What are we doing with all this BIG DATA?

I’ve recently completed a module on big data as part of the squared online course – a fantastic digital marketing qualification by Google.  With such a wealth of data, it provides a great opportunity as marketers to serve timely, relevant, contextual and engaging communications to meet consumer needs identified by all this data in the first place – but is there such a thing as too much data?

I’ve used Chrome for a number of years now and I love the random but useful plug-ins and a recent favourite is Ghostery.  This lets you see the number of cookies, tags, web trackers, ad networks, etc that a particular site has set up – and it’s fascinating to see just the sheer volume of tags that some sites use; to the point where I sometimes question just how worthwhile all this data is – and surely most of it is never used.  This site for instance has 62 Ghostery tags on it – I’ll almost forgive them because it is a great article regarding #mashtags:


With so much data available – why are some of the biggest companies so poor at utilising it?  I thought I’d share a few recent examples where I have cringed or smiled applausingly at their use of ‘big data’.  A few months ago I booked some flights to the USA with Opodo as they offered the best value of being able to book flights with multiple airlines.  No sooner than a couple of days after booking the flights did I receive an email offering half price flights to the USA.  Hello!  I’ve just booked flights with you to the USA, why on earth would I be interested in half price flights when I’ve already booked them – where was the hotel, or car hire offers specific to the destinations I had booked?  They now had a huge amount of personal data about me, and yet continued to push the mass blanket emails to me rather than offer me relevant and contextual offers. #cringe

This morning I got my weekly email from TM Lewin showcasing their new range of casual shirts.  Now I love to play hard to get when it comes to marketing emails, probably because as a fellow marketer I’m less patient to poor experience – so for me to click through it really has to be relevant and interesting.  One particular shirt took my fancy, and so I clicked through to the site and contemplated adding it to basket.  I was on my iPhone and didn’t have a wallet to hand to make the purchase.  Later this evening I received the following email – I know what you’re thinking, nice shirt huh?:Image

I actually love the subject line – well yes you can tempt me back as I really like this shirt.  I specifically clicked through on this shirt this morning and I now want to buy it even more.  Well done TM Lewin, brilliant use of big data – one impressed customer! #smile

Now there may be some who question or have a problem with the use of their personal data, but I believe that more people will come around as they have better experiences of it – the more relevant, timely, contextual and engaging the message is, the less consumers will resent it.

The only downside of ‘big data’ for marketers is that you are constantly bombarded with display/remarketing adverts for your own products.  We spend so much time on our own sites, testing and looking to make improvements to user journeys and user experience – if only there were a way to prevent it.  I love big data and it’s potential to make consumers smile – but sometimes it’s true what they say, less is more!


An always on society – #squaredonline Module One Reflections

We’re in the middle of a digital revolution that shows no signs of letting up.  The pace of change is an exciting one, and over the past few weeks whilst studying module one of squared online the digital marketing qualification from Google, my mind has been racing with ideas and reflections about how digital has changed my life.  The more you know, the more you realise you don’t know – and what you do know now, will be out dated/have evolved within a few months.  Crazy huh?

As a marketer, the time to broaden digital skills and knowledge is paramount to understanding consumer behaviour and to try and adapt and keep up with them.  Brian Solis suggests that this era of ‘Digital Darwinism‘ is the natural selection process wherein businesses will either adapt and change with society and technology or risk being left behind and at the mercy of the environment they play in.  There are numerous examples of businesses that didn’t adapt: Kodak, Blockbuster, HMV, for example – where digital came along and ate them for lunch.  I remember the days of getting Kodak films developed, hiring a video from Blockbuster for the weekend and buying CD’s from HMV to listen to on the school bus.  I couldn’t tell you the last time I went into an HMV store, and Lovefilm and Netflix mean I don’t even have to leave the sofa and movies are a couple of clicks away.

Consumers now have a wealth of technology and information to hand to guide them in their journey along the path of purchase and now on average consult 10.4 sources before purchase – the Zero Moment of Truth as Google have coined it.  As a consumer, I love this, but as a marketer I recognise now more than ever that we must add value at every touch point in order to remain in contention during purchase consideration.

I was recently at a conference and heard an interesting phrase ‘smart boredom’.  With a smart phone always to hand, there are very few instances where we are unproductive or not being entertained.  When we’re waiting in queue’s or commuting on a train our phone keeps us occupied and entertained to pass the boredom.  The challenge is that we’ve become so accustomed and addicted to our phones that this ‘always on’ behaviour amongst society often overlaps and interferes with our inter-human relationships.

One of the most thought provoking videos I’ve seen recently is the ‘I Forgot My Phone‘ showcasing numerous occasions where rather than being in the human moment, we often ignore friends and family and pay more attention to our phones.  A fellow square, Chris Michaeloudis on the course posed the question in her own blog ‘Surfing the net or snogging….what would you rather be doing‘ – it was a fantastic read and shared the thought that the always on society has replaced the need for human engagement and intimacy.  I’m going to try really hard to make sure I am always in the moment, and that the smartphone comes second to friends and family and would challenge all of us to do the same.

This always on society, like everything has it’s pro’s and con’s – but I’m an advocate of this digital revolution and the opportunities it creates particularly for marketers.  I’m excited for what’s round the corner, and it promises to be mind blowing!

Bring on Module 2!

And here is that ‘I Forgot My Phone’ video:

Embarking on #squaredonline

So I’ve always loved to write – I think it’s one of the best ways to communicate, inspire and get a point across.  That being said, I’ve not been very diligent recently in writing, and I’m sad about that.  After leaving school, I somehow landed a job at an investment bank in Canary Wharf tower working as a management accounts assistant – whilst it paid hansomely, it was dull (no offense to the accountants) and so in order to add some excitement to the world of invoices, expenses, assets, foreign exchange I would write a series of satirical commentaries about the interesting characters in the office.  It was around the time that Big Brother had exploded on our TV screens – reality TV was fresh and innovative back then, and these often daily musings, mimicked the ‘day 29, in a Geordy accent…….’ style that soon became a hit amongst the ‘secret circle’ of email recipients.  I’m a big believer in #internalcomms, and whilst this was by no means official communication, and some of the content would probably have got me into trouble nowadays, ah the bliss and naivety of being an immature 18 year old; it brought a smile to people’s faces and was an email people looked forward to receiving.

Fast forward 11 years, I’ve ditched the numbers folk and worked in marketing for the last few years.  I’ve always liked to question the status quo, never been one to conform quietly and I think that’s why I love digital – it’s forever changing, innovating and that’s exciting.  3 weeks ago, I’d never heard of squared – I was flicking through a copy of marketing week; paper-based media is still acceptable for the digital folk I’ll have you know!  And after a quick browse of the website, a couple of YouTube videos – I’ve now reassured the digital lot I jumped at the chance, and here I am.  Squared is a digital marketing qualification from Google and after a week my mind is racing with ideas and excitement.

And so throughout the next 6 months I’m going to be sharing my thoughts, learning’s and discoveries.  The days of procrastination for this writer are over 🙂