ecommerce trollyMarketers in 2015 face many of the same questions that marketers did in 2014—or in 1914, for that matter: “What do my customers want?” “How can I find out what they want?” and “How will I know if what they want changes?”

Fortunately for today’s marketing organizations, the answers to those questions are more accessible—and actionable—than ever before.

Consumers now generate tremendous amounts of data in the course of living their lives. Their brand preferences, their style, their interests, the way they consume information, their shopping habits are all out there. Put it altogether, and it’s a gold mine of information marketers can use to target potential buyers more effectively.

But for many marketers, this gold mine is overwhelming. They don’t know how to process all the information available to them or even where to start, and consequently, they’re waiting too long to react. What happens then? Not much. (Or not much good, at least.) Remember, unused data and/or old data deliver the same results: Marketing campaigns that guess at what your customers want, rather than targeting what your customers have told you they want.

The days of drawn-out market cycles based upon gut instincts are long gone. If your approach to data-driven marketing doesn’t reflect the following three success factors, you’re probably letting some significant opportunities pass you by:

  • You analyze data in real-time. Too many marketers look back across months to get their insights. Instead, they should be looking back across weeks, days, or even hours. If you can’t take immediate action based on how your campaigns are performing and how your users are interacting with your messaging, you could be chasing an opportunity that simply doesn’t exist anymore. Historical data matters, yes—but it matters within the context of what’s happening right here and right now.Real time marketing requires a slightly different lens, too. To develop the most accurate customer story, marketing strategists must figure out what data matters most, and what data is just a distraction.
  • You bake flexibility into your campaigns. Every aspect of your campaigns should be ready to pivot according to your real-time consumer insights: your messaging, your offers, your geographic or demographic targeting, and so on.If you’re seeing a change in how users are responding to offers, or you anticipate a change is on the horizon, you need to be ready to adjust accordingly. Then, you need to be ready to adjust again. And again.
  • You have the tools and skills in place to be agile. If you’ve got all the blueprints and building materials in hand to construct a house, but you don’t have the tools and tradespeople to do the job, chances are, you won’t end up with much of a house.Using customer data effectively requires marketing analytics tools and skillsets, too—including the right training for the people who leverage the information to recommend shifts in strategy. If the systems you’re using aren’t driving proactive action, then it’s time to take a good look at what’s not working—and to upgrade in favor of an agile approach.

Data may still seem intimidating to many marketers, but in 2015, the days of feeling too overwhelmed to act are becoming ancient history (at least as far as the modern speed of digital omni-channel marketing is concerned).

Now is the time to take advantage of the incredibly rich information your customers generate, and to evaluate the tools, strategies and campaigns needed to keep pace with their demands. The impact of data-driven marketing will be tangible for your customers—and the impact on your bottom line will be just as evident for you.