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Show me the data

Posted on: September 15, 2010

I like to think of myself as someone who makes informed decisions. Whether it’s researching flights on my favorite travel site or picking the perfect restaurant for a festive night out, I am completely hooked on the instantaneous access we get to endless streams of information online.

As a consumer, I love the ease and convenience of using the Web to help me with most, if not all, of my daily tasks. But, as a marketer, when I begin to think about all the data sitting in all those warehouses and all those clouds, it gets me a bit overwhelmed.

After all, in the direct marketing world, we’ve been working a very long time to achieve the holy grail –right offer/right person/right time. And, how do we do that? Data.
With so much of it out there — little bits left behind as we course through both the real and virtual worlds — it’s piling up fast. Just ask Google.

So, how do we manage it and make sense of it all?

Apparently, quite nicely, thank you.

I’ve been admiring a company called [x+1] for some time now. They’re doing a lot of number crunching to create some sophisticated algorithms that get marketers awfully close to the holy grail. Even the Wall Street Journal has picked up on it:“Websites are gaining the ability to decide whether or not you’d be a good customer, before you tell them a single thing about yourself.”

Companies like x+1 may seem a bit out there in the realm of direct marketing, but when we consider the meta-trends, we can see “digital” is already happening in many, many places today.

A recently released Winterberry Group whitepaper forecasts that by 2012, U.S. marketers will dedicate $7.8B on marketing data and associated services, with “digital” comprising 10.8% of the mix — over $840MM. The other 89.2% of that spending, of course, will be for offline or “non-digital” data and services.

So, here’s the thing —  in 2008 the number was $10.3B total spending — of which just 3% ($300MM) was digital. Data — and digital data in particular — is proliferating. But, as spending on offline data/services decreases each year, spending on the digital equivalent isn’t picking up the slack. It’s just that much more efficient to handle, manage, manipulate and store electronic information. Period.

It certainly isn’t lights out, yet, for offline data  — nearly $7.0B in spending in 2012 is definitely no small potatoes. But if I’m going to make an informed decision for the focus at Wilson — my money’s on digital.

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