Big data, big promise

Big data is the whole grail of marketing. And yet not many is actually making lots of progress. There’s a good good on that captures well what the state of big data is if you ask me:

“Big Data is like teenage sex. Everybody talks about it. Few do it and they do it in the dark”

As always also here there are the exceptions that prove the rule. Companies like Starbucks or Taco Bells have showcased that they are actually using data to the extreme to help improve their business activities and communications. But in general only little data is being used, it’s something we encounter only occasionally during the marketing activities and also as a consumer I don’t see much return on the fact that people seem to know quite a bit about me.

And I wonder if that isn’t going to become a problem sometime soon. As a tech savvy consumer I know that companies have data on my consumption behaviour, I am very aware whenever I need to give someone personal data and I know that a lot of my online behaviour is public for everyone to see. Because I know, I also expect something in return. There’s a very one on one relationship between filling in a form before being able to proceed to a next stage and in that case you can immediately judge whether handing over that bit of data was worth the return. But that counts also on general consumption, on the data that companies can gather by tracking your behaviour. I know they do and also there, even if less one on one, I expect a return.

I’m ok with my data being used, I want my data being used or even more, I demand my data being used. I think consumers will get ever more aware of the fact that their data is being collected and as a result become more demanding on how they are treated. No more useless questions, seemingly random suggestions, repetitive data collection, … And that makes in my opinion the need for companies to start really using their ‘big data’ even more important. Not just because they indeed can improve their business and communications if they use it right, but because they have to as consumers will start demanding that. So big data is great, but it’s also a big promise!

So if you’re a business owner or a marketing specialist I think you really need to start figuring out which data you currently gather and how you can connect that to make consumers lives better. All in all I believe there are 3 kinds of data we have to think of that are key to improving your marketing & sales efforts:

  • Form fill: data that you’ve asked consumers to fill in, can be at various types of touchpoints, all data people hand over to you to get something in return
  • Usage: usage/consumption data from both sales as marketing activities, everything you collect through the customer journey
  • Public domain: everything people share in public online & offline that relates direct or indirect to your business

So think about it. The companies that are using it are outperforming you and taking a lead and your customers will move to those companies because they are living up to the data promise making the gap even better.

Image credit Avnet.


The Garmin UX: terrible!

Rant alert. I got myself a new racebike about 2-3 weeks ago and also received a Garmin Edge 605 bike GPS for my birthday a few days later. Started using both straight away… well kinda. I am a bit of a web & gadget addict (I am sure you had that one figured out by now) and can only say that it has been a very long time since I last had a user experience so awful as the one with my Garmin Edge.

As usual I started using the device without reading any of the documentation and obviously Garmin is not to blame here, it’s just how we roll :). It didn’t take long before I did look into the user guides as I couldn’t quite figure out some of the main features. It took me a while to find the Garmin Training Center software, which doesn’t come with the device but is offered as a download via the user guide, you do need it though when you want to look at the data you gathered while cycling with the GPS tracker on. Later on I also found out about Garmin Connect, which is the ‘old’ Motionbased web service. Not all very obvious either because when you sign up to Garmin Connect you land on My Garmin where all immediate links to Connect are hard to be found… you just wonder that’s all there is to it at first.


The odd thing is that Garmin Training Center and Garmin Connect are not connected. They pretty much do the same thing – one on the PC, the other online – but you got to upload data separately, it uses other user accounts, … I guess Garmin hasn’t heard of Software+Services just yet. Very unfortunate. One of the things I also wanted to use is RouteYou (or similar services) where you can download and share tracks from and with other users. Downloading tracks to your device is easy, although can be improved quite a bit. You can download in several formats (GPX, CRS, TCX, …) but it’s not clear which one you’re best off downloading. Garmin also offers a Communicator website plugin that transfers the track straight to the GPS device… but since it always used the same name (garmin.gpx) you can only use that for one track at a time… silly I’ll tell you. Uploading tracks that you’ve done to the site is even more difficult. Both Garmin Training Center as Garmin Connect only allow to export tracks in the TCX (Training Center) format… but RouteYou and others need the GPX file to upload. So you need a TCX to GPX converter after exporting a track before you can upload it to share with others… not sure if I want to go through all those efforts. Garmin Connect allows for one-click easy sharing of tracks though… on Digg and Facebook, how useless is that.

Yes I’m frustrated. And I haven’t even started talking about the questions I still have on the UI of the device itself, or on Mapsource (the additional software to create routes), … Hopefully I’ll find out at some point, feel free to point me in the right direction. For now I can just repeat what I said before, Garmin you got some work cut out for you because the UX of your devices and software just sux.

A quick one on Twitter

I liked this quote from Tim O’Reilly on a post related to Micro-blogging and how that compares to ‘regular’ blogging. Now I didn’t find the post itself that interesting, but Tim’s comment certainly was (emphasis is mine):

“Also fascinating to see different tweeting behaviors evolve in real time. It’s like watching evolution in bacteria vs. mammals. For example, among the top twitterers, it’s pretty clear that many of them are simply following anyone who follows them, which drives their "popularity." But that makes clear that they aren’t actually following any of those people — the volume is just too great. So ironically, if you follow everyone, you follow no one. (Unless you "friend" them, and only really follow your friends.)

So you can see that there are three categories of twitterers: those who use it for its original purpose, by following and being followed by a small group of friends; those who use it for marketing, by broadcasting to many but following none; and those who recognize the asymmetry, and are followed by many, but follow fewer.”

More than with blogging or anything else so far, Twitter has been a lot about quantity for many people. Metrics that ‘matter’ are number of followers, number of tweets, … and I’ve always thought of that as rather ridiculous. I’m more interested in the ratio of friends vs. followers, the number of links clicked, (comes in, clicks compared to the number of followers, re-tweets, replies, other tweet referrals, … anyway a lot more than is measured today.