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Society - Written by on Friday, February 27, 2009 15:44 - 2 Comments

Naumi Haque
Reality mining: A real life scenario

We often talk about the concept of reality mining, or using technology tools to identify patterns in behaviour. It can be kind of an abstract concept, but opportunities exist for companies to measure, understand, and extract value from all sorts of everyday consumer activities. By learning more about their customers, companies can better inform product decisions, improve marketing, and offer more targeted sales and customer service strategies.

If you want to think about where companies can tap in, just think about the hundreds or thousands of data points you create each and every day. As an example, Alan and I were talking about my last Rogers bill and I just realized that I’m leaving a data trail that any savvy marketer could sniff out from a (virtual) mile away. Privacy concerns aside, if the good folks over at Rogers ever decided to mine my data from the last 30 days or so, it would be pretty easy to decipher what I’ve been up to lately. Consider the following:

  • My cell phone was off for almost two days straight, with the exception of a series of call made at random hours of the day to two phone numbers.
  • Phone records might reveal those numbers belonged to my parents (easily discernable by last name) and my wife’s parents (maybe not as obvious).
  • Triangulation of my cell phone signal during those brief calls would indicate that I was at a hospital.
  • Following those two days of cellular silence, there was a flurry of in-bound calls from all over the globe – although few calls were answered.
  • About a week later there was a corresponding flurry of outbound calls.
  • Additional triangulation of my phone signal might reveal that I was at home the entire time after leaving the hospital (and overall, more home-bound throughout the rest of the month).
  • Two weeks later there was a dramatic increase in calls and text messages between me and my wife during work hours.

Any guesses?

If Rogers was still confused, they might want to check my cable and Internet usage. At a macro level, TV watching increased dramatically over the past month, especially during the day. Interest in On-Demand content was way up. Daytime Internet use was also up. At a more granular level, specific browsing history (assuming they are able to decipher this information – again, privacy, legal, and ethical issues aside) would reveal certain Web content preferences such as lactation advice, baby-related content, and Facebook. And the final giveaway: a newfound interest in John and Kate Plus 8.

So why does this matter? Consider the opportunities for Rogers to target new parents: They know we’re spending more time at home and are facing new “challenges” with respect to how we consume media (we rented Max Payne last weekend and it took us four days to get through it). What could they do improve our customer experience? A longer viewing time for On-Demand movies might be nice (currently you get 24 hours to view a pay-per-view rental). How about a new parent “freebie” to congratulate us on the arrival of our baby? Maybe a discount (or up-sell) related to On-Demand programming? Since my wife and I are communicating more frequently, how about a couples package for our cell phones or free daytime text messaging? Rogers Media owns magazines too – maybe they could pitch us on Today’s Parent with a one-month-free trial?

Thinking beyond my wife and I; a new family member offers entirely new opportunities. If they consider the customer lifecycle, they may want to ping me in a year or two to make me aware of children’s programming and specialty channels aimed at kids. They could also offer me tips on parental controls for both cable and Internet. Thinking longer-term, they could ping me again in 10 years to see if we need a home phone (or cell phone) for our son (currently we both only use our cells). It all gets back to taking time to get to know the customer and offering compelling experiences.


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Yuan Ding
Apr 17, 2009 10:51

Data mining is at the heart of good CRM. Retailers mine through a sea of information in hopes of finding the gold nugget: a formula that will dig deeper into the consumer’s pockets. This is based on common sense; the best way to sell is to first understand and relate to the person you are trying to sell to.

Your Rogers example clearly illustrates the value of keeping tabs on the customer. If so much insight can be generated from a one-page phone bill, imagine how much of your lifestyle and values and be deciphered from a combination of bank statements, phone bills, loyalty programs, store receipts and so forth.

Ironically, Data mining’s greatest strength can also be its most crippling weakness. Automation. Using a software to crank out customer patterns seems efficient, but is it effective? As I was going through your phone transactions, numerous outcomes came to mind; you might be getting married soon, you could have broken a leg and seeking treatment at the local hospital, there was a family feud, you are on vacation and taking a break from work, etc… However, a lot of the options can be eliminated by combining your phone bill with other sources of data such as cable and internet usage.

During my years in retail, I’ve tried to build customer relationships by keeping track of purchase data and drawing conclusions with regards to buying patterns. One time, as I was calling a customer to remind him of his wife’s birthday and hint a potential visit to our jewellery store, I was confronted with the embarrassing revelation that the lady he had listed in our store file is not actually his wife, but his mistress. This goes to show that while keeping track of data points may be effective, it is by far not a substitute for face to face conversations with real people.

Wikinomics» Blog Archive » A future vision of CRM
Oct 8, 2009 10:09

[...] this, you’re ready to move on to new sources of data. In this case, I’m thinking about reality mining, social networks, forums, blogs, and other digital venues where customers are engaging in behaviors [...]

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