Here at Beckon, we know how important it is to add features that are easy to use and fun to interact with, but more importantly, that solve real customer issues while saving time and resources. While ‘datepickers’ and ‘calendars’ might come across as a marketing reporting commodity, a datepicker based on a regular calendar may not satisfy a marketer who needs to align reporting with the company fiscal calendar.
Many companies, especially in retail and manufacturing, use a self-defined calendar that may not start or end on the same day as the standard Gregorian calendar we use every day. Marketers routinely report across business-specific time frames but they can vary greatly. Some use seasons, some use periods while others use halves.
Typically, custom calendars use quarters that are exactly 13 weeks long and each week begins on a specified day—typically a Monday, but could be any day. Such calendars are referred to as “4-4-5 calendars” in which the first and second month of each quarter has four weeks while the third month has five weeks. Other common variants of this calendar are the “4-5-4” and the “5-4-4”.
The 4-4-5 week in marketing reporting is a terrific accounting convention for marketers, but when relying upon it there are a few details that have to be reconciled or comparison reporting will be inaccurate. Clearly, marketers don’t want to celebrate a “20% increase in revenue” in the third month each quarter, which under the 4-4-5 convention, will always be 20% longer than the previous two.
That said, there are advantages to the 4-4-5 calendar convention—especially for marketers. The main advantage is that each quarter is the same length and ends on the same day of week, making it a simpler, more consistent planning tool. As most marketers know, what happens online on a Tuesday is often quite different from what happens on a Friday. By the same token, what happens in retail stores on a Monday is very different from what happens on Saturday. The 4-4-5 calendar ensures marketers compare apples to apples when it comes to the timing of marketing activities and outcomes.
There are two main disadvantages to 4-4-5 reporting, though, that marketers should be aware of. The first has to do with the way they allow comparisons to be made. Since 4-4-5 calendar months differ in length, year-over-year comparisons make sense while month-over-month comparisons don’t. Quarter-over-quarter comparisons, however, work great. Secondly, since there are actually 52.25 weeks to a year in a standard calendar, not the 52 that the fiscal calendar contains, each fiscal year on a 4-4-5 calendar has 364 days. As a result, the last day of the fiscal year keeps shifting back. To overcome this, the 4-4-5 calendar requires a “true-up” in order to move the fiscal year-end back as close as possible to its standard year-end date. In the year this happens, comparing year-over-year might mean comparing 52 weeks with 53 weeks. Most companies get past this by simply re-stating their calendars so that each year still has 52 weeks.
Many of our customers use custom calendars with unique definitions of their own to reflect their ‘Seasons’ and ‘Periods’. Many use both ‘re-stated’ and ‘non re-stated’ calendar definitions concurrently for a short time after the calendar is re-stated.
This is just one of the small (but big!) advantages that come with an intelligence platform built by and for marketers like Beckon. Rather than having to rely on an all-purpose, one-size-fits-all (or none) standard datepicker, Beckon customers have access to a custom calendar feature which allows them to easily compare marketing performance of ’Spring 2018′ with that of ’Spring 2017’ even though the seasons start and end on different dates each year.
It may seem like a small detail, but in working with scores of marketing leaders from top brands every day we’ve learned that native custom calendar support within the marketing intelligence platforms, analytics and reporting tools they use daily matters—a lot. Depending on the time frame in question, seemingly small misalignments between marketing reporting and fiscal calendars can skew results by nearly 2% to 20%. In today’s data-driven environment where every percentage point of lift in performance matters immensely, that kind of “margin of error” becomes a pretty big problem.
So although it’s great to develop “cool and fun” features, it’s even more satisfying to develop useful features. Even one as simple as this that make a really big difference in the world of marketers.