The Future of Data

by Georgia Sanders Figaro Digital

What Is Big Data?

“There is more data than there has ever been in human history. Data frees individuals,” says James Blake, CEO, Hello Soda. The evolution of data, and the data we hold on each other, has seen a huge spike in the amount of information we have, not just on customer profiles, but on their purchase behaviour, their conversations – everything is online and there to be analysed.

“Big data analytics is the process of creating structure from unstructured data to derive meaning,” Blake explains. “Consumers’ digital footprints require advanced analytics techniques to reveal insights into human behaviour.” Moving forward, this is an analytics technique that marketers simply cannot afford to be ignoring. With audiences taking to the internet, those data sets are there for the taking, and the companies with the ability to turn those insights into content will be the ones reaping the benefits.


This Time It’s Personal

The more people become comfortable with online shopping, the more they expect that experience to become personalised and tailored to their individual needs and interests. O2’s Rise of Metail study reveals that over half of customers are more likely to buy from a business if it provides them with offers tailored to their individual needs – proving that the consumer is open to handing over that vital information if it increases the value of their experience.

“The analysis of big data offers key benefits to the emerging demand for personalisation across industries,” explains Blake. “Real-time insights into consumer interests, life-events, personality, and more provides businesses with the capability to know what to offer, when to engage, where to target and how to communicate with their customers to maximise acquisition, retention, cross-sell and up-sell.”

“One example is the Egypt crisis last year when one of our own team members was left stranded in Sharm el Sheikh for a week. If she had held a bank account with Bank A, who were actively using big data analytics to personalise her experience, they could have contacted her to offer an extended interest-free overdraft to help cover unexpected costs. The consequence of this would be the customer feeling valued by their bank, boosting brand loyalty and improving customer retention.”

Ben Harper, co-founder of data analytics agency Datify, and author of The End of Guesswork: The Role of Data in Modern Marketing, sees data from the perspective of trends and personalisation – but predominantly from the perspective of audience insight. With a background in law enforcement as a police intelligence analyst, his insight is a unique one. He says that the way we’re using data is “personalisation but on a larger scale.” Moving on from simple social targeting, for example, which based ad views on pages a consumer had liked, you can now “literally target people whose insurance expires next month”, Harper explains, alluding to how third party categorisation can centre on consumer purchase behaviour.


Personalisation Crosses All Channels

Whilst personalisation has traditionally sat on email, it’s becoming increasingly important – and increasingly easy – to focus on channels such as social media. Moving forward, the trajectory of personalised marketing sees the industry hitting geo-tagged customer touchpoints in the not-so-distant future – and this is already happening in some ahead-of-the-curve sectors, such as mobile carriers welcoming you when you land abroad.

We could now be looking at browsing data syncing with location, and suggesting a customer goes in-store to purchase a product they’ve been researching online. It’s the future of data.


Data Fed Content: The New SEO

Geoff Richards, head of data, analytics and insight, Condé Nast spoke to Figaro Digital alongside Nigel Wilson, managing director, Hitwise following their joint session at The Festival of Marketing this October.

“As technology gets more and more efficient, in terms of being able to get that data in the home, it’s how that data is going to be collected and how brands can utilise that,” Wilson says.

Richards explains how some analytics platforms are capable of analysing the search terms of users, and how content marketers can use these insights to inform their content. Whilst editorial integrity remains important, it’s a hugely valuable commodity to be able to reword titles and tailor SEO to reach out to those who are actively searching for your piece. In their presentation, revolving around expecting the unexpected, they discuss a particular web article from Condé Nast Traveller, which had the second highest hit rate on the site. It was a piece looking at afternoon tea spots in London – and some analysis led Richards to discover what people searched for when looking for afternoon tea in London, and rearrange the meta data and page title accordingly.

As well as this, some analysis into the results those search terms returned resulted in the addition of new entries to the list, and ultimately resulting in a huge increase on the site’s hit rate. However, 72 per cent of marketers have expressed concern that analytics has negatively affected the creative aspects of marketing – something which could spell a huge change for content creation in the name of increased ROI. The key comes in balancing the two.


Where Does Data Come From, And How Do We Harvest It?

90 per cent of data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone, according to IBM’s Big Data study.

Harper focuses on the idea of harvesting data in his book. “What I see a lot,” he explains “is that people hear data, get confused and think they need to do something with huge numbers, and go for the natural first step – to just collect everything. Which is wrong.”

“Stop, take a step back, and think about what you actually want to do with that data. Think about what you’re going to need, rather than analysing everything – and what you need depends on exactly what you’re trying to do.” Despite this important factor in deciding what data to collect, only half of senior marketers believe the quality and accuracy of available data is critical to driving marketing decisions (The Data Dilemma, Callcredit, 2016).

“Think back five to ten years, and think about how little we could do,” adds Richards. “The iPhone isn’t even ten years old. I know a lot of people talk about value exchange, and it sounds like just a marketing term but it is real. We have to make sure that the person who is volunteering their data is seeing some value from it. So for a publisher like Condé Nast, you get to read Vogue and GQ online for free with no paywall, and in return you agree that we show ads, and in order to make those ads as relevant as we can, we need to know a little bit about you.”

Richards continues: “Every customer, no matter where they fall on the loyalty scale, has the potential to move up the customer ladder. It’s all about segmenting your data, saying – these are our most loyal readers, how are we going to target them? How are they different from a moderately loyal user, or the least loyal user? What are we doing to tip that bucket in to this bucket?”


What Are We So Afraid Of?

Whilst 70 per cent of senior marketers asked by Callcredit in their October study The Data Dilemma stated that they believe data is under-utilised within their organisation, 71 per cent said they feel overpowered rather than empowered by the data available to them.

Despite data and personalisation paving the way for valuable customer interactions – and in particular, creating bonds with loyal customers – many marketers still hold off on penetrating that level of personal information.

The key to using data to ensure your campaigns are working at peak efficiency lies in the quality of the content – not the quantity – as well as determining what your critical customer data is. Additionally, combining analytics and content to inform better interactions across all platforms.

At this turning point in marketing, it’s imperative that brands and agencies are doing their best to use big data analytics – or risk losing revenue to those who do.

“Everyone should be utilising big data analytics, not just those with large demographics.” Concludes Blake. Personalisation is the future of marketing. Consumers don’t want to be mass-marketed to, they’re individuals and they want to be treated as such.”


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