Why Small Data and the Internet of People Matter

I’ve lost touch with the number of articles I’ve seen over the last few months that talk about big data. The proliferation of this subject together with other recent initiatives from the government here in Singapore, along with some of the island state’s biggest companies, only confirms that big data is indeed one of the current darlings when it comes to trotting out the next big thing.

It’s the nature of our industry and those that turn the cogs that result in us all clamoring to cozy up to these new hot topics. For some of us, it goes no further than being able to grasp a few high-level key concepts and buzzwords so we won’t feel stupid at that next conference or networking event when we need to be on top of things and be hip and contemporary. This is particularly true with big data, where the gap between a basic understanding and a fully implemented program that leverages deep consumer insights leading to tangible bottom line benefits is a particularly wide one.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m probably geekier and more hopeful than most when it comes to the potential of big data. I’ve been at the coalface when it comes to doing stuff, building multi-dimensional predictive data cubes with fancy what-if analysis. That was more than 20 years ago. Big data is not as shiny as you might think.

My gripe in the digital landscape is a lot of us (and I include myself) spend inordinate amounts of time grappling with what’s coming tomorrow rather than working with what we had yesterday and what we have today. In a space that almost defines itself by its speed of evolution and development, it’s become part of the “I’m in digital” so if not predict the future, to at least have some strong views on what it might look like.

When thinking about my personal day-to-day digital communications and overall engagement with brands, I have this feeling that there are people responsible for my experience with these brands that might be better off spending a little less time at “The awesome future of digital marketing and every buzz subject you need for 2014″ conference and a bit more time focusing on my experience and working with some established and acknowledged best practices.

Having said that, here’s my wish list for where I’d like digital marketers and advertisers to focus more attention:

Seduce Me with a Coherent Email Strategy

Email is an interesting one because as a channel it has become a direct victim of those focusing too much on the future. Though still a hugely effective channel and one where its potential we’ve understood for 15 years or more, it has been pushed to the non-sexy side of the bed and makes few headlines and noise at conferences and in contemporary editorial.

Given its almost veteran status in online marketing, I’m still surprised how few companies attempt to engage me in a meaningful email narrative centered around where I am with the brand and who I am. Sure, I get the welcome email when signing up or buying a product for the first time and even what might be called a series of emails when being welcomed to a new hotel loyalty scheme, for example. But examples of brands having meaningful narratives with their customers are rare, at least from where I’m standing.

As we increasingly understand the power of driving engagement through rich storytelling this is an area where there are untapped opportunities.

Use Fewer QR Codes, Please (but If You Insist on Using Them Think About the Experience I’m Going to Get)

This is regular bugbear with me and you’ll forgive me for slotting it in here. QR codes are a wonderfully good example of a perceived “cool technology” being allowed to drive what passes for digital innovation. Their visibility and accessibility makes them the “go-to” lazy option for those looking to appear “with it” when it comes to hip digital. And when those QR codes take us to regular web pages non-optimized for mobile, the lack of thinking becomes stark.

I scanned someone’s business card the other day and the contact details went straight into my phone. Brilliant! Saved me time, was simple, and made perfect sense. Contrast this with scanning a print ad for a bank and being taken to a regular text-heavy web page trying to sell me a financial product.

Communicate in a Way That Makes Me Think You Know a Little Bit About Me

Years ago, Amazon was sending me uncannily accurate product recommendations. And when I say years ago, I mean years! Amazon relies on driving maximum lifetime profitability from customers to drive down the cost of acquisition and maintenance. Maximizing basket size is crucial, too, as it is with any e-commerce player.

You would expect a big and innovative player to have been doing this for years and they have. However, what’s surprising to me is how many organizations seem to do so little in this area and end up communicating with me like they have no insights into any of my purchasing or browsing history. You could argue this is one of the key areas for big data (data mining and fancy prediction algorithms) and they’d be right. My argument though is that opportunities in this area have been around for years with small data and some simple processing.

I keep finding myself, to use an analogy, walking into the same shop day after day and having to talk to the same sales guy like he’s never seen me before.

And Finally, Unsubscribing From Your Email List Should Be Just One Click

Please, when I hit unsubscribe on an email I just want to unsubscribe. I don’t want to have to log in to my account preferences or anything like that.

In Conclusion

There may not be a presentation on any of these topics the next time you attend a conference because when we’ve got big data, not to mention, “The Internet of Things,” who has time for trivial things like email strategies, right?

I have no doubt that the future promises some amazing opportunities for us with further convergence of technology with consumers and our behavior as well as the exciting developments offered by wearable technology.

But in a climate dominated by talk of big data and the Internet of Things, let’s not forget the small data, and the Internet of People, and their day-to-day experiences and interactions.

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Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.