Mobile 2 Go Blog: The Day I Fell in Love With Big Data

Using information to romance the consumer, while not “being creepy”

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

Fall in love with big data

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- I never thought “Big Data” was like falling in love. I always felt suspicious about it, finding it invasive of my personal space. But like love, apparently, there’s a right and a wrong way to go about it.

Drawing similarities between big data and speed dating, a marketing executive from Alon Brands explained to retailers attending CSP’s recent Convenience Retailing University conference last month that data can be an important tool to connect with consumers, but it’s also a double-edged sword.

Citing instances where retailers have used data in ways to incite negative reactions, Scott Shakespeare, branding, promotions and advertising manager for the Dallas-based 7-Eleven licensee, said it’s important to “aim before you shoot.”

And like the missteps that can occur in any romance, mistakes have consequences.

Careless, or insincere uses of data can often catch consumers off guard, making them feel spied on and uncomfortable. What came to mind for me was the freak-out I had when Facebook started recognizing my friends and asking me if I wanted to tag them, naming each of them without a single error.

Shakespeare himself cited a well-publicized incident with a department store where a young girl’s father got angry when he found out that chain sent the girl ads targeting pregnant women—when he did not know his teenage daughter was actually pregnant.

On the other hand, Shakespeare told the session of about 50 attendees that using data correctly can lead to greater intimacy with the consumer. I drew a connection to the mobile consumer because what’s more intimate that receiving a note on your phone, something that’s probably in your pocket, briefcase or purse? “The consumer gives you her trust if you’re worthy,” Shakespeare said. “But she has the power.”

He said finding relevant offers customized to the consumers’ needs is the best strategy to assume. And retailers already have many tools at their disposal. They have access to information from their own registers, accounting ledgers and loyalty programs. When cross referenced, “big data” from such sources can begin to answer important questions about what to put on the shelf, at what price point and when.

He noted key “toolboxes” where data falls into categories, such as societal, industry, company, loyalty, social media and interactive or personal data. Something as accessible as established social-media sites like Facebook or Twitter can be important data pools to spend time on, interact with consumers and get real-time reactions to promotional efforts.

Within those data pools, there’s information about events, movies, sports, regional trends, internal costs, rebate results, basket data, frequency and redemption, with all these different data sets interacting and helping retailers draw conclusions.

“Big data is not as scary as it seems,” he said. “It’s a creative endeavor, a tool for asking questions.”

Retailers in this channel have yet to truly access the opportunity of big data, said Neil Crist, chief executive officer of Venulabs, Bellevue, Wash., and moderator of the session. He said part of the journey is to visualize what can be done with data that companies already have access to.

And for retailers, I imagine that potential is something to draw a heart around.

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
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