What is Actionable Data... and How Do You Use It?

By Ashish Gambhir Co-founder , newBrandAnalytics | November 06, 2011

In today's world of consumer-generated content, companies are swimming, if not drowning, in oceans of feedback. TripAdvisor alone attracts more than 41.6 million users a month and features 40 million reviews of hotels and restaurants worldwide. Facebook boasts some more than 750 million active users worldwide, 95 million Tweets are generated daily, and Yelp has surpassed 50 million monthly unique users. The number of Foursquare check-ins exploded by 3400% in 2010.

There is no denying that online guest feedback generates vast amounts of data. Given the rapid proliferation of new technologies, which some say are doubling the quantity of business data every 1.2 years, it is not surprising that companies struggle to take full advantage of it. New competitive advantages are emerging depending on a company's ability to extract actionable insights from these online conversations.

Case in point. In January 2009, PepsiCo introduced new packaging for its Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice. Instead of the traditional straw-in-an-orange image, the carton featured a picture of a glass of orange juice. Consumers did not respond favorably online, many even vowing to boycott the brand, and they voiced their displeasure in social networks. Less than 2 months later, bowing to consumer demand, PepsiCo announced it would discontinue the new design and revert to the old one.

As this example illustrates, whether sharing positive or negative feedback, social media's growing power as a real-time consumer sounding board opens the door for a new level of customer intelligence because it represents the most important elements of the experience as defined by the customer.

Unfortunately, many marketers and operators find it challenging to use this data to inform an enterprise-view of their customers. The Intelligent Approach to Customer Intelligence (2009), by Forrester Research, raises this issue. The report, which highlights the difficulty executives are having in using social media feedback data intelligently, explains that the majority of companies struggle to fully understand their customers and leverage their customer data as a strategic asset.

Unica's annual survey, "The State of Marketing 2011," revealed similar findings. Nearly 300 online and direct marketers across various industries, geographies, and company sizes were surveyed on key technology trends in their organizations. The research identified the need to "turn data into action" as the highest priority for marketers: nearly 60% of respondents listed "measurement, analysis, and learning" as their top technology challenge; more than 60% identified "turning data into action" as their top organizational issue.

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