In the past decade there has been a massive increase in the amount of data that is potentially available to marketers.

But simply having a lot of data is of no real use to anyone. It’s the quality of the data and what you do with it that counts.

If I may indulge in the use of some buzzwords: marketers need to move from big data to smart data.

A new report from Econsultancy and Acxiom investigates the complexity of the data landscape, especially in relation to marketing, and the importance of getting it right in the mind’s eye of the consumer.

Entitled Delivering Value in the Data Exchange, the report is based on interviews with brand-side senior executives as well as an online survey of 1,000 UK consumers.

So, how can marketers make this shift to using smart data?

At a very basic level it relies on having access to valid, clean data, but at a higher level smart data can largely be defined as the product of five Cs:

  • Centralised in the organisation.
  • Clean.
  • Cross-channel.
  • Contextual in the light of wider customer insights and behaviours.
  • Collaboratively acquired between consumer and company.

Crucially, smart data is able to build a relationship between the organisation and the customer.

It helps foster trust so that customers know their data will not be misused and that providing more information will ultimately improve the customer experience.

While it’s generally assumed that consumers try to hide their personal data at all costs, the report shows that this isn’t actually the case.

43% of respondents said it was sometimes worthwhile sharing personal information while 14% said this was true most of the time. Only 10% felt it was never worthwhile.

Do you generally feel that it’s worthwhile sharing your personal information for what you get in return?

It is also something of a myth that consumers feel ‘trapped’ once they have provided data to a company, powerless to stem the marketing tide. 

The survey revealed that 31% of people sometimes knew how to stop companies contacting them after they’d given information, while 26% knew most of the time how to achieve this and 7% stated they always did.

Do you know how to stop companies contacting you after you’ve given them your information?

But marketers are still wary of asking customers for deeper data outright.

The ability to mine dynamic data (the ‘invisible’ customer information acquired through web tracking, transactional information for example) has proven very popular, and is able to make a significant contribution to the contextual element of smart data.

Furthermore, the multichannel mix has improved the quality of customer data by adding in social and geolocation (via mobile) to the dynamic pot. 

However marketers are slowly coming around to the realisation that these channels needn’t only provide richer dynamic data – they are able to revolutionise the ‘customer ask’ when it comes to gaining richer, frequently refreshed static data.

Ultimately brands need to be clever about overcoming the challenges of deploying smart data and proving to customers that there is a genuine value exchange for personal data.

These issues are discussed in greater detail in the Delivering Value in the Data Exchange Report.