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Get a sharper view of data: It's time to swap the telescope view for a microscope

Get a sharper view of data: It's time to swap the telescope view for a microscope

Maybe we’ll look back and say it was this year. Or did the tipping point come at the end of 2015? When did big data start to become, well, too big? And does size matter as we head into 2017?

What’s data ever done for me?

Let’s start by recapping the positives about where we’ve got to in 2016, because it’s been another great year for the data analyst industry. Marketers have continued to use data to deliver more effective, personalised, actionable insights, for more accurate and predictive mapping of the customer journey. And data and analyst services are more integral to a creative agency’s offering.

Not only that, but this year has seen marketers more effectively use analytics to create personalised, engaging content. Content that resonates with the individual consumer, whether it’s brand, lifestyle, career-based or simply funny and shareable.

However, the size of the big data onslaught this year has brought with it big challenges, which will only grow as we move into 2017.

2017 regulation hurdles

Marketers’ increasing reliance on data and the growth in technology adding to its volume has created a shifting landscape which requires focus, especially as we head into the legislative shifts on what is acceptable. Data regulation hurdles will only get higher next year. The warning to marketers is: ignore data legislation at your peril. Especially with the mother of all regulations just round the corner

The General Data Protection Regulation set to be unleashed in May 2018 has been devised to tighten the collection, use and retention of consumer data across the EU. Corporate systems and processes can be slow and cumbersome, so 2017 needs to be about adapting business accordingly.

Marketers need to be open to different collecting, analysing and reporting data techniques. And then shift their business focus around consumer behaviour and expectations around content, being clear in how they intend to communicate to those consumers.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the independent body set up to protect public data privacy, is rightly becoming even more robust at dealing with data abusers. Consumers are therefore set to be sent increasingly tailored, focussed and hopefully more interesting information. The challenge for UK marketers is to continuously monitor ICO guidelines, to make sure they’re in line with data purpose of use, processing, accuracy, retention, anonymisation and international usage/protection regulations.

The privacy issue is made much simpler by marketers owning and developing their own data – a goal all brands should increasingly seek to achieve over the next 12 months.

AI – as intelligent as its user

Another key data privacy challenge next year is being posed by artificial intelligence (AI) - namely its ability to distribute daily branded content and calls to action to consumers. Over the next year, we’ll see AI being used even more effectively and efficiently at identifying behavioural possibilities. But marketers need to remember that there will always be a need for intelligent human translation of the data, due to untold variants that emotions bring to decision making.

Refocusing the big data lens

As the data deluge continues to upsurge, it becomes harder to see what’s of value. Scale has begun to camouflage usable facts. The phrase ‘digital Darwinism’ describes that the sheer weight of available data is in danger of suffocating its effective use.

More than ever, in 2017, it’s time to swap the telescope view for a microscope, which pinpoints three questions: How do I recognise important data? How do I understand my customers? Can I create a single customer view and ensure I know everything I need to know?


The fact is, all data is important, but it’s important at different times, so therefore being able to distil what is need at a specific point of time is critical. So collect as much as you can because at some point you will find value in it all. Then segment it into relevant areas (ultimately it will all seep back into your whole business).


Take the time to invest in determining what makes your customer tick. Discover which segments are intrinsically more valuable than others and get into a conversation with them through the channels they expect. Your data will show behavioural patterns; translating those patterns allows your business to become more efficient if you mould your conversations and brand around the insight – but you have to continually evolve that engagement or simply lose competitiveness.

Make it personal

The single customer view is currently a mythical state based on the way technology and connectivity works. Not all devices talk the same language and not all technology shares all insight, so there’s will always be an element of modelling to be done. However, the more data and insight you collect, the better your chance of acquiring, engaging and keeping customers aligned to your brand.

Individuals or segments?

The single customer view will become more of a debate next year – specifically a debate individualisation V broader segmentation. More brands will start questioning whether that granular focus on one single individual message multiplied across a database is giving a good return on investment. Segmentation will be relied on more heavily as most brands will see this is a more cost-effective route to the consumer.

Wade through the deluge, turn off the tsunami

In short, 2017 needs to be the year that marketers embrace the microscope view: focussing and refining data to what’s important right now. Start conversations by giving people the right message at the right time through the right channel. It shows that you know who your customers are, what they’re about and how your brand fits into their life. These conversations should be a positive choice – something your customers see as adding value to their lives.

Over the next 12 months, wade through the deluge and turn off the tsunami.

Rob Edwards, channel strategy director, Intermarketing Agency

Tel: 0113 275 3912 (Leeds) 0203 841 2888 (London)



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