“The world is now awash in data and we can see consumers in a lot clearer ways.” Max Levchin, PayPal co-founder.
Data is at the root of the customer experience. Everything you, as a consumer, do is measurable in some way. We now have data on eating and sleeping habits, purchasing patterns, and online streaming preferences, to name a few. Where can you access all this valuable data?
Healthdata.gov is a great resource if you want to get a better understanding. For example, if you work with a client that sells organic cleaning products you could reference the Household Products Database. This database links over 4,000 consumer brands to health effects from Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) provided by the manufacturers and allows scientists and consumers to research products based on chemical ingredients. Why bother doing this kind of consumer research? Having this information would help you and your client better understand what products people purchase but also the potential health risks of competitor products. This data could then help craft messaging and campaigns for your client’s line of organic products.
If you or your team is savvy enough, you could use the healthdata.gov API to search the catalog of datasets and extract what’s relevant to you. This could include information about fitness, diet and general sleep habits, as well as community, state and national health issues. If you do a general search you’ll see that you can access APIs for social data, sports data, public health data, weather data, university data, and political data – just to mention a few.
Taking a step back – what’s an API? An API is an application program interface that is a set of routines, protocols and tools for building software applications. An API specifies how software components should interact. Additionally, APIs are used when programming graphical user interface (GUI) components. In layman’s terms, an API is the interface through which you access someone else’s code or through which someone else’s code accesses yours. You can use an API to connect your software to the database you’re interested in. Larger companies offer APIs that you can request (sometimes for a fee) to gain access to anonymized data sets.
If you don’t have the resources to create an API connection, you can use services like statista.com, data.gov, Google Trends and Google Barometer to get a better understanding of your target customer.
Putting it into practice: Let’s say you run an online retail store. Wouldn’t it be great if you knew what your customer wanted versus just assuming? That way, you’d be able to deliver up exactly what someone was looking for. For instance, as a retailer you might want to know what motivates someone to make a purchase from an overseas retailer. You can start your research on Google Barometer and find out that 29% of consumers couldn’t find what they were looking for domestically. As a US retailer, you could use that insight to consider an international partnership or perhaps a wider range of products to help capture that business back. You might even take it a step further and conduct your own research within your customer base to find out what your audience might be looking for but isn’t finding. Pair that with your own personal sales and inventory data and you’ll be armed with great information that will influence what products you’re carrying.
Consumer data should be the backbone of any campaign, even if you’re a B2B company. At the end of the day you’re dealing with a consumer making a purchase decision. Make sure you know what matters most to your consumer and customize their experience based on data that is available to you.
Coming up in Part 3: Data Quality. Stay tuned!
Director, Marketing Technology