Thick Data fuels customer-centricity

The essence of marketing was and always will be to identify, understand and serve human needs.  In todays world we call that customer-centricity, because many organizations have seem to have lost touch with their customers. Hence, their challenge is to put customers centric again. But in doing so, marketers now have something that is completely different compared to let’s say the 60’s and 70’s: the means to understand the customer. We’d like to share some thoughts on the prosperous marriage of using Big Data and Thick Data to mine for consumer insights.

And yes, although we agree that any organization needs both Big and Thick data, we would argue that Big Data is useless without Thick Data. Why? First of all because we have experienced it first hand. We helped one of the biggest organizations (VodafoneZiggo) of this country to become customer centric and make the most of their Big Data by connecting it to Thick Data. Second, if you look beyond al the blabla around Big Data you’ll understand that having Big Data does not mean your next marketing strategy will automatically show itself on your screen. Join us in our thinking by reading this article.

Big Data – size matters but it’s not everything    

In today’s world, many companies are rushing to consumer research that is reliant on Big Data and analytics.  We can understand their enthusiasm, as indeed, Big Data does enable brands and companies to build knowledge of their customers.  However, we would argue that considering only Big Data as the exclusive tool to mine for consumer insights may be a shortsighted approach.

Investing data is easy, using it to identify patterns of human behaviour and predicting outcomes is more difficult. This happens because often times data models can only provide a limited picture of the consumers and the markets. People are just very complex beings, and sometimes they are acting on motives they are even unaware of themselves.  That said, while Big Data could offer opportunities and provide astonishingly detailed pictures of people’s behaviours and what they are doing, understanding the why is the more difficult.  Big Data can predict a customer’s next mouse click or purchase, but what it won’t be able to tell is why they made the click or purchase.  Without this insight, companies cannot truly be customer centric.

Thick Data from human sciences give context.

So Big Data can provide a lot of tactical actionability, but for true customer-centric thinking we need not just data and algorithms because even if you have a lot of data, does not mean you have a customer centric strategy. We would argue that to reach its full potential for any company to become customer-centric they need something big data explicitly does not have – context.  And this is exactly where social sciences and humanities come in, and where qualitative and Thick Data could complement the use of Big Data in providing context to understanding consumer behaviour.

The Thick Data in our trend database gives such a context answers those why questions needed to become customer-centric. Why do men pay more attention to their visual appearance nowadays? Why don’t babyboomers feel old? Why do millennials make selfies? Why are yoga and mindfulness getting more popular? Why are people addicted to their smartphones? The answers on these kind of questions support organisations in understanding their customers more deeply and holistically.

Lets get married!

To be customer-centric, brands should be developing innovations and big ideas that are true to the brand and founded on insights that resonate and inspire with real human beings.  In search for true consumer-centricity, companies would benefit from both Big and Thick data.  Rather than a choice between prioritising Big data and Thick data, the key to success is to acknowledge that both are important. Do you want to know how we can leverage your Big Data with Thick Data? Contact us or keep an eye on our blogposts.

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