Data sits at the heart of the digital revolution. The huge volume of digital data being generated by organisations and individuals has played a pivotal role in the exponential growth in the amount of data as a whole. And that’s only going to increase. New data coming from sources like social media, connected cities, cars (90% of cars will be connected by 2020), and wearables has the potential to make profound and beneficial changes to the way we all live. Jon Roughley (pictured below), head of strategy – credit services, Experian, explains to ExchangeWire that these are transformative times and we should all think big and start to look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.
Imagine a future scenario where your NHS health data is connected to your wearable technology, so that your doctor can monitor your health in real time. That’s the kind of data-driven change that could not only improve your life, but potentially save it.
Some key themes have emerged in the new digital world that many businesses are still trying to come to terms with.
Data is driving digital
Today, ‘digital’ and huge amounts of data exist in a symbiotic relationship. The smart use of data is already improving customer experience. Consider online commerce, where digitalisation has changed everything. Personalisation of digital experiences is no longer an extra, but an expectation. If a customer has visited your site once, they expect you to recognise them on subsequent visits and they expect a tailored experience from businesses that have their data. Online retailers have all responded to this expectation.
But, we are only at the beginning of this change, as the smarter use of more data has the potential to transform customers’ experiences far more. It is data that is at the heart of these user experiences. It is the fuel that, in an increasingly cluttered digital world, delivers a superior online user experience – across advertising impressions, published news and content, e-commerce, banking and financial platforms, and other touchpoints.
In order to provide a personalised experience, businesses must leverage data from multiple sources, and apply that data to serve customers with relevant content, product recommendations and services based on intent, location, and interests.
The Internet of Things
As the Internet of Things develops, digital data will allow brands to collect permission-based, real-time data about how, when, and where consumers use their products, creating data ecosystems.
Think of going to a shopping centre and being directed via your watch to the stores with new items in stock that match your personal tastes. Today, the growth of almost all organisations is tied to their ability to operate successfully in the new digital landscape. So, where would this Internet of Things be without data?
A series of objects, connected to each other across a network, is not automatically ‘intelligent’. The interconnection is merely the starting point for building an intelligent system; and predictive analytics harnesses data to provide that intelligence. By analysing data flowing across the network, and applying machine learning, raw data can be converted into clearly defined outcomes that will allow the network to learn how to govern itself over time. Predictive analytics, therefore, uses data to enable Artificial Intelligence (AI), as the network will gradually become self-aware, self-regulating, and, potentially, self-sufficient.
As products themselves create data in an Internet of Things world, brands will be able to understand how a product or service is actually being used. They’ll then be able to deliver a better service experience, using the product as an interface for data-driven support. Faults will be detected, and even remedied, before the customer notices them, and product upgrades will be automatically delivered.
There are some cautionary notes, however, associated with this digital data deluge. We need to be careful that the ability to track a consumer’s movements in the digital landscape doesn’t make them feel ‘creeped out’ or uncomfortable. And we still need to focus on data quality.
Customer centricity enabled by data
For most organisations, much of the value of collating and analysing data lies in acquiring a more sophisticated understanding of their customers – developing a 360˚ view of the people for which they are trying to provide products and services. This is key to improving and perfecting the service and customer experience; but it’s also becoming increasingly complex as new digital channels emerge. First-party data – provided by the customers themselves – has been the primary contributor to the single customer view, as consumers share their data in the expectation of a better experience; but now businesses must look to second- and third-party data as well.
Data must paint a full and nuanced picture of individual customers. Achieving this means drawing on multiple data sources, creating a rich blend of insight that cuts to the heart of the customer’s needs and wants. As far as possible, organisations should, therefore, be looking at all the data they can.
Collecting and interpreting a brand’s first-party data is the first and most important step that organisations can take to achieving a customer-first approach. This makes it a top priority for any successful business strategy; as study after study has shown that there’s no better predictor of future customer actions than past customer actions.
Data is vital to the success of modern marketing and advertising. By harnessing data, brands can develop an individual, sophisticated view of their customers, putting them in the best position to target them with the content that is the most engaging to that person or demographic, a goal which forms the core of the marketing function.