Big Data, Big Brother – Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off?

social media privacy image

What is relevant to one, won’t be relevant to all. Big data solves that, right? Maybe it just makes more problems.

One of the cornerstones of an effective SoLoMo implementation is relevance to the individual consumer, and one way to get this is through the use of data analytics (particularly big data).  A part of this may be location relevance (don’t serve me an offer for a downtown restaurant when I am driving around the suburbs).  Another part of this is personal relevance (don’t give me an offer for maternity clothiers if I am a single 19 year old male in college).  The rub for most brands is how to achieve this.  Enter Big Data.

NOTE: I am feeling very under the weather today, hence I missed a post yesterday, but wanted to get something out today.  This is a reprint from my post on 5-10.  Please accept my apologies and read on.

A universe of seemingly unrelated data points leads to very interesting conclusions.  Target’s marketing to expectant mothers was in part based on their purchase of a particular lotion.  The computing power to combine all that data has been cost/resource prohibitive for most brands.  Today, cloud computing and rent-a-server services have brought this ability to many.

Look at your practices, closely and explain them well

Your first concern in this area should be your data collection and sourcing practices.  Do you buy behavior tracking data from analytics providers?  Do you track your user’s behavior off your site?  What about their purchasing decisions in your stores and on your site?  It’s all available to you.

How do you explain all this to your customer so you avoid that creepy-line that I always talk about?  Like most privacy type discussions I think you start at the end (and future-proof as well) and work backwards.  Ask what you want to do and determine what data you need to support that.  If you want to provide timely advice to the homeowner regarding home maintenance items such as furnace filters, you need a few pieces of information.  You need to know what size the homeowner has, when they last replaced it, that they are in your store and communicate with their payment provider regarding any offers.  When you make that offer, I would also recommend putting some sort of modal bubble up which explains all that data behind the offer.

Using Big Data does run up against the creepy-line, or Big Brother as the post title suggests, for some consumers.  I think intuitively that this is a probably demographic break, but I also think that this is a break along technology users and non-users.  Another digital divide, if you will.  For those of us (even those who are a bit older) who regularly use technology we are probably a bit more open to data gathering.

Incorporate privacy by design principles

It is incredibly important as you go along these journeys to have knowledgeable and experienced privacy professionals there with you.  Do not leave this up to your development teams or your technologists.  Not because they want to do nefarious things with the data, but because they are too close to the problem.  Ask most developers if they think it would be cool to do things like this, and most of the time you will get a yes.

This also includes looking at all the downstream uses of this analysis.  Are you going to sell it?  Are you going to put a line in the sand that “none shall pass?”  You need to document what you are doing with each project in these areas and have consistency.  That’s where your privacy team or your consumer ombudsmen comes in.  They can watch over a myriad of projects and see how they all come together.

Walk a mile in their shoes

I think there is a recurring theme around SoLoMo emerging here.  Put yourself in the shoes of your customers, fans, etc.  Look at it from their perspective, and look at it critically.  Just because you think it would be great to ping your fan when their gas tank is nearly empty with an offer for cheaper gas, is your user base ready for it.

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