Can you really have too much data?

tesco billAs the adoption of big data continues to gather pace, through the use digital tracking and other CRM technology, marketers are now able to track their customers more than ever. But the question remains, is this a blessing or a curse?
In the early days, Safeway decided to abandon its ABC loyalty programme due to a surfeit of data; bosses described trying to make sense of it as like “trying to drink from a fire hose”. On the other hand Tesco went for it, and ended up buying the company which it hired – DunnHumby – making the founders a cool £93m in the process.
Was there ever a clearer indication that the more data we have the better, because customer insights power engagement by putting the focus on the consumer, not the brand?
These days, data also has a profound affect on how a brand acts at every level, from tactical segmented campaigns to corporate strategy and new product development.
With that said, how do you first determine what the data means?
Data insights can be tiered, say by taking the top hundred things that are observable, then ranking them in order of how they affect behaviour if acted on. Common sense normally drives this, but in order for this to have the sort of uplift in sales that CRM drives – for instance, in the first three months this could be 10% for an FMCG brand or 100% for a gaming brand – it must be backed up by rigorous hypothesis testing before you roll out any marketing campaign.
There’s a whole set of disciplines required here: data analysis, customer insight, segmentation strategy, creative strategy, multi-channel delivery capability, and normally this is only available in the specialist eCRM agency space.
Nevertheless, big data need not be complicated and nor should it be a rod for a marketer’s back. Still, there is now an expectation that campaigns should be measurable and scientific, and brands need to wake up to this fact – and fast.
felixThe reason campaigns should be scientific is because they have a direct effect on profitability and shareholder value. But there should always be room for experimentation, getting it wrong, coming up with genius ‘off the wall’ creative… yet business is business, and marketing is not a gamble (unless you are desperate).
Doing the ‘out-there’ stuff should be treated the same way that a bet on the roulette wheel must be treated – play with winnings, and if you see that it works, say 10% of the time, make sure you set aside a budget from your winnings that you’re prepared to lose 90% of the time.
That all said, the scientific marketing should (assuming this suits your brand values) be intelligent, highly creative and brilliantly engaging.

Felix Velarde is managing director of customer engagement agency Underwired

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