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Big Wins with Little Data, in Four Steps

6-16-2014 1-58-13 PMWhen it comes to data insights, marketers tend to underestimate the power of little. They should not be fooled. Like small faults, little findings can result in seismic shifts.

This was pointedly argued in an article about the virtues of little data, written by David Meer for Strategy + Business. One sentence leapt from the page as I read his piece:

“A paradigm shift – away from management based on gut feelings and toward data-driven decision making – is already under way, and accelerating.”

This is an important line. Many organizations have gotten got caught up in thinking that Big Data – with high velocity, volume or variability – is a requirement when in truth they are already sitting on a wealth of potential in the data they have. If they shift their focus to finding new ways to use what they have, such as applying a customer perspective to the information, they can generate fresh insights and management options.

Meer offered three steps that companies should follow to extract meaning from their little data. I would add one more step, and suggest that big companies, as well as small, would benefit from them all. Here they are, with an added loyalty spin:

• Be more fact-based: Organizations should think about what information is available to gain reliable insights into the business. Even better, data analysis, when it relies on insights collected through a loyalty program, can yield even broader opportunities. Extending customer insights by using the data from a merchant-branded loyalty program that is tied to a credit card, for example, not only gathers information from activities with that brand, but also activities with its competitors. In cases where such information is not available, organizations should apply the facts at hand in their decision making. This will lead to the next step.

• Learn by doing: “Since little data applications are not commercially available via third parties, companies have to use trial and error,” Meer wrote. The loyalty publishing company COLLOQUY likes to refer to the importance of “quick wins” that come with data trialing, and how the returns in intelligence and business can be leveraged in the following years. Importantly, such small successes will inspire incremental management support.

• Be creative: Do not underestimate the feedback that comes from employees. In-store observations, online surveys and call-center conversations all can reveal much about customers, Meer wrote. Organizations can even offer incentives to those who provide feedback, further enhancing their brand value while also obtaining valuable information from natural interactions with their customers. Affordable technology, such as cloud backup services, can ensure customer information is securely stored and available for staff.

Lastly, my own added step:

• Think like your customer: Marketers spend a lot of time gathering data on who buys a product, when and under what circumstances, but how often are they thinking like that end consumer, the Millennial starting a new job or a recent mother? In order to successfully analyze the data, organizations should  get to the underlying motivations and aspirations of their customers. After all, the context of the information is as important as the data they are using as the basis for “little data” experiments. Additionally, because the data can deliver sterilized results, marketers might consider introducing variables, such as a spilled coffee or screaming baby.

All of these unanticipated events, however small, can alter the brand experience. It might not feel seismic, but the power of even a little knowledge can redirect a company onto a more profitable course.

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