John McWilliams

January 23, 2020

Organizations today are feeling overwhelmed by the explosion of marketing data and who can blame them? The amount of data currently being produced is truly staggering—2.5 quintillion bytes of data every single day.  If that doesn’t give you pause, consider this: according to 2019 statistics from Information Overload Research Group (IORG) more than 90% of the data in the world was created in the past two years. That number will surely continue to rise.

“68% of marketers are very or somewhat concerned with data exhaust”


It is no surprise then, that according to one 2019 report published by KO Marketing 68% of marketers are very or somewhat concerned with data exhaust—the data that companies toss out because it provides little or no value to their core business. The most common statement I continue to hear from marketers is: “I don’t even use the data I have now. Why on earth would I need more?”

Data Rich and Insight Poor

The simple answer is that most marketers are data rich but insight poor. Kantar’s 2019 “Getting Media Right” report finds that fewer than 10% of marketers say they have all the data they need—the rest can only collect a small portion or they experience gaps in their existing data. Marketers are flooded with an almost unimaginable amount of information but are there any actionable insights? Is the data truly relevant and timely? In short, does this data provide the organization with key insights, greater predictability, more effective segmenting and improved performance and return on investment (ROI)?

Even if a company can answer “yes” to all these questions, there’s that little matter of whether the data is accurate. According to a Forbes post in the Quora Forum in 2017, marketing data is said to be only 10% to 20% accurate.

Emerging Technology Enables Data-Weary (and data-wary) Marketers to Efficiently Access Insightful Data

Moore’s Law, which states that overall processing power for computers will double every two years, is counterintuitively opening up new horizons for marketers. Just a few years ago, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, virtual reality, and other intelligent enterprise terms were ill-defined and often misunderstood terms.

Today, big data and analytics—whether in-house or external—have the ability to optimize and organize the vast universe of data into actionable insights for marketers. From identity resolution to predictive analytics to lookalike modeling, data innovations are driving change throughout the insights industry.

Organizations can now efficiently take their mountains of raw data and combine it with sophisticated analytics tools to capture real evidence-based value with greater speed, accuracy, and specificity. With predictive analytics, to use one example, organizations can segment customers into groups based on risk, churn and purchasing behavior and predict overall value. And with lookalike modeling, companies can weed out risky opportunities disguised as ideal customer lookalikes. The possibilities are dazzling and as a result, I am now actually getting more, rather than less, requests for data.

In fact, according to this year’s ESOMAR Global Market Research report, innovative methodologies such as big data analytics, AI, and others are actually valued at the same amount as traditional market research such as focus groups and qualitative and quantitative research. I believe that we are witnessing a watershed moment in which the era of contextualized insights has finally risen to claim its rightful place.

Why are we at such a pivotal moment in the conventional data and insights industry? Many factors are contributing—heightened trade sensitivity, currency volatility, and unpredictable geopolitical conditions, to name three. On the other hand, with the growth of tech-driven data and insights sector, largely a result of our ever-increasing digital fingerprint, interest in the rapidly evolving data analytics and methodology is soaring. And for good reason.

Believe It: Offline Data and Analytics are More Relevant Than Ever

The fact is, digital (i.e., mobile, social, display) has now become an established channel and will represent over half of all ad spending this coming year. But keep in mind that big data and social media measurements only reveal part of the big picture. Just because something is measurable doesn’t ensure that it is valuable or even relevant. To really extract those nuggets of insight, you must aim to get behind the data, combining both online and offline data to develop a holistic view of customer perceptions and motivations.

According to Techcrunch.com, the 2020s may well be the holistic decade. More and more, customers are living their lives both online and offline. The explosion of data and identity management along with technical advancements in real-time detection empowers marketers to create hyper-relevant content precisely when it is most needed.

According to Techcrunch.com, the 2020s may well be the holistic decade. More and more, customers are living their lives both online and offline. The explosion of data and identity management along with technical advancements in real-time detection empowers marketers to create hyper-relevant content precisely when it is most needed.

The shift from big data to smart data enables marketers to delve deeply into an understanding of not only who the customers are, but what motivates them. And, it moves them away from reliance on too much data without the quality metrics that are essential for making key customer assumptions.

Others in the field are embracing the value of the comprehensive offline and online data overview. Recently, the chief data stakeholder of a major company in the financial sector shared thoughts with me. After a close look at their offline (I like to call it “terrestrial”) data—which provides model-ready attributes at the consumer level and is NOT modeled surveyed, or summarized data—this industry leader found it to be a unique and valuable addition to the data provided by traditional marketing data companies.

Consumer offline data is important across all channels, particularly now when analytics advances make it simpler for marketers to leverage the data. When it comes to harnessing the real power of data, we’ve only just begun. Want to learn more about how the right mix of online and offline data can help drive marketing success?