Has Big Data Failed In Uncovering The Journey To Purchase? Why It’s Time For A New Approach

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Ronny Golan, CEO and Co-Founder at ViewersLogic, explains why big data has failed brands. 

Advertisers have long been seeking the ability to target individual consumers in key moments across the entire journey to purchase. But with endless communication channels, new devices and multiple purchase options, this goal is more complex and challenging than ever before.

We live in an era of big data, where customers are generating more data across more touchpoints than most brands can keep up with. But more data does not equal better data. The problem is that poor-quality data can lead to bad decision-making. IBM estimated that the yearly cost of poor-quality data in the US alone is $3.1 trillion a year. To solve this, the marketing industry has accumulated huge, disparate databases in the hope that they can be fused to reveal customer insights at scale. This approach seeks to answer fundamental questions such as:

“What are the touchpoints customers go through as part of their journey to purchase our product?

“What do they do in each touchpoint?”

“How can we influence their behaviour?” 

“How does the journey of our customers differ from our competition?”

Unfortunately, this strategy has failed. But not all hope is lost. Now, for the first time ever, there is finally a way to connect the journey to purchase with absolute certainty. The answer is Single Source Data. 

Why Has Big Data Failed Brands?

Big data has failed brands for a variety of reasons – it’s a good attempt at connecting the path to purchase, but it doesn’t go far enough. Typically, first-party data starts at the transaction, which is the final part of the journey to purchase. However, to generate a picture of the path to purchase, brands need to see customer behaviour before the transaction.

This means understanding what interactions a customer had across advertising, TV, online, searches and comparison sites. In other words, what was it – specifically – that ultimately led to the transaction? To get a full picture, marketers also need to know when people buy competitive brands.

All this data is pivotal to informing future campaigns. If it’s unreliable, then this can lead to wastage and poor performance. Herein lies the problem. Big data can approximate reach, but it cannot measure the frequency of exposure to target segments across many channels and devices. Moreover, understanding the behaviour at a specific touchpoint without understanding how it is influenced by the other touchpoints, gives a distorted view of the customer journey. Numerous challenges add to the deficiencies of big data, such as increasing GDPR and privacy measurements, the demise of the third-party cookie and other moves by Apple and Google that make it harder to fuse data sets. 

Big data was a good first step, but clearly, a new solution is needed. 

The Blind Men And The Elephant

Single Source Data is the measurement of TV and other media/marketing exposure, geo-positioning (shop and other location data) and purchase behaviour, overtime for the same individual. It allows brands to match an individual’s degree of marketing exposure to a specific advertising campaign and determine his or her equivalent purchasing behaviour. In short, this means brands can empirically determine how advertising spend and frequency across all touchpoints and channels influences ROI

To illustrate how this solves a global problem for advertisers and marketers, let’s consider a simple analogy. Three blind men walk down a path and meet an elephant. The first man holds its trunk and says the elephant is like a snake. The second touches its leg and says the elephant is like a tree. The third touches its stomach and says the elephant is like a boat. All are right but all are wrong. Seeing the whole elephant is the only way one can truly understand it.

In this analogy, each blind man is akin to a single silo of one type of data. Collecting the analysis of more and more blind men brings us no closer to understanding what the elephant is. In fact, it pushes us further from the truth as different silos purport different truths. 

Single Source Data is the equivalent of opening our eyes to see the whole elephant. 

Only when we see the entire customer journey can we understand the needs, wants, preferences and desires of customers. Only then can we understand why, when and how people make purchase decisions, and, crucially, what can influence them. 

Single Source Data Is The Way forward

Single Source Data will soon become the gold standard of data, replacing what big data has set out to achieve yet failed to accomplish. By harnessing the power of Single Source Data, brands can create In-depth customer profiles that encompass a breadth of actions, from how individuals consume media to what they search for, where they shop and how they behave in the physical world. Because Single Source Data monitors all media exposure of an individual (TV, website, apps) and all resulting actions, both online and offline (website visits, store visits, purchases, etc), brands can understand the actual contribution of each channel or the combination of channels that is required to make sales.  

A good example of this can be found in the following article where Single Source Data revealed, for the first time, the huge effect TV advertising has on online-ad-clicks. Such data prevents brands from making wrong decisions that are based on siloed data. This also adds value to large but thin data sets. It is the map that helps brands navigate between big data sets and finally connect all aspects of the journey to purchase, without needing to fuse or stitch different data sets together. 

As we move into 2022, brands that continue to rely on disparate data sets will inevitably face a decline. The same rings true for data providers, whose data will be less relevant than before once Single Source Data becomes widely used. This poses key challenges for issues of trust, value and confidence in the marketplace. Fully sighted brands, however, those that harness the power of Single Source Data to see the whole picture, will be able to supercharge performance, optimise campaigns and make decisions with absolute certainty. In a world of doubt and uncertainty, Single Source Data is the key that can unlock a brand’s true potential.  

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