Brands are collecting lots of information about their customers, yet many brands are still sending out generic marketing, which fails to make use of this data. 

When devising data strategies, we need to think about what’s important and what will really make a difference, and to use only the data we need...

As the internet continues to expand and ever more analog data migrates to digital format, experts are speculating we could run out of storage space.

In fact, it’s estimated that by 2020 the digital universe will be 44 times larger than it was in 2009 and the gap between the amount of digital data created and the amount of storage available is growing fast.

Already the global digital data stats are mind-blowing. Today, there are close to 2000m internet users, over 250m websites, 65m pages on Wikipedia, 65m tweets a day and over 500m Facebook users.

Although the tenet “information is power” certainly still stands, I wonder if we really need all the information we seek to store?

Brands certainly have a habit of collecting lots of information about us that never seems to be used. For example, how many times have you completed an extensive registration form (stating your preferences, gender, date of birth and other details), yet received nothing but generic marketing? 

It seems brands intend to be targeted, but it rarely becomes a reality. So what’s the answer? Don’t collect information and save the storage space?  It’s an option but probably not the most intelligent one. 

I believe the best way to do this is think about what will make a difference, and focus on customer behaviour. This information will expand our understanding of our customers and allow us to influence their behaviour and buying patterns.

Graze, the company that delivers healthy snacks to your desk, seems to have this idea at the forefront of their agenda. I receive an email after each delivery asking me to rate the foods I received and allowing me to edit my preferences all the time. 

These simple bits of data are key to my future behaviour and purchases with the brand. Arguably everything else is superfluous.

Relevance and attractiveness is key. If you can glean information about your customer’s preferences, your marketing can be very specific to their needs. 

We’ve been helping Travelbag to gather data and then act on customer search preferences, allowing them to market relevant offers. So for example, only people who have previously shown interest in a trip to Dubai will be sent a particular offer for that destination. 

This kind of analysis, combined with multichannel communication testing, has in some cases doubled click-throughs and telephone enquiries.

Digital media gives us the opportunity to mine a mind-blowing amount of data but in terms of storage, you need only incorporate cherry-picked “useful” data. Once this information is consolidated, it can be used to develop profiles and segments to inform clever and rewarding marketing communications. 

And not only will the data collected be useful, we should have plenty of room to store it!

Richard Lees

Published 16 February, 2011 by Richard Lees

Richard Lees is Chairman at dbg and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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Comments (8)

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Matt Stannard

Very well said.

Targetting is very important, some businesses seem obsessed with numbers, but from my experience it is those more interesting well thought through communications which yield the best results.

Digital Media definitely does lend itself towards having a more "personal" relationship with the customer, it surprises me that more people don't utilise the opportunity!

over 7 years ago



I completely agree! Something I keep bring up time and again at the meetings we are having on marketing at the moment to make sure we keep on track with it.

The fact that people don't use it more is always surprise because its just common sense and can significantly increase the response you get, rather than getting yourself marked as junk or deleted!

over 7 years ago

Rob Silsbury

Rob Silsbury, Senior Directror, Marketing & Ecommerce at Ralph Lauren

Nice piece Richard. Not everything that can be counted counts for sure, but not everything that counts can be counted either. I firmly believe that a line exists where super highly targeted and predictive marketing can show diminishing returns. While I absolutely believe in top notch data driven strategies, I think it is vital that we all stay on the right side of that line.

over 7 years ago

Bethany Jarroussie

Bethany Jarroussie, E-Business and User Experience Consultant at Nixon UX

I once conducted some customer research for a large retail bank in which customers complained about being bombarded with promotions that were of no relevance to them within their online banking area. As one customer said 'I've been banking with you for years and you know so much about me, why not use this information to give me advice on products and services that might be useful to me?' A long and interesting discussion ensued in which the customers told me that they wouldn't consider this kind of communication to be 'marketing', just a brand being more helpful to them. Consumers now expect this level of sophistication in the digital space and I think brands that don't embrace it will increasingly be seen as out of touch.

over 7 years ago


Graham Mallinson

Preference is always in a context - i.e. there is also a need to understand the reason behind someone's preference. For example your Dubai traveller may have been going for reasons which were personally upsetting and not want reminders/offers bringing their reason to mind again. The site may have asked the reason for travel of course - which would add to your data store - but if they didn't or if they ignored it - they could accidentaly create opportunity for bad publicity.

over 7 years ago


Dan Verhaeghe

Agreed, if they focus on the stats they can eventually get return on investment.

But there's another problem emerging for brands in traditional retail- barcode scanning and price checking on the fly using smartphone apps like ShopSavvy.

Brands must counter that.

over 7 years ago



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