Why Data Is the New Oil


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Article ImageTech brands dominate the list of most valuable companies, and a huge part of this is the value of data. So it’s no surprise that there is nothing hotter in the mobile world right now than data. One of the reasons for this is the software and hardware of mobile have matured and now offer marketers a plethora of tools to reach and engage customers like never before. The mobile ecosystem has been fine-tuned over the last 10 years via programmatic, apps, and social media growing and changing how we market and how we live our lives.

The explosion of apps, mobile content, social networks, messaging services, and mobile experiences (such as augmented reality; AR) has become possible because more than 2 billion people have a smartphone, and they upgrade it roughly every 2 years for something more powerful and with even more sensors. This relays data to enrich the customer experience further. Then there are the apps themselves. If an app is free, it means the customer is paying with his or her data. But it’s estimated that only 2% of the data out there is actionable and insightful. Mining and creating value from data are now paramount to business models. Everything can be measured, but what are the most important things to measure? Let’s find out.  

What We Listen To

Apple’s recent $400 million acquisition of Shazam is all about data. This data will better equip Apple to fight on two fronts. First, to compete with Spotify, it now has the listening habits of the 1 billion people who use Shazam and can begin to absorb the service into the Apple OS. Second, in its fight to become the OS of the home, it can exclusively integrate Shazam with Siri and its smart speakers to provide a richer, better customer experience powered by data. Ultimately, Apple can help people discover music in richer and more interesting ways. 

What We Watch

A great example of a data-centered approach to content creation is Netflix, which has an internal philosophy that helps it make better decisions by asking better questions of its team. The decisions made are powered by data, as opposed to using data in isolation to back up a hunch. Netflix was an early adopter of data and has grown and transformed as a result.

Netflix makes better business decisions based on superior data and data visualization tools and a culture that recognizes the importance of both. Its analytics capabilities are immense, and the metadata that powers Netflix’s personalization engine is more detailed than competitors’ by an order of magnitude. That level of data analytics even extends to the colors on the House of Cards posters. Netflix’s three rules are:

  1. Data should be accessible, easy to discover, and easy to process for everyone.
  2. Whether your dataset is large or small, being able to visualize it makes it easier to explain.
  3. The longer you take to find the data, the less valuable it becomes.

How We Move

Mobile is ubiquitous. The power behind the growth in mobile software and apps, in particular, has been in their ability to form habits and access location data. New services have arisen that we didn’t know we needed and now can’t live without. Take Uber, for example. It requires access to a user’s location to be functional. This provides Uber with a treasure trove of data and therefore business value.

The abundance of sensors, devices, and real-time data is changing how we get from A to B. Travel patterns are being transformed. Uber Movement provides anonymized data from more than 2 billion trips to help urban planning around the world. Meanwhile, Google’s acquisition of Waze enriches the Google ecosystem by adding community-driven data and traffic patterns. And we are just getting started ahead of driverless cars, smart cities, and beyond. 

How We Market

The rich marketing tech and ad tech ecosystem now available can offer one-to-one marketing innovation and automation, but has also given rise to ad fraud and concerns over brand safety. Marketing is becoming more science than art due to the volumes and platforms available. But these dangers persist because so much of what happens in marketing is powered by data, and the sheer volume of opportunity isn’t easily regulated through human oversight. Trigger-based electronic customer relationship management, A/B testing, and real-time segmentation of web or app users also enable marketers to boost conversion and ROI based on data signals. With social media, so much of achieving success is about better insights and understanding the science of the algorithm to, for example, write better metadata or ensure the first 5 seconds of a YouTube video is on point. 

Data should be the fuel for a great campaign or customer experience. Paying attention to the right data is key. 

What We Eat

Social media is now killing our taste buds, as well as inflicting FOMO (fear of missing out) on us. There’s evidence to suggest that looking at pictures of friends’ meals on Instagram and Pinterest makes your own meal taste bland by comparison. User reviews take the influence of social media on our lives a step further. The proliferation of user reviews means any experience—positive or negative, factual or fictitious—becomes a piece of data and a piece of user-generated content that can persuade or dissuade someone from eating at your restaurant.

How We Exercise

The likes of Nike Plus, Fitbit, and Apple Watch now enable us to measure our heartbeat, steps, and activity. The “quantified self” movement is now beginning to change health forever. Doctors are talking about prescribing apps and new devices. In fact, in the health industry, the talk is about the move from prescription to prevention via mobile and data. The inventor of THQ is rumored to be working for Apple on new headphones that can sense and listen to blood flow—and even predict if you are going to have a heart attack.

Initiatives such as digestible sensors and Apple Health are driving new forms of medical intervention, such as digital therapeutics. This discipline seeks to replace medication with behavioral-based treatment, such as apps that use visualization exercises to help insomnia sufferers as an alternative to sleeping pills. 

Summing Up

Data is changing everything—including how we move, our health, and our content consumption habits. The realization that better data is good for business has seen data scientists and the chief data officer role become the new office rock stars. Embracing data needs to happen organization-wise, not just in silos. Ultimately, if you are generating insights from data and making better decisions, you will succeed.

The brands that are winning on mobile (such as Apple, Google, Uber, Netflix, and Amazon) all have one thing in common: They embrace and harness powerful data to make better decisions and create massive business value.  


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