Let’s stop the data deluge becoming a tsunami

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Data’s been around since humans first started recording things and has evolved into the rise of a modern digital giant, creating an ocean of opportunity for marketers.

Recently, the term ‘big data’ has been one of marketing’s big buzzwords. This is partly down to rapid rise of connected consumers; their growth has resulted in more data being created than ever before. Within five years there will be over 50 billion smart connected devices in the world, each one developed to collect, analyse and share data that can be used to engage audiences and transform businesses. Surely this should be a marketer’s dream?

However, as the data deluge begins to upsurge, it becomes harder to see what’s of value. Scale begins to camouflage usable facts. The phrase ‘Digital Darwinism’ describes that the sheer weight of available data is in danger of suffocating its effective use. 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. 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 all across 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.

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. There’s a continual 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.

Embrace the microscope view: focus and refine your 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. It’s also worth giving a nod to compliance here. These conversations should be a positive choice – something your customers see as adding value to their lives.

Out of hand?

A key concern for marketers going forward is how privacy will be effected by AI and the digital ability to distribute branded content and calls to action to individuals throughout their daily life.

The privacy issue is made much simpler by owning and developing your own data – a goal all brands should seek to achieve. Putting that data under the microscope helps to paint a much truer picture of your audience at any one time, rather than the broad brush of vague demographics. After all, your customer is not one homogenous mass, and behind all that information are real people.

Wade through the deluge and turn off the tsunami. In short, handle their data correctly and you can maximise each customer’s lifetime value, in addition to making your business more efficient.

Rob Edwards is channel strategy director at Intermarketing.

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