The Unfinished Sentence | BIG DATA ALONE IS YOUR PROBLEM
The Unfinished Sentence in a marketing strategy consultancy which combines humanistic psychology and marketing expertise for deeper insights and stronger solutions.
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Big data observes and tracks.  It helps to identify your consumers, their preferences and areas of opportunity.  It can minimize risk and easily quantify results.  In an time of scarce resources and increasing sales and margin pressures, these capabilities are important. However, big data can only help you understand part of the consumer equation. Successful businesses recognize the difference between “knowing” their consumer, and “understanding” their consumer.


Big data helps you to know your consumer. From data, you may learn how old she is, how much money she has, when she shops, what she buys, and even infer what she is likely to buy.  For example, let’s pretend you own a wine ecommerce site, and you have a high-value consumer that purchases a lot of of “Machete” and “Herman Story” wine.  Seeing this purchasing behavior, you infer that she is likely to purchase other California reds.  And perhaps, given this inference, you send her an invitation for a red wine tasting in her area because competition is getting fierce, and you want to build loyalty your brand and website.

However, she doesn’t come to the wine tasting or respond to any other tasting opportunity from you for that matter.  Given that she is a big customer of your site, you decide to get out from behind your spreadsheets and give her a call.  In speaking to her, you learn that she works for a major design firm, and is buying Machete and Herman Story as client thank you gifts because she likes the wine labels.  Avant guard label design is what is motivating her purchase, not the wine.  In fact, she does not even drink.  This new understanding of this high value consumer certainly changes your engagement strategy moving forward.

While I acknowledge that data can be efficient and taking the time to talk to each consumer is unreasonable, the point of this example is that context can not be ignored.  After all, business is still a human transaction.  Spending time with your consumers whether it be through ethnographies, co-creative settings or even 1:1 conversation and empathically listening is a better way to uncover the motivations that enable you to create the right experience and earn their trust.

To find lasting competitive advantage, we have to reinstate the art of empathic conversation and strive to always understand the emotional context beneath the data.  Consumers are looking to improve and enrich their lives and to feel a sense of connection, all the more so as the world becomes increasingly fragmented.

Big data alone cannot possibly understand the nuances of modern life.

Claire Lundin
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