Data Paralysis - Think Like You Work in Marketing

October 30th, 2017 Market Trends Retailers Suppliers

How marketers need to truly understand data science to stay ahead with product innovation.


Big data, was first named by Charlies Tilly at a conference in Buffalo in October 1980. Since its conception, computation power has grown, the cost of storage has reduced and modern data collection technologies have flourished.  New technologies and industries have appeared to try and exploit this data; crypto technologies, machine learning and robot process automation to name but a few. This has led to new fields of academic study, new business concepts like the Gartner Hype Cycle and a plethora of new jobs being created in the world of big data and data science every day.   

The downside of all of these technological advancement is something I will call “data paralysis” – we are bombarded by emails, spreadsheets, EPOS data, RFQ’s responses, and specifications. We are rapidly heading towards a data binge of epic proportions. At some point in the future we will have so much contradictory data that we might not be able to make a decision. This is also true for the consumer, there is too much choice.

Through analysis of data and choice, marketing departments have recognised a new consumer paradigm. The consumer has abandoned the funnel metaphor and now takes shortcuts. For example, if a supermarket’s private label product tastes good, or has received great reviews, the consumer builds a trust relationship with the brand, this help to create an association with all other products in that brand regardless of classical category.  If you would like more details, please read the article written by David C. Edelman published in the Harvard Business Review titled ‘Branding in the Digital age: You’re spending all your money in the wrong places’. The article discusses the consumer journey in greater detail. (Image source: David C. Edelman HBR- 2010).

Data paralysis is a problem for all of us – one simple piece of advice is to outsource, outsource, outsource. Concentrate on those areas that add value to your business and the consumer. If you want to find a supplier hit the Wabel button, if you want category insight call a specialist. Once your information needs are met one of the areas that can create tremendous amounts of value is innovation in the previous paragraph we explored the concept of brand trust how can we combine trust and innovation?


A different way of thinking

When it comes to the innovation for a category, can we think more like a marketing professional? Rather than targeting a segment should we instead try to understand the consumer’s problem?

Imagine a time deficient, young working couple (YWC), they are on the way home and they stop at a convenience store, they would like to share a dinner.  Are they looking to buy a meal or are they looking to share a dining experience?

You could sell a ready meal, problem solved.  What if the YWC spots a shelf promotion where you can buy a ready meal, a starter, a dessert and a drink for an excellent price. The YWC trusts the brand, likes the price tag and the net result is a fuller basket and happy consumers who may share the experience. The retailer has achieved a cross sell from four different categories and the retailer has created a dining experience. These meal deal exists in a number of retailers, it guides choice and increases the basket spend.

This concept of complementary choice is used brilliantly by Amazon. Clients who bought product X also bought product Y, would you like it to add it to your basket? Other examples include a complete nutrition programme from SIS or from High5, consisting of supplements for pre, during and post exercise. We have also seen the success of Hello Fresh and Gustso, companies that deliver the ingredient for a number of meals directly to your door. Could a retailer exploit these concepts? Can coalitions of private label manufactures be formed to create – grab and go trollies with recipe cards? 


Product innovation

This kind of innovative thinking can also extend to a product. Imagine the YWC have a child.  They are looking to buy their child a toothbrush. Are they actually looking for a toothbrush or are they looking to purchase healthy teeth and gums?

For your child to have healthy teeth, it’s more than just a toothbrush. You need an appropriate toothpaste with the right chemical formulation. You need to have a delivery method to get the toothpaste onto the toothbrush. You need to make the brushing process simple (electric) your child needs to like the taste of the toothpaste and finally you want your child to want to brush their teeth – make it fun. As it happens, start-ups are thinking in this way. This elegant solution caught my eye – https://buddiestoothpaste.com and is now officially being tested in the Peksa household. 


Final thoughts

Data paralysis is a modern problem, life would certainly be simpler without the constant barrage of information being thrown at us via e-mail, Facebook messenger, Twitter, WhatsApp, Skype and a number of other real time services. We need to stop and think about what is our problem and think more about how to help others with choice. Ideally, outsource your insight requirements, make a decision or buy a product – then use your time more creatively.

Just to close the article – this is not new, I take you back to 1960 to a statement from the legendary Harvard Business School marketing professor Theodore Levitt, "People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!"

People don’t want data paralysis, they want actionable insight! I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, please drop me a line.



Nick Peksa - Mintec Global