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Assume nothing – your data is alive!

According to research (opens in new tab)conducted by IBM, ninety per-cent of the world’s data was created within the last three years – that’s roughly 2.5 billion GB of data being created every day.  In light of this data explosion, many industries have discovered countless new avenues to more efficiently achieve their goals. In the marketing world, the tantalising prospect of one-to-one audience targeting, contextually relevant messaging and flawless campaign optimisation seem closer today than ever before. 

However, with this data explosion there also comes a surge in complex challenges. Here are just a few common stumbling blocks:

  • Data overload
  • Data siloes and lack of integration
  • Data security issues
  • An overwhelming number of software and data exchanges for marketers to keep track of

Although this sounds like a daunting set of hurdles, the possibilities far outweigh the current barriers. The growing wealth of data available to marketers today offers an unprecedented opportunity to finally respond to real, living human beings in real time. For today’s most innovative brands, we are finally entering the age of “living data.”  

Marketing used to be about telling consumers what they want. Today, brands must know consumers better than ever before, and strive to offer the most useful product or service, at the ideal time, in the most seamless possible way. The companies who continue working through their data challenges in order to better understand their customers, are ultimately the brands who will succeed. One commonly accepted fact about living people, is that they often behave in recognisable (sometimes predictable) patterns. 

Part of the reason that simplified demographic targeting persists today is because it remains so easy and effective. If MAC cosmetics wants to promote their latest lipstick line, they probably wouldn’t be remiss in targeting women age 18 -24 — and they’d be right (opens in new tab).  

Looking for patterns

Following a similar logic, an infant apparel brand could probably promote their latest onesies to new mothers and expecting parents in order to hit the majority of their “relevant” audience – right? Wrong. In fact, they’d be missing over two-thirds of their potential market share; 67 per cent of people searching for baby clothes don’t have children living at home and aren’t expecting. 

To succeed in the age of living data, marketers must be on the look-out for patterns, but perhaps more importantly they must remain open to the unexpected. Consumer desires, needs and contexts are constantly shifting, particularly in the age of technology. Brands must rise to meet this challenge, and adapt alongside their audience moment to moment.   

The referendum is a great example of how a single event can suddenly and drastically affect attitudes, concerns and behaviours in real-time. The implications for the travel and media industry were massive, and occurred within a matter of hours. Suddenly, searches around passports, moving abroad and “Brexit regret” skyrocketed in the UK, while Americans sought to capitalise on the falling pound by planning trips (opens in new tab) to the UK only days after the vote. 

Reactions within the UK were also quite different, depending on the population; for example, post-referendum, Hitwise’s research shows searches for “Brexit regret” were 37 per cent more likely to be made by those unemployed or self-employed, whereas the top searches from more affluent Brits included “Post Brexit Global Equity Loss” and “Brexit Recession”. 

We could see something just as disruptive following this year’s presidential election result. In these monumental states of flux, the importance of having a “living data” strategy becomes more important than ever before. Consumers don’t just want brands to respond to their needs, interests and goals - they expect it. In today’s competitive market, brands must respond to these expectations fast, effectively and most crucially, in real-time - those who don’t, risk losing their audience to more receptive and tuned in brands.

Nigel Wilson, Managing Director, Hitwise (opens in new tab)
Image source: Shutterstock/Carlos Amarillo