Why data rules the marketing world

You probably spent a lot of time this past holiday season shopping for gifts for the loved ones on your list. Maybe you got your mom an iPod so she can finally retire that pile of CD’s in the minivan. Or maybe your little nephew was all about the latest cartoon character toy from Nickelodeon®. Or perhaps you finally got that new five-speed blender for your special someone. If it’s the last case, you probably noticed that you now can’t escape online ads for kitchen appliances. Getting sick of all the microwave and toaster bargains popping up on your screen? Well, just blame the data.

Today’s consumer market is now more data-driven than ever before, which is in no small part due to our increased Internet use. For the first time ever, online shopping purchases on Black Friday last year (Friday, November 23, 2012) surpassed the $1 billion mark. So, how do companies adapt to and take advantage of this growing online market?

Those personalized online ads are just one new opportunity marketers have with the Internet. Tracking and following which emails and ads you choose to open and spend time reading is a common practice for online marketers. Search engines also provide a direct method to gauge consumer interests and behavior. This type of targeted advertising may be effective, but the consumer is often bothered by this perceived intrusion on his or her privacy. The Pew Research Center concluded that 59% of consumers notice personalized advertising and 68% of that group view it negatively. In this case, the marketers did not understand their consumer and acted on their data too quickly. Thoughtfully managing big data is the key to utilizing it effectively.

The greatest credit (and obstacle) to new data is its size. With so many new sources of online data available to marketers, one may wonder how anyone can discern what to focus on and what value to assign each part. Interpreting and acting on data can be broken into three steps: Imagine, Analyze and Decide.

  1. Imagine. Data provides new knowledge, but it can’t tell the story all by itself. It’s up to the creativity and problem solving ability of marketers to find a way to capitalize on their findings. Brainstorming the right questions to ask of your data will lead to uncovering untapped ideas. A good start is asking, “who is my consumer?”, “who do I want my consumer to be?” and “where is the opportunity in between?”. Critical thinking adds strategy to knowledge.
  2. Analyze. Data mining and analytics is just the start. Measuring and tracking trends provide a new source of information to your company. Social media monitoring, website demographics and traffic, government records and private software all provide means to find and analyze data.
  3. Decide. A survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit determined that a majority of business leaders believe data gets lost in their company’s structuring. When departments are incapable of sharing their data findings and making plans to act on them, no effective decisions can be made. Company hierarchy and structure is necessary, but it also makes it harder to implement new strategies. A company can’t be afraid to break tradition and change direction based on enlightening research and data. Experimenting and testing new theories are not bad! Changing to new methods doesn’t mean the old ways were wrong for their time; it just means the market is changing too.

Data management and online advertising provide growing ways to connect to the consumer, but the proper steps of Imagine, Analyze and Decide must be taken to keep it effective. New avenues to new data will continue to present themselves, so marketing with online data is here to stay. Whether you’re selling or buying, data is playing a role in how products are presented. So next time you’re searching for that perfect gift online, take a moment to wonder what your click is saying about you. Odds are someone on the other end is wondering the same thing.

Market Research





  1. Excellent post, Vince. Good stuff. Thanks for sharing.

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