MAD Perspectives Blog

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 A Data Driven Christmas?

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, December 10, 2014


As we enjoy the holiday season and prepare to enjoy time with friends and family, we also struggle to find the perfect gift. We seek suggestions, rack our brains from creative ideas, and sometimes default to the ubiquitous gift card. What we are seeking is the data to support our decisions.

Whether we are shopping in-store or online, we want validation that we are selecting a gift that will please the recipient. Our intent is to create joy. However, sometimes we mis-fire and our seemingly perfect gift falls flat. Could a data driven gift selection process improve our "win ratio"?

E-commerce sites are investing in big data to improve the consumer experience, to expedite your purchase decision by providing recommendations, and to drive revenue. In-store promotion seek to attract buyers with heavy discounts, but recommendations are absent, unless shopping with a friend. Many of us seek to avoid the physical shopping experience due to lack of time or distaste for crowds. More of us are shopping online as noted by the lackluster Black Friday figures. Yet overall spending both online and in-store declined by 32% from 2013, per the National Retail Federation. There are a variety of reasons for the decline, but perhaps better marketing driven by an understanding of customer need would result in a smaller decline.

Amazon has long been noted for its recommendation engine. Not that it's perfect, but it does gather a lot of information about consumers and it has the ability to recommend products that are similar to those we have viewed, purchased or queried. But, what if we are seeking something completely different than any prior purchase? Amazon, or any other e-commerce site, would struggle to recommend an interesting item. Without incorporating data that reveals our goal, recommendations fall flat.

Big data is the combination of internal data, such as Amazon has collected in it internal databases, plus the combination of external data collected from the internet. It includes data from online searches, social networks and other publicly available sites. It is this unstructured data that does not reside in an existing database that begins to reveal the intent or motivation of the buyer. With an understanding of intent, recommendations can become more relevant and actually influence consumers to take the desired action of buying a gift.

Businesses, B2C or B2B, must define their own intention for using big data. Then, they can create the strategy to collect and analyze the right data to help them achieve their goals. Then, they can provide the context that will motive at customer to take the desired action.

Each industry's buyers and sellers have unique influences driving their behavior. Acknowledging and identifying these drives, helps big data become more relevant and allows big data to lead to measurable actions. Perhaps next year will be a data driven holiday season. For this year, the data is informative but not inspiring or influential.

Will you have a data driven Christmas ( or Hanukkah or Kwanza)? Has data streamlined your gift buying and giving?

What's your perspective?