We’re traveling at the speed of cool to creepy

The Big Data MOPS Series with Tamara DullWho would you give your personal information to: your state’s new toll road system, an amusement park, neither, or both?

At a Forrester event earlier this year, Melissa Parrish, a Forrester VP and research director, told the story about how her father (we’ll call him Bob), who lives in New Jersey, was rattled by NJ’s E-ZPass system to streamline toll collection on roads. “There’s no way I’m giving them my personal information so I can get a pass!” he told his daughter.

Bob had been traveling the toll roads to his job in New York City for decades, and he had no interest in getting an E-ZPass electronic tag in his car. Yet later, when Bob went to Disney World in Orlando with his grandchildren, he was delighted with Disney’s new MagicBand, and couldn’t stop raving about it.

Given Melissa’s deep knowledge of customer data and how it’s used, she didn’t understand why her father was not okay sharing his personal data with the NJ Turnpike Authority—even though it meant he would save time and money on his daily commute. Yet, Bob was more than willing to let Disney track his every move, check-in to FastPass+ rides, buy food, and get in and out of the park and hotel—all with the swipe of the band on his wrist.

This is the dilemma we all face: How much personal information are we willing to give up to enjoy some of the conveniences offered by technology today? And at what point does cool (like Disney’s MagicBand) cross the line and become creepy (like NJ’s E-ZPass)?

About personal data collection. A minority of us travel toll roads, and it may be years before we visit a Disney park and have the opportunity to wear a MagicBand. Yet all of us are experiencing the universal impact of big data privacy in our daily lives, whether it’s in our cars, on our devices, at home, in our work places, while traveling, or just out and about around town.

Big data privacy and personal data collection are tightly coupled. Companies and individuals we do business with have been collecting our personal information for decades – either on paper or electronically. Technically speaking, they’ve been collecting our “small” transactional data (and in some cases, a lot of it). “Big” data has changed this data playing field. “We the people” are now generating an exponential amount of data with all our Facebook photos, Twitter updates, YouTube videos, smartphones, GPS tracking devices, FitBits, and smart home appliances and devices. And yes, even with our E-ZPass electronic tags and MagicBands.

By establishing an account, relationship, and/or connection with a company, brand or app, we are trusting them to use our personal data ethically, securely, and more often than not, privately.

Why this matters. I love this quote from Vala Afshar: “We are not a team because we work together. We are a team because we trust, respect and care for each other.” When a company/brand/app makes our trust, respect, and care a top priority—in action, not just in words—it strengthens the relationship and creates customer loyalty.

It is no longer good enough to make the connection or get the account. The challenge now for companies/brands/apps is to demonstrate that they are trustworthy, respectable, and care about safeguarding what customers have shared with them—i.e., their personal data. Failing this challenge or not taking this challenge seriously enough only opens the door to your competitors.

Now it’s your turn. As a data professional, you understand your customers’ concerns with big data privacy because you’re grappling with it yourself on a personal level. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes as you consider the following priorities:

  • Convenience. We all like convenience, and in an economy where time is short and competition is high, it’s important that we continually improve our customers’ experience with us—whether it’s faster processing times, easier site/app navigation, less clicks, or more channel options to connect. In making your customers’ experience more convenient, be sure to properly safeguard any additional data being collected.
  • Connection. In today’s economy, we largely stay connected through the data we share and the devices we use. Even our cars, homes, workplaces, and cities are becoming more connected through data and devices. What role does your company play in this connected economy? Are you making it easier or harder for your customers to stay connected?
  • Value. Customers will share their personal information with you if they believe they’re getting something valuable in return. The rub here is that value is both relative and subjective. What one person desires and values highly, another person may quickly dismiss. The key takeaway here is if your company collects personal information, only collect the data you need to run your business or improve their experience, and continually look for ways to reward them for their data.

One final thought. If you recall, Melissa’s father, Bob, was creeped out by the NJ E-ZPass system, yet delighted with Disney’s MagicBand. Melissa asked her father why. “The MagicBand is worth it. It’s convenient and offers a lot of value,” her father replied.

Personally, I find the MagicBand both cool and creepy—and the NJ E-ZPass the least creepy of the two. But that’s just me. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

Originally written for and published on Smart Data Collective as part of the Big Data MOPS Series

Editor's note:  Tamara's point about convenience, connection and value like at the heart of the data privacy debate - balancing those considerations is how to address the issue. But as per her final thought, value is relative and very subjective. And it's really about perceived value - so what's a marketer to do?

To me, that makes two big reasons data privacy is a concern for marketing - in the first place because marketing is the rightful steward of the customer relationship, and secondly because it's marketing's responsibility to communicate the value proposition for customers to entrust your organization with safeguarding their personal data and using it responsibly.

SAS recently conducted a global study on consumer attitudes toward privacy and personalization, which is summarized in this report:  Finding the Right Balance Between Personalization and Privacy. The research confirmed two important points:

  1. As consumers continue to use technology that opens their lives to others, they have dual expectations of businesses: understand me as an individual and protect my privacy.
  2. In the end, it’s clear that businesses must align customer incentives for personalization in terms of relevancy and context with concerns over how personal data will be collected and used.

There are many other great take-aways in that report and I'm confident you'll find it worth reading.  Thanks, as always, for following our blog!

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How analytics helps avoid customer relationship break-ups

Jim Foreman talking about marketing.

Jim Foreman talking about marketing.

You can always tell when a person is enjoying himself – the bright eyes, the smiling face and the hand gestures are unmistakable. Jim Foreman from Staples is an executive that clearly enjoys talking about both marketing and analytics, which makes his presentations both informative and enjoyable.

Recently, Jim shared his perspectives about customer relationships by comparing them to personal relationships, and particularly how the right approach to a relationship can be useful in avoiding a breakup.

And like personal relationships, business relationships are fundamentally about people and how they relate, so his view is that the

Jim Foreman talking about Analytics.

Jim Foreman talking about Analytics.

possibility of a breakup in business follows the same patterns as what you find on a personal level, with two principal causes:

  • Misaligned expectations
  • Unmet needs.

Misaligned expectations:

Every relationship has expectations – customer expectations in a business setting can be such things as a clean environment, reasonably good assortment and decent prices.

The personal relationship equivalents relate to attention to appearance and good manners. These are always important, but especially in the early stages. The main point Jim makes, however, are that very few relationships are successful in the long-term if the majority of expectations are not met.

Expectations can get tricky once you realize that people may engage with your brand at different times in different personas. For Staples, you might have John Doe stop by to get back-to-school supplies, and then place an order to replenish the office cabinet later in the same day, and then search the Staples.com site a different time to check out seating options. Not all John Doe personas result directly in a sale and each persona might respond differently to the same offer.

It follows that knowing your customer is very important to knowing how to engage with them. And the larger your business or the more numerous your product set, the more complex that challenge becomes. Fortunately, there’s analytics to help sort it out.

 Unmet needs:

Jim’s point here begins with the idea that people don’t stay the same forever. In order to succeed, both parties need to evolve and adapt to the changing needs of the other party. Here again, it’s analytics that helps businesses stay attuned to the changing needs of customers so they can anticipate them and meet them with the right offer at the right time.

Marketing has always been about getting the right offer in front of the right people at the right time. What’s changed is our operating environment and the tools we have to make it possible. For Staples, the potential for unmet needs is huge. They have about 24 million or so active customers online and they operate the third largest e-commerce site in the world (behind Amazon and Apple). Now, upwards of 25% of their online traffic is mobile, but the mobile proportion of their transactions coming from mobile remains in the low single-digits.

How do they avoid unmet needs? With analytically-driven marketing solutions, such as marketing automation. The power of the analytics is when it’s paired with skilled marketers that know to put as much effort into learning what the customer wants to hear as they put into focusing on how and when to deliver the best message to the customer. The ideal scenario to Staples is to find a customer with an emotional connection to the company, fells like “they really get me,” and then becomes a brand evangelist and tells others about how great Staples is.

As Jim sees it, his challenge is to figure out how to sort through all of the “noise” to:

  •  Better-align with customer expectations
  •  More deeply engage customers by evolving their relationships with them
  •  Demonstrate an ongoing understanding of customer needs and how to best fulfill them
  •  Reduce the likelihood of a break-up
  •  Proactively identify customers who may be on the path to a break-up

The approach Jim recommends is to use three types of analytics to avoid customer break-ups:

  1. Qualitative Analysis – to hear from customers themselves,
  2. Descriptive Analytics – to learn from past customer behaviors, and
  3. Predictive Analytics – to anticipate future behavior.

Other recommendations Jim has for analytically-driven marketers include:

  • Long-lasting and fulfilling relationships happen when expectations and reality align. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not.
  •  Successful relationships evolve over time as needs and priorities change – never stop listening and responding.
  • Scrutinize your best/longest relationships: mine your data to find characteristics that can be cultivated or used to acquire new customers with a higher likelihood of retention
  •  Invest time and money to preserve/enhance your best relationships, and don’t be afraid to walk away from the worst
  • Customer data is a strategic asset: get analysts/data scientists involved early in the decision-making process so the benefits of customer data (and the many ways it can be used) can be baked-into strategies from the beginning!

Jim Foreman is Director of Analytics & Customer Insight at Staples Corp. He is a perennial favorite presenter at the DMA annual conference.

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The Magic Johnson way to marketing success

Magic Johnson at DMA 2014

Magic Johnson working the crowd.

Earvin “Magic” Johnson  is very large in stature and even larger in personality. He is often remembered as a professional basketball star and is now making his mark in the business world in a characteristically large-sized way.  And Magic just loves to prove people wrong – especially if they tell him he can’t do something.

At many stages throughout his career, he has been underestimated by people who did not think he “had what it took” to meet the challenge at hand. And apparently hearing that doubt in his abilities is all it takes to steel his determination. To that highly personal motivator, he offers a few other key factors for marketers to embrace for success.

Magic Johnson's outsized personal charisma really shines.

Magic Johnson's outsized personal charisma really shines.

Get out of your comfort zone

He credits obstacles and circumstances from his early years with teaching him how to understand and deal with people and situations way outside his comfort zone – key talents he attributes to success in business. One way he’s been effective in business is by focusing on urban communities – and more specifically in getting companies investing in ethnically diverse urban communities that would normally overlook them. Taking this approach, Magic got Starbucks to grant him a franchise for urban locations and then was able to report better metrics than the corporate-owned stores.

Know your customer

This is so important that it’s not simply a concern of marketing – it’s business strategy. And this is how Magic believes he was able to make inner-city Starbucks locations a success. In his words, out went the scones and in came the sweet potato pies. Out went the music tracks heard in traditional Starbucks locations and in came the Earth Wind & Fire and other bands more familiar to the inner city resident.

For B2B, it’s a matter of knowing the core values of the organization, and of the CEO. Research the company mission statement and convey your value proposition in terms of how you can help the company fulfill its mission. For very large organizations with complex business models, nothing beats analytics for getting insights to inform an accurate customer view.

Over-deliver consistently

Everybody has expectations – sometimes it’s driven by contractual obligations and at other times it’s driven by general business norms. No matter what’s driving them, Magic Johnson believes in over-delivering. Some of this comes from his personal drive to prove his detractors wrong, but he translates this to a core value that’s organization-wide that has translated into the investment funds he leads which have grown progressively larger from $300 million to over $1 billion. On a day-to-day basis, Magic is quick to point out the fundamental importance of your front-line workers in impacting the customer experience. It’s important to equip them and empower them to over-deliver. His viewpoint validates the need for cross-organizational alignment around the same customer vision.

Be prepared and focused

Magic Johnson does his homework – every time, and he wants to know as much about the audience he’s speaking to as possible. Doing that enables him to understand how to focus – to prepare his message, the delivery and any potential extenuating circumstances that would impact the outcome of what he has in mind. In the last couple of years, his biggest concern was the economy. So in his stake in the inner-city Starbucks, he knew that in a normal economy, people might visit a Starbucks 3-4 times a week. He also new that people would be likely to cut back when times were lean, so he redirected the focus to customer retention and trying to make sure people felt special when they came in so they would keep coming back.

Do a regular self-assessment to improve

Play to your strengths and shore up where you’re weak. Magic advocates doing a SWOT analysis of your business twice a year and to be very honest about what your weaknesses are. And try to do it on a forward-looking basis, particularly if you think you want a growth strategy and make sure you can manage the growth. It’s more important to keep your customers happy, even if that means operating at a smaller margin because satisfying your customers is how you build a business-sustaining reputation. This self-awareness approach of his goes hand-in-hand with always being open to learning and improving. He is a self-described sponge that keeps reinventing himself – he never stops improving and is never satisfied.

Magic Johnson was the opening keynote speaker at the DMA Annual Conference. He charmed the audience by working the crowd with a highly personal touch. As it happens with other successful public figures, his charisma made it seem like every single person in the audience was the most important person in the world.

I must say – it was indeed magic.

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Connecting the data dots keeps these companies alive

The Big Data MOPS Series with Tamara DullWhat do the following companies have in common: Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Orbitz, Airbnb, Angie’s List, Match.com, OpenTable, and Uber?

Here’s what I came up with:

  • Presence. They’re all online; they have no brick-&-mortar presence. If their website or mobile app is unavailable, it’s as if they don’t exist.
  • Primary asset. Their primary corporate asset is data, specifically data (mostly big data) created by users. They do not sell physical inventory.
  • Business model. Their primary function is to connect users with the right web page, person, and/or service. If connections aren’t relevant, quick, or easy, users move on.
  • Revenue model. They make their money by connecting the data dots, primarily through advertising or service fees. If connections aren’t made, money is lost.
  • Top companies. Interestingly enough, Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Orbitz are included in Forbes’ 2014 ten best companies to work for list. And Google, Facebook, and Twitter are included in Glassdoor’s Top 25 Companies for Culture & Values 2014 list.

Bottom line: If any of these companies fail to keep collecting and connecting the data dots for its users, for whatever reason, they will go out of business.

About data as a corporate asset. Let’s take a closer look at the point that these companies’ primary asset is data. Read More »

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George Blankenship on doing the impossible

Word-of-mouth references and first-person accounts are usually the best way to get the “real deal” on something. It’s how you can get unfiltered information that’s almost as good as having the experience first hand. George Blankenship at the Premier Business Leadership Series.

With that idea in mind, I was more than pleased to hear George Blankenship share his unique perspective from a long career of creative breakthroughs at game-changing companies like Tesla Motors, Apple and The Gap.

George speaks with authority about doing the impossible.

The common thread at all three companies is that they’ve managed to pull off the impossible. So how and why did it happen at each of those companies? George attributes it to the ability to step back and see what’s happening more clearly than whoever happens to be the dominant player in the market at the time. Read More »

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Does your loyalty program do what it’s supposed to?

Theoretically, loyalty programs are supposed to motivate customers to be loyal. But does it always turn out that way? Evidence is mounting that points to the fact that loyalty programs condition customers to expect discounts, and they don’t always cultivate loyalty. And the danger with that discount-driven scenario is that:

The loyalty program becomes only as good as the next discount.

Recent estimates by Colloquy are that there are over 2.6 billion loyalty program memberships in the USA. Considering there are about 240 million adults in the USA, that translates to a little over 11 loyalty memberships per adult and in the past two years the number has grown at about 26.7%. With overall population growing at 1% per year in the US, that accelerating loyalty program growth suggests that loyalty programs are quite popular. But do they engender loyalty?

Separate data from research by Maritz has revealed that active membership grew at a slower rate over the same period and that the percent of active memberships declined from 46% to 44%. So we have loyalty programs acquiring new members at a brisk clip, but the decline in active status suggests that a significant and growing portion of them are unengaged.

International Institute for AnalyticsThose market dynamics motivated us to work with two organizations this year to study loyalty programs from two viewpoints – one from the enterprise perspective, and one from the consumer perspective – and combine the two for some interesting conclusions. The IIA (International Institute for Analytics) conducted the research to get the enterprise perspective, Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Managementand we worked with the graduate program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management ("Kellogg") to get the consumer perspective. Many rich insights were gained in taking this two-pronged approach and a few clear conclusions emerged. Read More »

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Exploring how to get in sync with mobile customers

Mobile Customers on a Journey

Customers on a Mobile Journey

Mobile technology and the advent of tablets and smartphones have transformed whole industries and are changing customer behavior in ways that impact marketers around the globe.

More than just another channel, mobile is digital and social at the same time.  It’s making the quest for marketers to stay in sync with the customer journey infinitely more complex and nuanced as the digitally empowered customer now has new expectations for a fully connected, mobile, personalized and relevant experience. And opportunities often show up disguised as challenges, and the challenge of mobile customers is no exception.

Great opportunities come with the stream of digital data from mobile. The rich data source enables marketers to learn more about customer preferences without being intrusive, opening avenues to inform product development, packaging, pricing, distribution, contact policies, and more.

Classic Mobile Customers

Classic Mobile Customers

The streams of data from mobile also allow for measurement and testing to drive efficiency gains and the ability to “fail faster,” and therefore recover sooner. Through that process we learn and get better at what we do. It’s all very exciting – but it’s not the data itself that gets the job done.

In order to reap all those rewards, you need marketing analytics to make the necessary connections among the data, to unlock the hidden insights and to go beyond understanding simply what your customers want. Read More »

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Want to predict your customer's next move?

Senior Solutions Architect Suneel Grover

Suneel Grover

People are funny. They’re often fickle, choosy, demanding and impatient. At times, they’ll say one thing and then do another. So when they become customers, how can you possibly predict what they’ll do? Well it turns out there are ways to do it quite effectively using data and analytics. One advocate of such approaches is SAS Senior Solutions Architect, Suneel Grover.

Suneel posted a blog recently about this topic on the Direct Marketing Association’s Annual Conference blog, which I am happy to cross-post here with permission:


Predictive Marketing, Digital Intelligence, & Today’s Consumer

Today’s Consumer

Today’s consumer can access an increasingly wide range of media and online information in addition to their traditional offline shopping behavior. Due to the falling costs and increasing availability of smartphones and mobile devices, they are also exploring digital channels and mobile apps. This is driving multi-channel experiences and diversified media usage – often in parallel with higher expectations regarding their personal needs and preferences.  As a result, consumer marketing is becoming far more complex and time-dependent. The structures, processes, and systems currently in place in many companies are not able to deal with this omni-channel phenomenon. Valuable information is either lost not fully exploited – primarily due to the absence of central data management and control.

Digital Intelligence Enables Predictive Marketing

We are living in the age of the consumer, where consumer obsession is the new frontier of competitive differentiation — scaled and fueled by insights. Read More »

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Dear Facebook, it’s not you. It’s us.

The Big Data MOPS Series with Tamara Dull

Dear Facebook,

Last week, we reached our 7-year anniversary mark. Have we really been together that long?! Because, honestly, it feels like forever. I’m sorry we didn’t celebrate, but I really didn’t feel like it. Ever since you asked me for my home address a few months ago, my feelings have begun to change. You crossed a line, dude.

Granted, it’s not the first time you’ve crossed the line—you’ve done it many times before—but this time, it was different. I know that I don’t talk much about my work with you and my friends, but I’m keenly focused on big data and privacy issues—two topics you know all about and use to exploit / build our relationship. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Facebook Screenshot

I used to think it was about me.

I remember when we first hooked up. It was fun. It was new. You made it easy for me to connect with friends, family members and colleagues from years gone by. You even suggested that I connect with interesting strangers from all around the world. Read More »

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Leveraging analytics for mobile marketing

Recently, I was reading a conclusions paper created from an American Marketing Association webinar about mobile marketing featuring Brian Vellmure of Innovantage and John Balla of SAS. As I was reading, one line stuck out to me on the first page of the paper: “The key to making sense of mobile is analytics.” I thought that was a very simple, bold statement that was very much to the point.

The key to making sense of mobile is analyticsThat statement led to the next logical question, which is, “How?” How are mobile analytics being handled today in organizations? What are their maturity levels and opinions on mobile analytics? Vellmure and Balla answer that question and even provide analytical- and optimization-based suggestions for solving mobile analytics challenges.

Their starting point is to describe the current mobile environment, beginning with mobile in the workplace indicators. Did you know that 37% of corporate employees in a recent study are using mobile for more than 60 minutes a day? Similarly, 70% of respondents to an in-webinar survey claimed mobile is either “Very Important” or “Important” to their organization.

These stats illustrate the fact that humans, whether in a personal or professional setting, are device dependent. This should come as no surprise, but Vellmure goes on to summarize the main uses of mobile in a few key phrases that I really liked. First, he noted that mobile is now our “primary gateway to communication, commerce, and sharing.” Secondly, he compared mobile to a “human sensor,” telling those with access to our data “who we are, what we’re doing, and where we’re going.”

Later, we learn a bit about how users engage with mobile devices, including the concept of “no-mo-phobia,” or the anxiety and withdrawal that one experiences when not having their device at hand. Read More »

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