The Data Chief | Episode 6

14 West's Grace Epperson on using data to improve customer experience

Grace Epperson

Chief Analytics Officer

14 West

Current EpisodeEP6: 14 West's Grace Epperson on using data to improve customer experience

Episode Overview

On this episode of The Data Chief, Cindi is joined by Grace Epperson, the Chief Analytics Officer at 14 West, an Agora Company. They discuss what Grace’s learned in that role, and how her and her team’s mindsets have evolved over the years. Grace also shares her take on why a liberal arts education is valuable in technology industries, plus how data can help marketers create personalized and impactful customer experiences.

Key Takeaways:

  • Include your customers in the design process. Changing the design process to be consultative, collaborative, and more of a conversation with the customer ensures that the end result meets their needs. Such a minor mindset shift can lead to exceptional results.
  • Critical thinking matters. In such a rapidly changing field as marketing, being able to intuitively bridge the gap between knowledge and expertise has become an even more valuable skill. With some simple tips, you can cultivate that type of thinking in your team.
  • How art complements technology. Approaching a career in tech with an education in the liberal arts is an asset, not a hindrance to success.

Key Quotes:

The Agora Companies are a holding company for publishing entities that are responsible for marketing information directly to consumers who are looking to take control of their financial decisions and health decisions. A lot of the information that we put out there is not mainstream and that’s what makes us unique.
When you sit down and get requirements from somebody — especially when it comes to visualizations and information they need to see to make data-driven decisions — they really don’t know what they want. So what we try to do is really quickly put together something and then put that in front of them and have the conversations early on … to be consultative in what we deliver, but then just make it much more of a conversation with the customer to make sure that the product meets their needs. … Generally, we find that it doesn’t really take that much longer to do it that way. It’s just a mindset shift for the folks on my team to just know that what they’re going to start with and the requirements that they do start with aren’t necessarily going to be what we end up with at the end.
We’re finding that the speed and scale at which we need to work to really get rid of the technical debt and to build up the new ecosystem of data that still allows us to cover all of the business data that we need to, it’s really like trying to change the tires at 60 miles an hour.
There are folks on my team who have come in without any technical background and they have really learned the business and then moved over to the technical side. And I found that that journey has actually been really good … I think that liberal arts education is still alive and well. There’s a place for that because you’re going to become a lifelong learner and there’s lots of opportunity to learn the technical side of things.
[On diversity in tech] I have two daughters, they’re 19 and nine. And being that I’m in the field I’m in, and understanding the opportunities in tech, I’m really pushing them towards that. I don’t know if that’s where they’ll end up, but I certainly want them to have every advantage and opportunity. … And it’s not just limited to girls, it’s limited to anybody who wouldn’t naturally have access and understanding to the opportunities that tech brings.
The thing that we need to create the most personalized experience is more data on that individual. So it becomes this catch-22 where, in order to create that highly personalized experience that still brings them the content and the information that they’re seeking, you do need to have access to that information. But then, of course, there’s privacy and there are laws now that are designed to protect the consumer. So I think that these things are in opposition to each other to some degree, but what we’re doing at the Agora Companies is we really are trying to shift the mindset of our marketers to think about that journey and that customer experience … I think it’s really important that we use the tools, the technology, and the data that we have at our disposal to really understand our customer and prospect better and to curate that journey.
[We have] publications that people … pay $49 or more a year to receive, and the open rates on that are 30 to 40 percent — which is actually pretty shocking if you think about it, because someone’s actually paying to receive this information and then they’re not even accessing it! … So it’s really looking at that to figure out how do they want to receive the content.


Grace Epperson is the Chief Analytics Officer at 14 West, an Agora Company. With over 20 years in data, analytics, marketing, and people leadership, she helps folks get value out of data that enable insights, stronger business decisions, and more powerful actions.

Over the years, Grace has held many marketing and operational leadership roles. Since 2011, she has had the privilege of leading 14 West’s Business Intelligence team in working with 700+ users across 30+ publishing affiliates worldwide. Whether it’s a conversation, an Excel report, a dashboard, an ad hoc question, a data feed, a predictive model, or a means of automated marketing activation, Grace and her team will be there to help affiliates leverage the value of their data.