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October 24, 2018

Is Data Really Just a “Bunch of Bunk”?

"Rather than rubbishing data out of hand, business leaders should be closely studying its true value"

By CBR Staff Writer

Apple is regarded as arguably the most forward-thinking company on the planet. Over the last 20 years, its products have revolutionised the way we communicate with each other, the way we listen to the music, the way we create art and much more.

In the same period, the use of data has become a key tool in the arsenal of any business looking to improve its products or services. The ability to accurately learn about how a customer is using a product, and how they would like to use it in the future, is more easily accessible than ever before.

REaD Group

Mark Roy, Chairman, REaD Group

You’d think that a business such as Apple would easily recognise the potential for data to propel a transformative company into a new generation.

Imagine my surprise, then, to hear Tim Cook – Apple’s current CEO – dismiss the notion that more customer data leads to superior products as a “bunch of bunk”.

A Bunch of Bunk? Cook is Behind the Curve

Frankly, Mr Cook is behind the curve, to the point of being disingenuous, if he doesn’t see the benefits of using comprehensive and accurate customer information. As a business that makes its money through selling hardware, not advertising, Apple’s use of data may differ from other leading tech firm—but it has still benefitted greatly from the collection of customer insight.

Read this: Morrisons Loses Data Breach Appeal: A “Serious Warning” for Business Leaders

Apple’s website includes a list of the types of data it collects from its customers, enabling us to  understand exactly how it goes about using it.

App usage information, App Store purchase history and marketing communications are all stored so that its services can be better refined and personalised. This can happen in countless ways: how people use iTunes can be studied to create a better user experience, or the way a person navigates the App Store can be tracked so that relevant apps are shown to them first.

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bunch of bunkMr Cook may be right that data isn’t the be-all and end-all of a company’s service proposition. Data alone, without talent, creativity or business nous, will not create a successful enterprise.

But for those businesses that want to take the next step, and want a deeper understanding of their own customers, it is an indispensable tool—especially for any business operating in an omnichannel environment.

His company’s position on privacy is admirable. Apple’s new privacy policy requiring apps to inform users of how their data will be used will, hopefully, foster transparency and trust between developers and consumers. However, with the recent introduction of GDPR, he is at risk of being cautious to the point of detriment.

GDPR Isn’t a Reason to be Fearful

GDPR means that any data now collected must comply with strict regulations. But that’s not a reason to be fearful—in fact, it’s quite the opposite. If GDPR compliance is in place, there is no doubt that the comprehensive use of data will enable better commercial decisions.

Take marketing as an example: access to data enables the creation of more personalised campaigns and increasing ROI, as well as improved customer acquisition and engagement.

“Personalisation” may have become something of a marketing buzzword in recent years, but that doesn’t detract from the fact it has become a fundamental pillar on which modern marketing succeeds or fails. The appetite for more personalisation is widely recognised. In a 2017 survey from Segment, only 22 percent of shoppers were satisfied with the level of personalisation they currently received. Brands can meet that desire through clever and transparent use of data.

Segmentation and Modelling Bring Benefits

Data enables more accurate market segmentation and audience modelling, which is one way in which businesses can plug the personalisation gap. It goes without saying that a bad audience model is going to lead to bad marketing results. Data is the obvious way of drilling deep into your audience profiles, learning what makes each segment tick and how to move them closer to purchase. Through that, effective, personalised marketing campaigns – that go far beyond changing the name on a letter or email – can be launched that create a lasting affinity between customer and brand.

Advantages such as these are recognised across the industry, which is why Mr Cook’s bunch of bunk statement was so perplexing!

Rather than rubbishing data out of hand, business leaders should be closely studying its true value. This has become more important than ever in Europe—where companies are putting themselves at financial and reputational risk if they don’t have a full understanding of data and its use. Even more so than this, they would also be missing out on its transformational potential. When used correctly, data holds the key to upgrading user experience, inspiring meaningful loyalty campaigns and fostering deeper connections with customers. That sounds far from a “bunch of bunk” to me.

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