It’s fair to say that 2016 has been another formative year for data. As the buzzword that was ‘Big Data’ has fast become yesterday’s term in the marketing lexicon, the industry has finally woken up to the array of challenges posed by the astonishing rate at which data volume is growing. The question around how to process, utilise and optimise this data has sparked intense discussion, debate and debacle over the past year. And whilst these broad questions will continue to dominate data conversations in 2017, some key issues will undoubtedly emerge throughout the course of the year. Here, we take a look at the top four data themes set to play an important part in 2017.

Accuracy

It may stand to reason that the more data you have, the more accurate your insights will be. But believe it or not, the explosion in volumes of data has led to increasing challenges when it comes to utilising such data optimally. Huge volumes of seemingly unrelated data is a fantastic opportunity for the marketer, however, it can be fraught with potential obstacles and traps if not used properly. New buzzwords such as Rich Data and Fast Data have emerged which in simplistic terms means the nuggets in the data are accessible quickly. We are also in danger of forgetting the basics. Data ‘ages’ or ‘decays’ (yes more buzzwords) at an alarming rate – in basic terms that means it becomes out of date. People change, they move house, they change life stage, they change preferences and needs and they unfortunately die. Without an up to date and accurate view, companies waste huge resources by targeting the wrong people, with the wrong messages, through the wrong channels. Data Hygiene, the process by which businesses can clean their customer databases through sophisticated algorithms and against much more robust data sets, will become even more important in 2017 as businesses seek to derive quality from quantity.

Politics

The outcome of the EU Referendum was not the only political moment to send shockwaves through the data industry in 2016. After finding itself in the eye of a tabloid storm towards the end of 2015, the charity sector has faced a year of dressing down by UK Government over its questionable use of consumer data. This has ultimately culminated in the development of a new Fundraising Preference Service, which will drastically limit the opportunities that charities have to reach out to prospects and raise funds. The government’s decision to weigh in on data use in the charity sector has set a dangerous precedent and calls into question which sector may be at the mercy of state intervention next. We’re likely to see the data industry engaging much more with the political sphere in 2017 in order to avoid a repeat scenario.

GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the widely-anticipated piece of European legislation scheduled for implementation in May 2018, and it will be a term on everyone’s lips in 2017. The new legislation is set to replace outdated data protection laws and every company in possession of EU citizen data will have to abide by the new rules. Britain’s decision to leave the EU has led to a sense of complacency in Britain’s approach to the GDPR. Many UK companies mistakenly believe Brexit will excuse them from this legislation. This is not the case and as a result preparation must start now. 2017 will be the year businesses will need to get their ducks in a row when it comes to data protection or risk fines of up to 4% of annual global turnover.

Lead generation

Cold contact has long had its day. Even in the digital realm, consumers are growing increasingly fatigued by unsolicited marketing messages. Every marketer knows that a much more effective strategy is to ‘really’ target individuals properly. It’s an old phrase but 'right person, right message, right time' is still as true as ever. Just add ‘right channel’. Hopefully 2017 will be a year where businesses invest intelligently in collecting the right data through whatever applicable channel. Marketing to consumers that have already expressed an interest in your company’s product or service in some way, shape or form will always be more successful. As such, 2017 will be the year in which more businesses seek to generate data through a hands-up approach to data collection. This will ultimately provide more accurate and actionable insights.

 

It is clear that 2017 is set to be another exciting year in data. There will no doubt be more problems (sorry opportunities) as organisations contend with increasing volumes of data, impending regulations, and an unpredictable political landscape. But we can expect bigger and better things from the industry as we continue to enhance our capabilities, refine our practices and deliver greater results from data in 2017.

 

By Jon Cano-Lopez, chief executive at REaD Group

 

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