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Digitally, there’s nowhere to hide: Companies such as Amazon, eBay, Facebook track nearly every click and keystroke that you make on their sites. But collecting all sorts of information is far different from understanding it, says Debra Zahay-Blatz, professor of Marketing at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. “Data may be the engine that drives the internet, but what does it mean? How do we interpret it?”

Those who can answer that question will be in prime position to scoop up some of tomorrow’s most coveted jobs. Marketing technology is becoming more sophisticated, and studies point to a massive job growth in digital marketing jobs (think search, social, email and mobile) in a matter of years. And many of the best opportunities will be in the high-tech hub of Austin.

That’s why understanding and interpreting that data — and making smarter decisions as a result of it — is a goal Zahay-Blatz has for all of the students in her classes. Here, she shares some of the ways her students learn to think about the value of data. 

Conversion Optimization Pathways

Most organizations have a web presence to lead potential customers to action, whether it’s downloading a white paper, buying a product or, in the case of universities, signing up for a campus visit. Understanding the steps visitors take before acting is essential.  “What are the things that are more likely to lead them to one of those ‘conversion activities?’” asks Zahay-Blatz. “Those pathways might even be able to help organizations predict if a person will stay as a customer or leave.”

Customer Metrics

Sometimes, little purchases can add up: a customer who spends $50 at an online store might not seem to be that valuable, but if they repeat that purchase once a month for five years, that’s a not-so-insignificant $3,000 bump in revenue. Understanding the “lifetime value” of a customer can help businesses understand why it may be worth investing a little more to snare a first-time customer.

Segmenting

Not all customers are created equal: By studying buying patterns of previous customers, marketers can help companies predict which new buyers will be the most profitable. “Segmenting customers into categories is a way to focus on the ones who will be most profitable for their firms,” says Zahay-Blatz.

In the end, says Zahay-Blatz, what she really wants students to understand is that great marketing isn’t about following hunches; it’s about following numbers. “Marketing is based on data analysis,” she says.

Graduate programs in The Bill Munday School of Business at St. Edward’s University prepare students for professional success by helping them build highly sought-after skills in courses such as Marketing in a Digital Environment. Learn more about our convenient weekend and evening MBA prorgram.

Erin Peterson is a freelance writer.

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