Data analytics: The end of crass marketing?

It is often observed that there is a gap between what IT could deliver and the experience of what actually happens. For me the trouble is that this is often put down to ‘IT problems’ when it is often due to other factors.

Reading about the big data/data analytics capabilities now and in the near future, what is described is really interesting and for me welcome. However, will it happen?

With all the data about me, my ‘digital exhaust’, and the power of modern data analytics, suppliers are now able to target offers to me that are based on my data and close to my interests. If that were to happen, so that my time was not wasted wading through and deleting digital rubbish that would indeed be a relief personally.

So, why did Amazon for Valentine’s Day suggest that I might like to buy my intended ‘creative software’? As wonderful as Adobe Creative Cloud is (I think it is by the way), anyone that has ever met her would know in seconds how inappropriate that would be. You would imagine with all that data and powerful analytics that this kind of untargeted crass marketing would be over.

The same week, I had an email from another ecommerce site saying that ‘they missed me’ and offered a substantial discount to go back. It sold some quirky items that I used to buy for my beloved Dad, who died two years ago this month. I haven’t gone back because he’s not here anymore.

Two years ago I moved from Oxford to rural Shropshire. Yet I am still getting hotel offers for hotels near where I now live and local events in Oxford, which is over a 200 mile roundtrip. The other way round would probably be more useful.

Add to this, having booked a cruise I’m bombarded with cruise adverts. After buying a new kitchen I’m targeted for new kitchens. How many people would be in the market for a second kitchen weeks later? I could go on.

It seems that there is an assumption that the more data organisation X has about me, the more they ‘know’ about me and the better able to target. So why isn’t it happening?

IT is the problem in so far as it facilitates the generation of this type of ridiculous waste of time and effort, but the underlying problem is business practice that has not adapted to the state of the possible.

I think that there is a bigger problem here too. The more data X has about me, the more of it is obsolete and inconsistent. This is not just diminished returns on additional ‘digital exhaust’ but a more serious problem of validity over time.

One of my associates has at least six relationship statuses on different sites and an age range from 40 to 93 as a deliberate disinformation strategy.

I would enjoy a world in which I was targeted by appropriate offers and would share my data to make that possible. However, seeing how badly what is currently shared is used, it comes down to a simple WIFM - what’s in it for me? My experience as outlined above suggests not much. Beta minus, could do better?

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  • 1
    Liz Cooper wrote on 26th Mar 2015

    Tesco manage it. I've just received a package of vouchers and they all relate to things we regularly buy.

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About the author
Chris is a technology and policy futurologist. Chris has been in the IT industry since 1980. His roles have spanned Honeywell, ICL, HP, Microsoft and Capgemini. He is a Fellow of the BCS and a Fellow of the RSA.

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