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The Fake News of Data, AI and Personalisation


INFLUENCER: POSSIBLE LA's Andrew Solmssen on how to decide if a data tech investment is right for you

The Fake News of Data, AI and Personalisation

I recently read a promotion for a conference on AI. Its premise was that anyone could and should leap into AI. To prove its point, it began by saying that most people think AI is only for large tech companies like Amazon and Microsoft. It then pointed out that smaller companies, like Stitch Fix, were also getting into the act. The overall message was that if they can do it, you can too.

If we’re being honest, the unspoken message in all of this is fearful. What will happen to your brand if you don’t incorporate AI into your customer experiences? Will you risk getting left behind? Will you be disrupted?

I like to call this the 'fake news' of data. Fake news occurs because most of us do not have access to facts or in this case a deep understanding of technology. As a result, we can be easily tricked, especially when the stories play on our worst emotions.

Most marketers, for example, know what a DMP is, but it’s equally true that most have no practical experience with one. Most understand data in the abstract, but not in the details. Anyone can exploit that gap with fake news, whether to sell you on a conference or convince you to invest in a major initiative for your business.

Not surprisingly, a recent study found that while 99 percent of all marketers feel data is important, 62 percent can’t use it to change messaging, and 59 percent aren’t satisfied with their technology investments. 

The Stitch Fix argument is a good example of how we get fooled. The truth is that a small, digital-native brand on the same scale and built on data is a best-case scenario for something like AI. That doesn’t at all mean that everyone can get into the game at the same pace. For most larger companies, getting to a future-ready state like that will be hard. It’s likely going to require at least an investment in a consumer data platform (CDP) to integrate and organise data from disparate systems first. For the short-term, it’s a better idea to find smaller CX opportunities to leverage data at specific touchpoints, rather than across the entire journey. 

So how can you decide if a data tech investment is right for you? It depends on several questions:

What is your business model? Some businesses, or parts of businesses, have a lot of potential to use data across the customer journey. For example, if you sell direct to the consumer (think e-commerce), you’re in great shape. You have tons of data on customer preferences and behaviour. It’s largely clean and unified, and ready to go. But if most of your business runs through channels over which you have less insight and control (such as dealers or third-party retailers), your opportunity of connecting data at every touchpoint is much more challenging. 

What is your long-term data strategy? Data strategy is about how you get from the place you are to the place your customers want you to be. It is not an end in itself, but a tool that can drive a better customer experience. If you’re Netflix, data is your business strategy. Your ability to maintain an edge is based on how well you use data insight to deliver what your customers love. However, not all businesses are built around data this way. If it’s not naturally a central part of your business model, you probably have groundwork to do, or better opportunities to use the data you have.

What is the state of your data? I’ve worked with the data inside hundreds of companies, and even in the same industry, data structure can vary wildly. You may have two companies selling clothes, one of which has a single, central data repository, while another may have grown by acquisition and has four distinct customer databases that can barely talk to one another. The good news in that case is that today you can find platforms that will be able to integrate it for you. If you can find a partner with experience implementing those platforms, you’ll be unified quicker than you might imagine. 

Are you punching within your category? Research has shown that customers today compare all brands to those that are using data to better serve their consumers. However, when it comes to the reality of data, it’s not always helpful to compare yourself to digitally native, upstart brands. Your strategy needs to be grounded in the reality of your business model and industry requirements. Instead, start with what your customers want and expect from you, and build the data-driven experience that makes the most sense for your brand.

Data and AI are essential tools for growth. Therefore, it’s easy to get caught up in the fake news. It’s better to make a clear-headed assessment of what your customers need and want, and then look at the state of your data to determine what the right next steps are for you. Everyone’s data is different, so in this instance you should feel empowered to take your own path.

Andrew Solmssen is managing director, POSSIBLE LA

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POSSIBLE North America, Fri, 17 May 2019 09:41:14 GMT