Forecast 2015: Fred Feinberg On Marketing Data


Michigan Ross professor says the marketing data revolution is just getting started.

Professor Fred Feinberg’s research focuses on how statistical models explain complex decisions by companies and consumers. He keeps close tabs on the latest trends in the creative use of data. Here’s what Feinberg, Joseph Handleman Professor of Marketing, sees as some of the important developments in 2015.

Increasing use of real-time, personalized marketing intelligence

Companies will learn how to better tap multiple streams of data to enable real-time marketing intelligence that’s highly personalized. Some of the most exciting sources are from geolocation on smartphones and “wearables.” Data (properly anonymized) can tell us all manner of information about where people are, what they’re out of or actively looking for, and what they may need down the road, all overlaid on their habitual patterns. This can provide the customer a seamless experience, because managers can give them real-time, relevant information non-intrusively. You’re already seeing this to some extent with mapping (e.g., Waze), and product recommendation engines like Amazon’s, but it will expand dramatically as crowdsourcing algorithms improve.

The cost of market testing will plummet

Dedicated applications and always-on data collection will allow tight, inexpensive tests of marketing tactics. Suppose you put an end-aisle display at the store, offer a coupon for a while, or place an ad on a website. Do they “work?” To even begin to address such questions, you need to know who walked down the aisle, who brought the coupon, and who actually saw your ad. This was nearly hopeless, or prohibitively expensive, in ‘traditional’ marketing. Now we see much better measurement of the effectiveness of online ad placement and special promotional offers. It often seems like peripheral noise, but it actually works. And we know this because we can measure these effects using massive, just-in-time data streams.

More products become services with local delivery

Vinyl records and even CDs seem hopelessly antiquated. Now DVDs for movies and “dead tree editions” of books are going in that direction — streamed right onto your personal devices. What people want in most cases is the content stored in the medium, not the medium itself. Shipping atoms around isn’t ideal; turning that content into bits is fantastically more efficient and will become even more so with the rise of micropayments. We’ll soon see a revolution in real-time, on-site 3-D printing that will make many tangible products “shippable” as bits. We in the educational industry are retooling for a time when we can reach a far wider audience when it’s most convenient for them to learn, all via digital tools that allow for real-time tracking and adaptivity that’s hard to distinguish from the elusive promise of artificial intelligence.

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