stephanhorvath.com

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Every marketer wants better insights into user behaviour. Insights help us create better products and services, more effective marketing messages, and even more innovative business models. Big data and the analytics that go with it provide a data-driven approach that can seem foolproof.

But we need to look a little deeper. There are challenges. Everything we do as marketers must be examined from a customer-centric point of view.

Often, we don’t need big data – we need smart data. We need data that will help us understand our customers better. We need to think like our customers.

Be mindful that consumers are becoming more reluctant to provide information to marketers. Europe is ahead of the curve in this regard. In my native Germany, consumers are particularly sensitive about this issue. They fear their data will be misused. And, unless we’re careful, they may be right.

Globally, marketers need to be aware of cultural, geographical or political differences that may exist. For example, the personal and societal benefits of big-data applications are better known in the U.S. than in other countries. However, recent revelations regarding the NSA’s cyber spying has caused great concern about data security and a sense of betrayal. Companies in the U.S. will have to react with increased transparency to ensure their consumers feel the relationship is still mutually beneficial.

It’s even more complicated in China. The vast majority of data in China is generated via mobile devices. This ‘mobile data’ is differently structured and contains a lot more personal information than data generated via PCs. This higher quality data allows the creation of apps with greater added value. On the other hand, protection of this data is a particularly big challenge.

China’s political environment has a huge impact on data collection:

• Data about Chinese citizens may only be stored in China. 
• Collecting more data than is required is strictly prohibited.
• The specific reason for collecting the data needs to be defined in advance. 
• Any data collected must be deleted as soon as the purpose has been fulfilled. 
• Providers must guarantee and document internal measures protecting against misuse, manipulation and theft of information.

In general, companies that want to use big data strategies should make sure that they involve their customers in the process. Reservations about the collection and storage of personal data can only be dispelled by an increased level of transparency, openness and clarification.

Marketers should take this customer-centric approach and consistently integrate insights from their analysis into their marketing strategies across all channels. This needs to be done throughout the customer lifecycle beginning with acquisition and continuing with ongoing communications programs and retention. When you engage with your customers in this way, you build digital relationships and you may even lower your costs.

Then you can communicate with the speed, quality and relevance that you truly want.