Data maybe the new oil, but it’s what you do with it that counts

We are entering the new age of data. Our customers have evolved from being data consumers to becoming data generators. As the digital world grows, so too does the data produced by our online users.

Every time our customers log on, interact, share, like, tweet, check-in they leave measurable, traceable digital footprints. Data Management Platforms and CRMs have developed and matured to such an extent that, given the right tools, we can now monitor, capture and report on our customer’s patterns. We won’t know our customers by name but we do know a lot more about them from their online preferences and behaviours – from the articles they read on our site, the videos they watch, the products they buy and even the ads they click on. Using the right tools we can now profile, segment and target these users with relevant and wanted content and services.

Millions of people live their lives online, on smartphones, tablets, wearable tech, laptops and on traditional desktops, moving seamlessly between devices – working, shopping, socialising and playing at all times of the day.

And they’re clocking up some impressive data that we can use to get to know and understand them more. The largest social network Facebook, with 1.4 billion global users, has reported that more than 556 million people log on to its site every day via their smartphone, tablet or desktop. Every time they like, share and post (typical users creates upward of 90 pieces of content a month) Facebook builds a deeper profile and gleans a better understanding of that user – enabling them to serve up targeted ads and content. And, as DMP solutions flood the market and become cheaper, many of us can now do this too.

Previously expensive programmatic and DMP tools, many of which are being used by the likes of premium publishers to understand their audiences, are now available for even the smallest of online publishers to use. These tools are being built into existing products, such Flockler’s content marketing platform, meaning we can all start to unlock the value of our own first party data.

Our users’ behaviour, preferences, patterns are more accessible and becoming available for us to use in our online marketing practices. We can use our data insights to enhance our relationship with our customers, enabling us to develop more meaningful interactions with them.

But we do need to be wary. There are still far too many traditional business models using data as a stick to beat us with rather than letting us use it as learning and discovery tool. C-suite decision makers need to turn this thinking on its head. Data should be used to help facilitate new, more agile ways of working. This will mean internal restructuring, such as bringing data analysts out from the basement and giving them the limelight. Analysts’ status needs to be elevated and their skills shared around the business so that marketers and other disciplines can become more agile, and be better placed to respond to our customers needs in real time.

Every website, blog, ecommerce site or online touch point holds key data insights on their customers. In the right hands this data can be unlocked to become a hugely valuable asset and commodity, akin to oil. Using data insights to observe our customers means we no longer need to make assumptions about what they want from us. Their patterns can tell us. This means we can respond and adapt our practices to accommodate their wishes. The more we can learn about our audiences the more creative we can become in our interactions with them.

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