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.

Registration is easy, what about activation?

Something bugs me. Not a day goes by or new usage data (preferably in the form of an infographic) gets shared online about one of the favorite social media initiatives such as Facebook, Twitter, … you know the lot. Big data, big numbers most of the time. What I don’t get though is why we all seem to copy/paste most of that information on our own blogs without really trying to understand what the numbers tell us (and what they don’t tell us). Everybody who once worked in a PR related job knows that companies publish numbers in a way so they look good. They use absolute numbers when they are worth it, percentages when they don’t look good and so on and so forth. When I say visitors to this website using Android have doubled over the last week (+100%) that is sounds much better than if I were to say there are now 2 people using Android to visit this blog instead of one. You catch my drift, I would really like to see some more analysis on those numbers before publishing if that’s not too much too ask.

Something else bugs me even more. When making these ‘analysis’, infographics and what not, people are not comparing apples with apples. Nobody seems to find it a problem that we’re always comparing 500M Facebook users versus 145M Twitter users (and some even against the 300M Windows Live users). For Facebook that are registered users, and as such most likely unique users. For Twitter that are registered users, and most likely that means registered accounts – and not unique users. I’ve got one Facebook profile just like most people but do use 3 Twitter accounts (@crossthebreeze, @iblogmustang and @krishoet). For Windows Live however the 300M users mentioned are active users, active meaning that they’ve logged on to the service at least once during the last 30 days. You can discuss about whether that is a good measure for being active or not, the point I want to make is that although they’re all big numbers they all don’t really mean the same thing. And that makes it unfair to just compare them like they are in my point of view.

Especially the registered versus active users is something really important to think about. When promoting webservices such as the ones we’re talking about you can imagine that generating awareness is the first big task on the agenda just like any other company. But because they are webservices I presume once you get the attention needed, driving registrations is not the toughest part. Registering to an online service is easy, I’ve registered to hundreds of services by now but use only a percentage of those on a regular basis. Activating users/consumers is the toughest part. People show interest when the buzz is up, but what is it that you do to keep them interested? That’s a tough challenge, a challenge to which many services fail if you ask me.

And it’s not just webservices of course, same counts for apps etc. There’s a boatload of apps available for my phone apparently and still I find it hard to find a dozen decent ones to download on the device. So don’t just report on the big numers PR people give you, those don’t always mean much (at least not to me). And please compare numbers worth comparing, otherwise that makes no sense either.

There you go. Had to get that of my chest.