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Three Key Takeaways from Transform with Google

At the end of January, Merkle brought together experts from across the digital marketing world to create the Transform with Google conference. Thought leaders from Merkle, Google, and top brands shared their inspiring work and discussed the topics top-of-mind as we forge ahead in 2023.

Though each individual session covered a different topic, three key themes emerged throughout the event that underlie the strategies and decisions marketers are focusing on now:

1. Take a fresh approach to existing data and technology.

Several sessions helped outline the current situation for marketers. Data sources are more disparate than ever, and walled gardens are building their barriers taller and taller – creating what Alex Langshur referred to as “digital continents” due to their massive scale and separation.

In this world, brands often look for new sources of data to add to their existing database so they can better reach their audience. However, in many cases marketers can instead “shop their own closets” and use the data they already have in a different way. Brands can connect their first-party data with the platforms and partners they work with to create more robust data sets and form a critical foundation for making strong business decisions. The sessions called Combining the Powers of GA4 and GCP and How to Get Better Insights from Your Data focus heavily on connecting data to better optimize marketing programs.

There’s also a new imperative for brands to act responsibly and transparently when they collect and use data. Those efforts must comply to privacy regulations and satisfy the rising expectations of consumers. The keynote session on Ethical AI: Removing Bias from Marketing digs further into why it’s important to pursue now and how brands can get started across the organization.

2. Build a shared vision for how tech investments you do make will translate to long-term customer value.

Connecting data is important, but it isn’t enough. Organizations must reorient to use data and measurement to inform everything they do. That’s not always easy, despite many companies labeling themselves as “data-driven.”

Within that reorientation there must be alignment on how to use data with a customer-first mentality. How will the team use insights to make every engagement point and every activation more meaningful to customers? How will data add value to their journey and build better long-term relationships?

While data and customer experience arise in nearly all sessions, two in particular zero in on making data a bigger part of your organization. Nick Iyengar’s keynote, The Importance of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) in the Expectations Economy, discusses GA4’s role as a tool for using data to create better experiences and shares some of the new capabilities that enable it. The session Building a Culture of Data and Measurement, with guest speaker Gina Cianciolo from UScellular, explores how to build an analytics program that powers quick, effective decisioning across ever-changing digital channels.

3. Include commerce transformation as part of business transformation.

The past few years have been dominated by the pursuit of customer experience transformation, and a critical component of that is evolving commerce as well – making changes with data to elevate the customer journey, no matter where the individual is on it. This means adapting how we approach tried-and-true tactics. Creating an Effective Total Search Strategy, with guest speaker Allyn Hollingsworth from Calvin Klein, encourages viewers to think about the search engine results page holistically for consumers and use search behavior signals to inform messaging, content, and more.

Commerce transformation also requires leaning into the latest and greatest channels. The sessions The Future of Retail Media and Using Video to Feed the Upper Funnel dive into two areas of digital that accelerated rapidly during the pandemic and continue to show strength. Having sound strategies in both channels are critical to meet shoppers where they are.

Achieving commerce transformation efficiently requires the right technology and know-how to enable wide, scaled reach that’s also personalized. In Using DCO to Drive Hyperlocal Activation and Performance, guest speaker Carina Ost from Albertsons shares how they navigated the challenges of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout to deliver relevant, accurate information to individuals based on their unique situations. Meanwhile, Getting the Most Out of the New SA360 covered integrations and capabilities that marketers can use in the new Search Ads 360 interface to create better experiences on the critical lower-funnel channel of paid search.


All three of these themes ultimately serve one greater purpose: creating better experiences for customers. A new approach to data and tech, a long-term vision for their relationship with CX, and improved commerce opportunities will enhance the engagement between brands and their audiences. To learn more, check out the full-length Transform with Google sessions on-demand here.