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Big Data Can Cause Big Problems if You Neglect the Human Dimension

 

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Big Data promises to be a goldmine, as long as consumers don’t think they’re getting the shaft.

 

That, in essence, is the message of a study by Boston Consulting Group that assesses opportunities and risks of Big Data’s ability to compile an exhaustive digital record of consumers’ quantifiable activities in shopping, customer service contacts, social media and more.

 

The study concludes that the human dimension has to be respected, even as marketers and brands move to make the most of the data they can collect at every touchpoint in their customers’ daily digital pathways.

 

Humanizing Big Data is important to Michael Smith, MFour’s Chief Product Officer and Director of Panel. He’ll give a presentation Thursday at 2:30 p.m. at the Big Data Summit in San Francisco that explores how advertisers and brands can gain deeper insights by surveying mobile panelists who, thanks to Big Data, have been identified and validated as actual recipients of mobile ads.

 

Getting back to Boston Consulting Group’s article, “Bridging the Trust Gap: The Hidden Landmine in Big Data” – well, the headline is right on point.

 

The opportunities are immense: BCG “conservatively estimates that trusted uses of big data and advanced analytics could unlock more than $1 trillion in value annually by 2020.” But, the article cautions, “recent BCG consumer research has uncovered a previously hidden obstacle to successfully unleashing this enormous opportunity: data misuse.”

 

Meeting the letter of the law for consumer privacy isn’t enough, BCG researchers say. People don’t care about legalisms – they want to be treated fairly and respectfully, trusting that their data won’t be misused. Most consumers’ don’t mind having their data tracked, so long as it’s used to improve a company’s products or services, or to give back desired and agreed-upon benefits such as discounts and useful product information. But “data misuse occurs when consumers are unpleasantly surprised upon learning that data…has been used in new ways…outside the purpose for which it was gathered,” BCG’s authors note. The “research suggests that consumers’ reaction to data misuse…can cause them to reduce their spending with a company by about one-third.”

 

It’s telling that Boston Consulting Group obtained these insights by surveying 8,000 consumers worldwide about their views on how their behavioral data is used. It’s a reminder that you can’t ignore the human dimension. Big Data can deliver unprecedented efficiencies in ushering shoppers to the point of purchase. But capturing motivations and emotions to truly understand consumers will always be an indispensable part of the process. Talking to real consumers is still the best way to find out whether their expectations are being met – and what consequences ensue when they aren’t. If you’ve got questions that need answers from real consumers, please get in touch at sales@mfour.com. We’d love to have a conversation about how advanced mobile data solutions can get the job done.