a circle of continual questions and answers.

Why are static dashboards not enough?

Nowadays, the world around us is becoming more and more digital and dynamic, and it’s always online. The same process happens to businesses as well. On the one hand, the prospects are great: companies can get qualified leads while tracking every little detail and providing their customers with the best service. According to a Gartner survey, digital channels accounted for almost 80% of marketing budgets in 2020.

On the other hand, speed is everything. In this fast-shifting world, it’s crucial for marketers to quickly get answers to their questions based on data that can be trusted. Although there’s a lot of data, the classic analytics tools cannot deliver the expected value to modern businesses, as they were never built to meet current demands.

Also, one of the main challenges in marketing analytics is successfully applying obtained data insights, as CMOs usually don’t get what they want.

Disadvantages of the current approach to analytics:

  • Lots of time and other resources are required to prepare dashboards
  • Analysts are constantly needed to prepare dashboards (merging and cleaning data from different sources with different structures, formats, etc.)
  • A one-size-fits-all dashboard approach cannot cover all needs of end users

As a result, decisions are made over a long period, they become irrelevant, and businesses lose revenue.

There’s a vast quantity of marketing data from various sources that you can use to get many valuable insights. However, analysts are often busy, and most marketers don’t know how to build reports on raw data by themselves. Let’s see why it’s so crucial for marketers to be able to create various reports using a large number of data sources — and to do it on their own.

Why are marketers in need of fast and relevant reporting?

As marketers continue to advance their marketing efforts to improve business performance, their need for access to high-quality reports is also evolving. On average, the tenure of CMOs is around 40 months. Consequently, in these months, marketers have to quickly prove their worth, as otherwise they will be fired.

Moreover, marketing team members need to make lots of important decisions every day based on marketing performance. Obviously, they need to get relevant insights on a short deadline so they can affect the final results of ad campaigns, improve conversion rates, etc. This can be hard to do, keeping in mind that it takes from six to eight touchpoints to guarantee a conversion, while marketers have to reach out to potential customers using as many channels as possible.

Moreover, the problem is exacerbated as 61% of customers expect a personalized approach backed by data so companies can provide precise recommendations on the products or services they need. In other words, it’s like always having to remember that aunt Kate doesn’t like roses but adores red wine and uncle Freddie buys everything with Manchester United symbols. How to survive, then? By building a system of analytics that allows the marketer to receive the desired reports based on complete data in minutes.

Influential companies such as Google and Apple are changing the way they use personal data. In response, the whole digital marketing landscape is changing. In this article, we discuss how a marketer can survive in an age of change and not lose the trust of customers and management.

Why do marketers need ad hoc reporting?

Companies already have a lot of data, and the main challenge is to get powerful insights from collected datasets. To do so, you have to twist and spin the data in all ways possible, and dashboards don’t have this ability (they’re static!). As a result, companies miss opportunities to improve their performance.

What is ad hoc reporting?

Unlike traditional static dashboards, ad hoc reports are built as and when required. Ad hoc reports provide marketers with the opportunity to find immediate answers to all kinds of what, why, when, and where questions the moment they arise.

Ad hoc reports aren’t anything new in the market, but they aren’t used that often. All in all, this is because the whole reporting process takes a lot of time and other resources. According to studies, creating even a single dashboard takes an average of 4.5 days, a minimum of three iterations, and most importantly, about $18,000. Accordingly, the creation of ad hoc reports takes lots of resources, so it’s no wonder marketers aren’t getting reports the moment they need them.

But demand is high. According to a Gartner survey, 85% of CMOs would like to rely more on data and make data-informed decisions more often, and consequently, they plan to increase investment in analytics. However, there is a solution to receiving ad hoc reports and not spending all the money in the world on them.

As companies embrace new technologies and digital business transformation accelerates globally, the classic analytics approach starts failing to tick all the boxes. Marketers need answers to many different questions quickly. However, this becomes quite a problem, as analysts are constantly busy, and marketers usually don’t know SQL and therefore can’t create reports on their own.

Let’s see what can be done to effectively leverage data for making decisions and reaching marketing objectives.

How to improve your marketing reporting with OWOX BI Smart Data

Classic analytics tools were never designed to meet marketers’ needs in the first place. Tellingly, 67% of surveyed marketers don’t feel confident while accessing or using data tools. However, with new services such as OWOX BI Smart Data, all marketers can build their own reports without SQL knowledge.

OWOX BI Smart Data is a tool that allows marketing specialists and managers to effortlessly build an unlimited number of ad hoc reports in minutes to analyze collected data in different slices and get valuable insights.

With the right BI tool, ad hoc reporting empowers business users to boost their performance by bringing data insights right into the hands of business users. The advantages of ad hoc reporting with OWOX BI Smart Data are as follows:

  • Freedom from waiting for the analytics department to finish their work (collecting, checking, blending, and preparing data).
  • Report configuration management. You can specify which parameters and metrics will be in the report and how they will be combined. Also, you can quickly change the configuration of the most complex reports (add a desired column, metric, etc.).
  • Guaranteed data quality and reliability. Data quality and completeness are verified by data monitoring. Moreover, with OWOX BI, data is merged according to business logic described at the data model level.
  • Reports won’t break if you make changes, as there’s no need to make changes to each report. All changes are made at the data model level. For example, if you want to switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 with Smart Data, all you have to do is change the data source in the model. All your reports will continue to work.

OWOX BI Smart Data reduces the time between needing and getting a report from days and weeks to minutes. It also frees analysts from the routine and monotonous work so they can perform more interesting and complex tasks. For example, an analyst can focus on exploring different datasets, looking for business bottlenecks and growth zones, finding data insights, finding new approaches to working with data, building useful reports to monitor the dynamics of KPIs, etc. Sounds amazing? Book a demo to find out how Smart Data can help you today!

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Key takeaways

With global changes in the marketing world, it’s crucial for marketers to be able to take reporting into their own hands. Marketers should be able to build ad hoc reports on their own using raw data that can be trusted, is complete, and is updated so it contains no errors.

With the right data-driven solutions and automated workflow, marketers can unlock the potential hidden in their marketing data and improve decision-making.