The internet is buzzing about the Forbes article about how Target figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father did. Forbes also posted an article about how Diapers.com determines the lifetime value of a customer from their first click! Both of these articles made me happy to be a marketer, but my engineer husband was quick to point out that it was the statisticians who ran the numbers to come up with the amazing insight. So, I figured I should take the best of both of us and talk about how the marketers play nice with the statisticians 🙂
Humans are creatures of habit, and the human brain loves patterns. In general, the statisticians are trained to uncover patterns, and marketers are trained to capitalize on these patterns.
On data mining. First, I’d say that both the marketers and the statisticians love some data mining, but each discipline uses this function in a different way. Marketers contribute the right questions to ask about interpreting the data, and then how to implement the results of the data mining into an overall business strategy. The statisticians run the complicated regressions, and help build a profile that makes sense based on the numbers. Without marketers, you’d have random regressions for fun. Without statisticians, you’d have anecdotes and assumptions.
On using the results. Once the stats people figure out how to predict the behavior, the marketing people come in and actually influence the behavior. The Target article mentions that when they first started using the results of the analytics by sending women mailers with baby-related items, the women were freaked out that the retailer knew their most intimate secret. The marketers came in with a little extra insight into the human psyche and suggested mixing the baby coupons in with clothes, power tools, and kitchen items, so that the women wouldn’t feel “outed” by the retailer. The numbers themselves don’t tell the whole story, and they don’t tell you the best way to implement your new-found knowledge of your customer.
On spinning the use of the results. There’s been a dividing line in the reaction to both articles: those saying it’s creepy that retailers invade their privacy, and those asking where their targeted coupons are! Clearly, as a marketer, I lean towards wanting companies to know me and cater to me. I understand that this comes at a cost to my privacy, but for an easier and more rewarding shopping experience, I’m willing to make the sacrifice. When the statisticians came out with their amazing ability to know a customer based on the numbers, there was no spin about the benefits of using this data, and people felt a little violated. The marketers use their knowledge of value propositions to show how it actually benefits the customer. I don’t think the marketers are trying to pretend that it’s not invasive, but in the age of information and constant connection, it’s not like people don’t already know your business! Why not get some benefits from sharing your whole life with the whole world?
Both of these articles made me happy in my marketing soul! It’s this kind of synergy and application that makes it fun and rewarding to be in my profession. I know there’s some controversy about collecting, sharing, and utilizing data, but I think these instances are beneficial to consumers. See, the marketers and statisticians can play nice together, and ultimately, with the customer!