Incomplete Insights

Molly Soat
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways
  • Predictive models and e-scores are valuable to marketers, streamlining research that even 10 years ago would have taken months or years to organize, but critics say that these can limit a marketer’s view of an individual consumer.
  • The Internet—intended to be the great equalizer of influence and information sharing—has become a yardstick by which to measure consumers and to rank them based on their potential spending behaviors.
  • Most consumers are unaware of the amount of data, first of all, that they’re providing by virtue of their behavior online and, for that matter, their behavior when they use a credit card or when they shop where a scanner is present, so it would probably behoove consumers to be a bit more aware of what information is being shared.

Marketers now have troves of consumer data at the ready thanks to the burgeoning stores of Big Data, but even good data might not paint the most accurate picture of the consumer in question

More and more brands rely on Big-Data-derived consumer profiles to deliver messaging and ads for what they predict that a consumer will buy, but the information that companies can gather online isn’t the whole story. Big Data is lauded as a font of consumer information and insights just waiting to be tapped, but it’s risky to assume that a consumer’s online behavior accurately represents him, his needs and his wants.

Even the techiest among us doesn’t research or complete every purchase online and for the majority, it’s safe to say that our online selves represent an imperfect view of reality. So what does that mean for marketers who are relying heavily on behavioral tracking, online purchase records and other digitally derived data to target more accurately? Or for consumers who, in this age of “relevance,” might see only loosely applicable marketing messages or might not be exposed to the messaging that would really ring true?

This issue goes deeper than the problem of poorly targeted marketing messages, as marketing serves an educational role in society, which is especially important in industries such as health care and finance. When consumers are lumped into a certain category or socioeconomic status, their exposure to diverse messaging could be limited, their consideration sets might narrow and their future behavior could be constrained.

Big Data has big potential, of course, but it could create big problems for both marketers and consumers if it plays too large a role in marketers’ customer insight strategies, experts say.

A Numbers Game

There are now dozens of companies that create predictive models based on readily available consumer data. These companies aim not only to track and qualify behavior, but also to predict future buying behaviors by rating consumers via digitally derived profiles or with so-called e-scores, numerical scores attributed to customers based on their perceived purchase power.​

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Author Bio:

Molly Soat
​Molly Soat is a staff writer for Marketing News. She can be reached at

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