Small Data, Big Impact: How Brands Can Uplevel Their Small Data Strategies

Posted by Veronica Gage on March 25th, 2014 at 7:00 am

It’s no secret: Marketing is better when it revolves around data. From consumer insights to demographics to sales performance data, every piece of information has a use in the marketing funnel. While much has been said about the size and scale of data that marketers must use to successfully execute a campaign, some are starting to see that size doesn’t always matter in every situation.

Enter small data. Small data consists of specific, bounded datasets that can be turned into actionable insights. Foot traffic, search history, and real-time weather are all small data sets that marketers can analyze and interpret to provide a holistic view of their customers’ buying habits and preferences. This analysis can make a big difference for marketers in any industry because it helps them create marketing messages that are specific and contextually relevant.

We already see brands using small data everyday. Inventory is a great example of a discrete set of information that can be considered small data, and when combined with other data sets like foot traffic, it can provide beneficial information for marketers.

While many companies are already using small data sets like customer demographic information and inventory data to accomplish their goals, often they aren't connecting their offline campaigns to social data and platforms. Below are three examples of ways marketers are using small data today and suggestions for ways they can take it to the next level using social media.

LevelUp Uses Weather Data to Increase Restaurant Sales

Historically, restaurant sales go down when it’s raining, probably because people prefer not to venture out into the inclement weather. To combat this issue, LevelUp, a mobile payment and loyalty app, offers a special “make it rain” campaign to their merchant customers. The campaign is triggered by weather data, so when snow starts falling or wind starts howling, an email can be triggered that emails a merchant's customers offering them a few dollars off a purchase. The campaign helps drive in-store traffic on days when merchants would otherwise struggle to get customers in the door.

The Uplevel

LevelUp knows the value of weather data, and how that data, when used correctly, can help drive foot traffic and sales. To boost this strategy, merchants offering discounts could also sync social ad buys to certain weather conditions. Restaurants, bars, and coffee shops could set up an ad to automatically run on Twitter or Facebook in conjunction with certain weather conditions in a specific region. For example, whenever the temperature dips below freezing, or the chance of rain is above 70 percent, Facebook could run an ad with a special offer to audiences located in the affected areas. This is an example of how social media can enable marketers can use the same data and connect it to social data to reach a larger audience.

Super Bowl Advertisers Monitor Social Analytics

During the Super Bowl, brands like Chobani used social analytics and trending topic data to push out clever, timely posts on social media. Their tweets responded to customer comments about the game and various TV ads in real-time. To bring this to life, Chobani staffed a "war room" during the big game with advertising executives, company personnel and social-media experts who monitored real-time action on the Web.

The Uplevel

While brands may get a valuable, in-the-moment push from these efforts, “war rooms” require huge amounts of manpower. It’s often not feasible to have one on-hand at all times. Brands can uplevel these efforts using an automated algorithm to cost-effectively simulate the real-time war room, when staffing an entire social media team isn’t necessary. Brands should consider automating ad buys to correlate with specific data signals related to their competitors’ TV ad campaigns. If Chobani enlisted this strategy, they could automatically push out a Facebook ad every time a competitor -- like Dannon -- ran an ad for their product on TV. With 88 percent of consumers using their mobile phones while they're watching television (53 percent of them to look at social networks), marketers can ensure their brand messages hit a large audience at a moment when they might otherwise choose to engage with the competition. Automation allows brands to respond in real time, all the time.

Inventory Data

In any industry, a surplus of inventory can lead to major profit losses. For hotels, this comes in the form of empty rooms. One of the best ways to sell open rooms at the last minute is via same-day booking apps like HotelTonight. It’s a solid strategy, considering that same-day bookings accounted for 29 percent of all U.S. hotel bookings last quarter. To use HotelTonight, hotels report a set of small data -- their day-of inventory -- to the app, and HotelTonight offers the empty rooms to travelers at a discounted price. The app’s success has attracted a number of global hotel chains, including InterContinental Hotels Group, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Best Western International, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, FRHI Hotels & Resorts, La Quinta Inn & Suites, Barcelo Hotels & Resorts and Steigenberger Hotel Group.

The Uplevel

Amplifying these efforts to sell last-minute rooms on social could have a huge impact for hotels. To do this, hotels should combine that same set of day-of inventory data with Facebook and Twitter data to trigger an ad buy when a certain number of rooms becomes available. Marketers can also combine other small data sets, like location and likes, with the inventory data to better target campaigns. Using social data, marketers can reach consumers who are interested in travel, specific countries, and located in a certain region. Instead of waiting for interested users to sign into HotelTonight, hotels can proactively (and intelligently) find those potentially interested users themselves. Same data, bigger target.

Small data is an extremely powerful asset for marketers. In order to uplevel existing small data strategies, brands should look to combine useful data sets with the rich information present on social, and the amplification power of social platforms.

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