Forget big data, the future is the democratisation of data

Getting a handle on big data has been the issue keeping many marketers up at night in recent months. But there’s a new beastie under the bed ready to creep up and change the face of marketing and the role of the CMO: the democratisation of data.

Lara O'Reilly

Consumers are constantly providing more data about themselves than ever before, owing to new tracking technologies and the proliferation of mobile devices. But the power over that data is set to shift from companies to the consumers themselves.

Martin Blinder, creator of one such online tracking tool TicTrac, told delegates at digital agency Essence’s Shuffle conference that it won’t be long before consumers can begin to commercialise their data – agreeing to offer information about their runs, weight or sex lives in return for rewards from companies, such as cash, freebies or more targeted offers.

Consumers will become the new market research companies, monetising their everyday actions.

This is already happening to an extent, with a raft of services springing up such as Peer Index’s Peer Perks, which offers influential social networkers free gifts from brands in the hope that they’ll share their experiences about them with their following.

The next step, of which we have only really touched the surface of so far, is the emergence of engaging tools, created for data’s sake, that encourage action or change.

Nike+, for example, merely mimics your own memory; a better proposition would be if Nike+ told you – from your running data and other information about your health and wellbeing – that your optimum running environment is at a temperature of 10 degrees, two hours after you’ve eaten a banana on a day when you’ve had no meetings.

TicTrac is aiming to provide consumers and brands with that level of insight to help find the answers to whether coffee consumption is causing users’ migraines or whether TV ads are positively uplifting brands’ sales. Its dashboard, currently in beta, pulls in data from users’ emails, health tracker apps and sleep apps, calendars, social networks and fitness information to correlate relationships and causes between different actions and outcomes.

At Shuffle, Tic Trac’s Blinder said: “We feel there’s a next level in the way brands and consumers speak. A world where Huggies doesn’t sell nappies, they teach you how to look after your babies. A world where Gatorade optimises your performance…brands can transform your daily personalised experiences using this data.”

Brands can become involved with these sorts of services, paying to run their own projects for users to partake in to gain deep consumer insights. WeightWatchers could encourage opted-in users to slim down for the summer and get data as to which days of the week people are most likely to submit to their cravings – the exact days of the week they should be advertising.

Data will soon be mined from tools, services and apps created for the sole purpose of assimilating information and helping people make better decisions about their lives – or marketers make better decisions about their brand strategies. Rather than analytics acting just as an afterthought to determine a product or campaign’s success, the democratisation of data will help more decisions – big business decisions, not just online display RTB – be made in real time.

As Blinder said earlier this week, this movement marks the next generation of the focus group. Consumers can offer their behaviour, rather than just an opinion that could be skewed by the other people on the panel they are sitting on.

By giving consumers the power over their own data and providing them with an entertaining reason, a health benefit or a monetary incentive to do so, brands will have far more insight than ever before about the audiences they are trying to reach. But most importantly, brands will be able to provide consumers with the services and products they actually want.

The democratisation of data is coming. And it’s going to be fun.

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