In 2016, the power and importance of “big data” finally started to pay off – everywhere around the globe, across all markets and industries.

For businesses, the role of information in supporting marketing and advertising is no longer just about providing learnings. Organisations now look to data for actionable insights and to drive better business outcomes. Increasingly, they are moving towards a smarter and more consumer-centric approach, which can only be done by deriving meaning from data. In a 2016 MediaMath-commissioned research study undertaken by Forrester Consulting, almost 41% of marketers in Asia Pacific said that they have adopted programmatic buying, with 82% of them either satisfied or highly satisfied with their investment in the technology .

As we approach the end of the year, it’s clear that data, and programmatic, is now a central pillar of customer experience, and therefore marketing. As businesses look to jump on board, here are some lessons we’ve learned over the past year that marketers around the world can take with them into 2017.

It’s still all about the consumer

Consumers increasingly expect a more personalised experience. This is perhaps why consumers are voting with a click of their mouse in order to avoid disruptive, annoying or irrelevant advertising. The increased usage of ad blocking technology is a consequence of irrelevant and unwanted advertisements.

To address this issue, marketers are enthusiastically embracing the “customer-centric” approach. Marketers are increasingly turning to data-driven marketing, including the management of customer databases, deployment of predictive analytics, and segmentation to learn more about addressable audiences, and implementation of omni-channel campaigns to have a more holistic view of their audiences. With platforms that recognise individuals across multiple devices, address changing behaviour of consumers, and enable omni-channel execution, marketers can deliver experiences that transcend channels, formats, and devices.

Digital is where it’s at

Web content, social media, search, and online display advertising increasingly make up a greater proportion of the marketer’s arsenal to reach their target audience – and it’s easy to see why.

Consumers from all demographics are now spending more time online. Digital consumers are spending an average of over six hours daily on the internet – which is equivalent to more than half of a consumer’s daily media time . With Asia home to more than half of the world’s internet users , marketers here can take full advantage of this huge opportunity by bridging the gap between traditional and digital in their media mix.

As such, marketers are reporting that digital media is now delivering the greatest return on investment, with the performance of their display advertising, web content, and social media investments making the most strides in the past year . With better performance, cost effectiveness, and operational efficiency, marketers are choosing programmatic to help them boost contextual targeting, reduce waste, and provide timely and relevant content to their audience across multiple devices . Marketing has gone digital, because that is where the consumers are – and are likely to stay. Untapped potential

While close to three-quarters of marketers globally said that they remain confident in the practice of data-driven marketing and its potential for future growth , going digital requires expertise that can unlock and generate more value from data-driven marketing efforts. In addition, marketers today also generally believe that the optimisation of campaign measurement would be most valuable if it provides deeper insights to inform future campaign planning, media mix modelling, and other optimisation efforts. This is where programmatic comes in, with APAC marketers citing better contextual targeting, faster and more efficient execution and real-time optimisation as the most important benefits of programmatic .

The lesson is that marketers need to not only know the data at their disposal, but also be able to smartly analyse and activate it to get the best return.

The task of navigating more complex data from different media channels, with increasing customer requirements and higher expectations, is a challenge. With digital marketing technology, marketers can derive meaningful insights, enabling marketers to execute better targeted campaigns. The more intelligent the technology, the better the consumer insights, and the more targeted the marketing approach – eventually leading to happier consumers and better business results.

Read more on CMO Australia here