Sean Madden on Big Data

Big Data is one of the hottest topics in marketing, customer relationship and interaction discussions these days, and this must-read article by Sean Madden of Ziba on the subject is the best I’ve read to date.  Because I have a technical background, I’ve probably given more thought to data than the average person does, but for years it’s driven me crazy that companies don’t use the data they have about their customers more intelligently.  Sean Madden captures my sentiments exactly with this thought:

When a customer calls the support number, sends an email, or talks to a store employee, he is initiating a conversation. You have his undivided attention, even if he’s annoyed, and that makes it a crucial brand-defining moment. He’s hoping for a conversation, but bracing for an ordeal. He knows you’ve collected information on him for your own purposes and wondering why you don’t do something useful with it. Not useful to you–useful to him.

As Madden points out, there are a few companies that have done a great job using data – Amazon tops the list, in my mind, and has long been a strong industry example of how to mine purchasing data to suggest products a consumer may be interested in.  They’ve also done a good job with simple, but powerful, features that make purchasing incredibly easy.  Having the ability to store multiple shipping addresses and credit cards removes the most unwieldy and frustrating part of the purchasing process, and for me, keeps me going to Amazon first to purchase practically anything.  I don’t always find the product I want, but I almost always search there first, and it’s not because of the product selection, though that helps – it’s because they make it so easy for me to order, and they do a good job of recommending products I’m interested in.  More companies need to learn from these kinds of examples.

Madden believes that in the future, consumers will come to expect their interactions with brands to be more intelligent, and while I agree with him, there are many of us that have expected this for some time and been disappointed at its late arrival.  The flip side of that is the companies that have gotten it right have gained at least some edge as a first mover over their competition.  Still, I look forward to the day when the vast majority of companies that have data about me use it smartly, and as a matter of course.

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