By Mary Makris
Today, businesses are generating mass amounts of data from purchase information to social media interactions to geospatial data. To stay competitive, companies are increasingly required to leverage the data they are rapidly collecting. According to Forbes, over 53% of companies are starting to adopt big data analytics to ultimately improve how they do business, whether it’s upgraded internal processes, innovative new product development, or performance optimization; and, regardless of how companies are using data-driven insights, big data and analytics gives businesses a versatile toolbox to make better decisions they are confident in.
Marketing is one of the areas that has benefited most from the trend of big data analytics. The availability of a variety of data surrounding customers and their needs and preferences has helped marketers shift to a fully customer-centric focus. According to Carme Artigas, founder and CEO of Synergistic Partners, understanding the customer is the basis of their marketing strategy and big data helps her company do this in six key ways:
- Personalizing the product
- Understanding and optimizing the shopping experience
- Improving customer service
- Optimizing operational efficiency
- Generating predictive analytics
- Implementing the decision-making process in real time
Using data to better understand customers enables marketers to get to know them at a deeper level and develop more personalized strategies. Additionally, the insights from big data also help marketers be more creative in their efforts. For technology companies born in the digital age such as Netflix, Tesla, and Spotify, using data in this capacity might be an expected action. For example, Spotify developed witty, personalized billboards in the UK based on songs that had high volumes of listeners from that region, and Netflix uses algorithms to recommend new shows to watch based on what their customers have liked in the past; however, big data is also driving creative marketing in several traditional industries where even the phenomenon of embracing digital trends might seem counterintuitive. The following examples highlight four unexpected industries in which big data is being used to drive creative marketing.
The tourism industry is a large, complex industry made up of several subindustries from travel to craft and creative tourism to tour operators. Tour operators include typical companies such as national park tours and outdoors guides to less traditional activities such as escape rooms. A challenge tour operators face is maximizing their booking capacity to realize their full revenue potential. For these small to medium enterprises, their expertise lies in providing an excellent experience for their customers, not executing an intelligent marketing strategy, let alone using big data analytics in this process; however, one company is trying to change this reality. TOMIS is a marketing intelligence software platform that uses a data-driven approach to personalize marketing strategy specifically for tour operators. Their specialized technology aggregates marketing and sales data and uses it to predict optimal marketing placement and develop marketing recommendations. Not only are they automating previously manual work and helping tour operators make smarter decisions about their advertising; TOMIS also is using the data they collect in many unique ways to drive creative marketing strategies.
For example, one of their clients operates just outside of Glacier National Park. Glacier is a premier tourist destination, providing a one-of-kind outdoor experience with its spectacular views and wildlife. Realizing the potential effect visuals of Glacier Park have on those who plan to visit, TOMIS analyzed Instagram data with Glacier’s location tag to find images that had generated a high volume of likes. This information was then aggregated into a blog post highlighting top Instagram pictures from Glacier with the goal of showing people what they had to look forward to on a visit to Glacier.
 An escape room is a physical adventure game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, hints and strategy to complete the objectives at hand (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escape_room).
The post went viral and garnered a significant amount of traffic. Analyzing the social media data was catalyst for an engaging idea that was ultimately successful in bringing prospects to this business’s site, and is just one of the many ways data can be leveraged in the tourism space.
Fashion is an industry that is powered by creativity. Although fashion can move in a cyclical pattern with similar trends moving in and out of style over time, there is an inherent role creativity plays in the process and one might wonder if there is any place for data analytics. One company that has found a way to keep its fashion creative yet break convention by using data to influence its advertising is e-commerce fashion site Lyst. Using data insights from shopping trends, Lyst launched a unique marketing campaign featuring styles preferred in specific geographical regions and provocative language highlighting their tastes. An example of an ad (seen below) captured New York shopper’s preference for over the knee boots.
Ad Copy: New Yorkers buying 5 times more over-the-knee boots than ankle boots.
Ceo Chris Morton commented on the campaign saying “Our success to date has been driven by marrying insights from data science with the emotional nature of fashion. The campaign is a manifestation of this, by celebrating the power of beautiful fashion imagery and intelligent insights into the fashion consumer’s behavior.” Using data allowed Lyst to create a more personalized message to deliver to its consumers, validating their choices to purchase the product as fashion-forward and encouraging further adoption of that style.
On a larger scale, IBM partnered with fashion designer Jason Grech and used over 500,000 images of fashion styles paired with a social media sentiment analysis of those styles to forecast a new collection for the upcoming season. Using data from over a decade, IBM’s Watson helped Grech choose a color palette that historically was successful, giving him confidence in a decision that was normally guesswork. (Watch a short clip of the story of their partnership.) While this is not a direct example of using big data for marketing, it does demonstrate the potential magic when data analytics are used creatively to make smart decisions and ultimately engage customers on a more personal level.
Many people have at least one favorite restaurant or bar where all the workers know their order and they receive personalized care. These service providers have relied on their employees to maintain the high-quality service given to their best customers, but data has started to play a role in this endeavor. Customer data captured from their interactions in the establishment can be used to personalize their future experiences. For example, dietary restrictions are increasingly influencing where people choose to dine. If a restaurant knows their customers’ dietary needs (and the needs are common among many customers), they can send creative, customized offers to them if they add, for example, a new gluten-free entrée or keto alcoholic beverage. Online reservation service OpenTable has opened the door for this type of marketing by providing access to not only the restaurant’s own information, but also their entire database of reservation information to help restaurants better understand customer actions and develop more targeted marketing strategies.
Additionally, data analytics can be used to develop creative recipes. Similar to the work with Grech, IBM researchers developed a recipe generator to create unique and creative recipes. The tool could be used by chefs, restaurants, and even food manufacturers to inspire original trends or market to the consumer that is always looking to try something brand new.
Although historically the focus of the food industry has not been centered around data, there are so many channels to collect data from the supply chain to the retailer, and the opportunity is ripe to capitalize on an effective use of big data for creative marketing (Lind, 2015).
While it may not come as a surprise that big data analytics are quickly becoming a staple within the healthcare industry, the fact that analytics are also being used to kickstart creative marketing strategies might. Several US patients (about 43%) are turning to online sources through search and social media for information before they go to see a doctor, and healthcare companies are taking advantage of the data generated (Smith, 2016). InVentiv Health Communications analyzed social media conversations to better understand customer experiences, how they spoke about their issues, and their emotional state. This spurred an ad campaign with tailored messaging that imitated the consumer’s lexicon to help it resonate better with them.
Chrisie Scott, VP of Marketing & Communication at Meridan Health, believes using data creatively focuses directly on the end user. She says, “Our insights must drive messaging and packaging that result in action. We are focused on strategically and creatively placing people at the center of their own healthcare story” (Smith, 2016). Global healthcare company Novartis utilized a similar strategy when they determined the top 100 frequently searched multiple sclerosis terms, and developed patient videos with the patients themselves explaining the complex concepts in simple terms to help others who were searching for information on the topics. Not only did this put current patients at the center of their story, but new patients could connect with the videos even more deeply knowing the featured individual had lived through their present situation.
Looking to the future, the Internet of Medical Things, the equivalent to the Internet of Things but centered in the medical space, is rapidly expanding the suite of products and this source of data likely will foster many more creative marketing campaigns; however, there are many challenges healthcare companies face in the process of becoming data-driven such as aggregating data from multiple sources in a clean format, maintaining security of extremely confidential information, and cost-effectively storing the mass quantities of data (Bresnick, 2017). For organizations that successfully manage this process, the benefits could be significant and not just in the marketing department.
Looking at these four industries, it is clear that using big data to inform the creative process is a way to generate unique marketing strategies that not only help create competitive advantage, but are also likely to add value to customers with the increased level personalization. Companies lagging behind data analytics trends are missing out on this valuable opportunity and need to start taking advantage of what data analytics has to offer to stay creative and ahead of their competition.
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Theodosi, N. (2016, January 16). Lyst Launches First Advertising Campaign. WWD. Retrieved March 30, 2018, from http://wwd.com/business-news/media/lyst-launch-ecommerce-first-advertising-campaign-10279480/
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