4 Ways Marketers Can Put Dark Data in the Limelight

What if you walked through the British Museum in the dark? You’d probably get lost among the mummies or fumble through the gift shop; you’d likely skip entire rooms and exhibitions, walking straight past the Rosetta Stone, and overlook other ancient masterpieces. In short, it’s never the best use of anyone’s time to be left in the dark. And, writes Chris Le May, SVP and MD for Europe and emerging markets, DataXu, the same goes for marketing: the more brands know about their customers, the better they’re able to understand and communicate with them. But, unfortunately, too many brands are still in the dark about their own data. 

Shedding light on dark data

Each time we browse the web, switch on our internet-connected TV, or connect to a WiFi network, we’re generating enormous amounts of data. And, pretty soon, with the advent of the Internet of Things, we’ll see these quantities multiply. Companies around the world collect and store this data, whether it’s an IP address, a geolocation, or the complaints we hurl at customer service representatives.

Yet a growing portion of this data – about 80%, in fact – will never see the light of day. That is, much of it will remain hidden and unused for business purposes. In fact, most advertisers say they struggle to glean insights from the 20% of visible data they have, leaving little time for the hidden, unstructured data.

But this ‘dark data’ (information about consumers that’s gathered, but not analysed, or put to use for marketing purposes) contains rich information about customer values and preferences. While the nature of this dark data differs from brand to brand, it often includes social media and mobile data. Information hidden on these channels can tell brands a lot about their customers, including how they feel about certain products and where they like to shop.

With so much customer intelligence available, dark data offers a wealth of opportunities for brands looking to enhance their marketing campaigns and boost ROI.

Harnessing dark data

How can brands go about bringing their dark data into the light and capitalising on the benefits it can afford?

  1. Access and analyse your data: When brands work with a data-analytics provider, they can unlock the potential of dark data. Doing so not only empowers marketers to make sure valuable data isn’t slipping through the cracks, but also enables them to analyse dark data and turn it into valuable consumer insights.
  1. Layer your data: Brands interested in gaining insights from dark data shouldn’t abandon the data they already have. For instance, brands may be already using browsing histories and demographic data to target consumers. By combining that information with data uncovered from social media channels or geolocation data, for instance, brands will get to know their customers like never before.
  1. Use these insights for precise, omni-channel targeting: Looking at dark data unearths insights that can help build a holistic view of consumers, allowing brands to deliver hyper-targeted ads across channels. With more knowledge of what’s happening on all devices, advertisers will also be able to deliver the right frequency of ads per user, not just device, which means less budget wastage and enhanced user experience.
  1. Activate your data in real time: After going to the effort of uncovering valuable data to tailor campaigns, brands should make sure they activate it immediately to maximise its potential. Marketers must work with tech partners capable of actioning all data instantaneously, from connected TV and mobile apps, to website cookies, to ensure the best possible campaign results.

Some analysts believe the digital ecosystem will be 40x bigger in 2020 than it was in 2016. But rather than getting data vertigo at the sheer size of it all, brands should be looking at the troves of information they already have, and the hidden value within them.

It’s no use closing one’s eyes to the value of dark data: Successful marketing is reliant on customer intelligence, and dark data brims with the kind of insights that fuel winning campaigns. By using analytics to find hidden patterns and behaviours, brands can ensure all the valuable information already at their fingertips is found and actioned – rather than ignored, as it all too often is.