Understand Your Big Data & You’ll Understand Your Customers

January 24, 2014
By Willie Myers

customer big dataAs buzzwords like “big data” and “data-driven marketing” get more and more coverage in the press, marketers are starting to double down on data in their plans for 2014. In a study from ExactTarget, big data topped the list of marketing priorities for 2014, with 61 percent of digital marketers pledging to increase their investment in data and analytics over the next year. To many of these marketers, data is a Holy Grail, a catchall solution to all their marketing woes.

But just having a lot of data won’t make your next campaign a winning one. You have to understand it before you can really use it. 

It’s Not the Size of the Data—It’s How You Use it

With data on the rise, companies like daily deals sites and Internet retailers are requiring customers to provide more personal information upon sign-up. For example, I recently bought a pair of snow boots online and had to fill out categories like “age” and “gender,” as well as the expected “name” and “postal address.” With that sort of useful data, you’d think the resulting marketing (in this case, a monthly blast email advertising other products) would be amazing. 

However, that was just not the case. The next email I received was generic and not at all relevant to me as a customer. In fact, the top three images were for women’s shoes. The result? I hit delete. Just because a marketer has data doesn’t mean it’s being used to the best of its ability. 

Think of data as map: Unless you’re Magellan, you can’t just look at a map and immediately know where you are and how to get to your destination. That’s why maps in shopping malls have “You are here!” arrows. Instead, you have to look for street names and rivers and mountains. Then, once you can read and understand the map, the road to reaching your customers becomes clear. 

A Wink or a Twitch: What Is Your Data Telling You?

So you think you have a good understanding of your data. You’re ready for the next step in data-driven marketing: segmentation. However, not all segmentation is created equal.

“Impersonal, brand-first segmentations can lead to inaccurate marketing messages and can even be enough to cause churn,” says Karen Lim, VP of Global Customer Advocacy at Pitney Bowes. Rather than focusing on value and product ownership, businesses should segment by demographics and behaviors. 

The difference between these two strategies is the difference between a wink and a twitch. With focus on the product and not on the customer, a marketer may see one data point (either demographic or behavioral) and assume that data point defines how the customer always behaves. He’ll see an unconscious twitch and assume it’s a conscientious wink.

For example, on the last five flights I’ve taken, I’ve selected a seat on the aisle. (I have long legs. I like the extra room.) To someone looking at this information, it may seem that I have a very strong preference for the aisle. However, when I take late night or red-eye flights, I prefer to be by the window so I can rest my head on the wall.

The first customer data point isn’t always correct. It often requires well rounded data and a little marketing analysis to create a successful customer profile. With this increased insight on your customers, you can then effectively leverage the data you have for personalization, segmentation or other successful marketing.

Using Data-Driven Context to Enhance Your Marketing

Give a man some data, and you feed his marketing for a day. Teach a man to understand data, and you feed his email marketing for a lifetime.

All this data collection and analysis may seem tough, but once the understanding and context are there, improved results are sure to follow. 

To test this hypothesis, MyBuys and the e-tailing group surveyed 1,100 consumers about their online shopping experiences. Forty percent said they would buy more from retailers who segment across all channels; 44 percent said they actually prefer these highly relevant, customer-centric emails. It pays to put some time and thought into your data if you want your next marketing campaign to shine.

Using data to drive your marketing can be a tricky endeavor, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. With a committed, customer-focused marketing team and solid third-party data like TowerData’s Email Intelligence, anyone can find the Big Data Holy Grail. You just need to learn to read the map first! 

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Photo Credit: Riccardo Cappini