What’s so daunting about data?

The phrase “Money makes the world go around” can only be considered half-true these days. With the proliferation of business intelligence platforms and continually growing interest in data analysis, data — in addition to money — make the world go around.

Before the advent of major social media players like Facebook and Twitter, data for marketing used to be much simpler. In most introductory marketing classes, professors emphasize the importance of learning, living and breathing the marketing mix and the four Ps of marketing.

But as pleasant as it would be if these were the ingredients to every successful marketing campaign, unfortunately, it’s just not as effective anymore. People have become more skeptical, especially with the recent NSA outings and Edward Snowden’s whistle-blowing ways. People know that commercials are made to sell you products. People know that, despite the many feel-good commercials that air on television, in the end, corporations just want your money.

A silly jingle or a goofy-looking spokes-character isn’t enough to get potential customers to buy your product.

Marketing isn’t what it used to be. People aren’t as naive as they used to be.

You. Need. Data.

I’m no expert on this topic (yet), but what I do know is that there are several layers of data-tracking and more than a number of ways to collect, analyze and apply data.

If you’re only looking to find out, for example, which pages of your website are the most popular or how many people per day visit your website, a free version of Google Analytics will do. Or if you have a WordPress blog, WordPress can track not only the above, but also the countries your readers are from, what sources led them to your website, which external links your readers clicked on and more.

Let’s say you want more information than that. In addition to the pages you have, you also want to track which links within your website or app are clicked the most. Take a mobile game app, for example. Using an analytics service like Flurry, you can enable event tracking, which allows marketers and analysts to see what types of decisions users make. Your game might allow users to choose between two colors: red and hot pink. If your data, through event tracking, shows that 99% of users choose red over hot pink, it might be time that you introduced a new color.

Even though event tracking provides a great amount of insight on consumer decisions and tendencies, for many companies that utilize data and analytics, this is probably not enough. In fact, you want data on every single one of your customers. Sure, it sounds frightening, but it’s nothing unusual anymore. Every time you give an application permission to let you log-in through Facebook, guess what? Now that application knows your name, your email and a whole lot more.

And though signing up for accounts can make storing information such as saved preferences more convenient for the user, remember — the site you signed up for now knows what you like and can do a better job of targeting you with more appropriate advertisements.

But I’ll stop myself here because, as bad as this all sounds, in other ways, data can also benefit the user too.

For example, if you’ve been assigned to research A/B testing services and find yourself having a hard time, ads can help you out. After you look up a couple of A/B testing sites, other recommended sites will come up as ads on websites that support cookie-enabled advertising such as AdChoices. From experience, I’ve been able to discover a number of different (and bona fide!) services just by clicking on ads.

And let’s face it… as much as we love to support our right for privacy, whether you like it or not, we’re all guilty of taking advantage of data in one way or another.

LinkedIn is just one site that serves as a testament to our data-loving ways. Who doesn’t get a kick out of seeing how many admirers (or stalkers, depending on how you look at it) view your profile?

Even in games such as Temple Run, users can see stats on what their longest runs or highest scores are.

And don’t get me started on infographics, those pretty visual representations of data which people from all over the world have come to adore. (And if you don’t like infographics now, maybe this one will change your mind.)

In a way, data is a lot like gossip.

We know that too much of it can be bad, but we love it anyway. Humans are nosy. We like to know about everything, especially when the information pertains to us.

I’m guilty of loving data. I feel flattered when I see that someone has visited my LinkedIn profile. When I play Tiny Tower, I love going to the stats and seeing how many sales are being made per minute. And I can’t get enough of those charming infographics. (Here’s my Pinterest to prove it.)

But at the same time, the amount of data that websites and apps want to access can be alarming. Recently, I bought a new computer and installed Firefox along with a number of add-ons including Self-Destructing Cookies, which “gets rid of site’s cookies and LocalStorage as soon as you close its tabs.” Though it’s a little unsettling to see the amount of times these self-destructing cookies notifications go off, by the same token, I can also understand these websites and apps just want to target users more efficiently.

Data has become a very important, very essential part of marketing, and as people become more skeptical and as more companies compete for customers’ attention and money, the more advanced business intelligence and analytics platforms will become.

What do you think? Have you had enough of websites tracking you, or have you found that ads can be surprisingly helpful? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this controversial topic.

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2 thoughts on “What’s so daunting about data?

  1. I installed Ghostery for Chrome a few months ago and I’m always surprised (and a little creeped out) by how many metrics are tracking me. But the truth is that it does help make better ads for me. I’ve noticed the sponsored posts on Facebook mobile are really locking down my niche interests (e.g. suggesting Lemon Wallet when I was in the market for a digital wallet solution).

    1. Lemon has a top-notch digital marketing team. I found the app through iAds, but I’ve seen their ads all over the place. And I’ll have to check out Ghostery. šŸ™‚

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