Every day, 2.5 million journeys are made on Singapore's MRT1. Our credit cards carry S$130 million of transactions2 and we send more than 37 million texts3. These are just three examples of the billions of micro-data points that are created in Singapore daily. Almost every interaction we have and every decision we make leaves a digital data impression – our data body language – that can be analysed and interpreted.
For years people have spoken of big data, deep analytics, and the need for data scientists. And it's understandable. Companies that know how to use data to unlock the needs and cravings of their customers can create powerful connections.
The trouble is, whilst most people see the potential in data, a spreadsheet of numbers can still seem impenetrable or confronting. It's certainly not human. And yet as marketers or salespeople, our role is precisely to empathise with others and understand their motivations, the exact same reason why building personas and customer journeys are so critical to modern marketing.
At its simplest, reading data body language is the process of humanising our target audiences. It allows us to analyse combinations of transactional, behavioural, and research data to create recognisable people that we can relate to so that we may see the world through their eyes.
This reading of a customer's data body language is crucial.
It enables us to truly understand how and why a customer behaves as they do, which in turn enables us to determine the best value exchange – what can I give or do with a customer to change their behaviour? It's about understanding the nuanced behaviours and combination of decisions customers make every day. Because just like an offline conversation, where roughly 80 percent of meaning is conveyed through tone, facial expressions, and our body movements, digital behaviours can tell us so much4.
Actions speak louder than words
As those in research will know, focus group moderators must coax strangers into sharing their intimate views on a range of subjects. More often, their body language (crossed arms, leaning forward, etc.) is more telling and insightful than their responses. This is the part we can't hide – it's typically involuntary, rather than the more controlled "what I think I should say".
Adopting this philosophy of data body language, we use Audience Intent Modelling (AIM) to extend our understanding of customers. At its heart it's the interpretation of social listening and Google Analytics results across their decision making journey. It helps us understand traffic volume, language choices, public sentiment, behaviour, and intent at scale.
Because after all: few of us lie to Google – we search for what interests us.
Scouring for diamonds in the rough
Companies like Singapore-based Sqreem have taken this idea even further. By combining search, social, 3rd party data, and client data, their algorithm can find otherwise unidentifiable connections and insights.
My favourite? Many Singapore credit cards offer free cabin luggage as an incentive at acquisition. Sqreem rightly identified that a more appropriate and similarly priced gift would be an Olympus camera. They had tracked the intent behaviours of the target audience and knew what they wanted to buy. In a saturated and competitive market, this differentiation saw their client's sales increase.
For too long, data has been recognised as the lifeblood of modern marketing but spoken of as though it's the preserve of mathematicians alone. The truth is far more creative. The strength of data is only as good as the quality of interpretation. And for marketing, the ability to understand the underlying motivations of customer behaviours.
As you build your data capabilities, beyond the essential analytics tools and automation platforms, ask yourself: who on my team will help interpret the data body language? Who will translate our data and help us understand what matters most to our customers?
1LT Statistics in brief 2015
2MAS Credit and Charge card statistics, April 2016
3Singapore in Figures, Transport and Communications, 2015
4Mehrabian & Wiener, 1967 and Mehrabian & Ferris, 1967
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Jason Hill is Ogilvy's Chief Strategy Officer in Singapore, a role that sees him leading the office's strategy group across a range of capabilities spanning brand planning, customer engagement, channel, data analytics and social strategy.
In his previous role as Ogilvy's Head of Consulting & Data Analytics in Singapore, he led teams of strategy and data specialists to combine customer insights and data analytics with creative interpretation to develop strategic solutions for some of the agency’s largest local and international clients.
With over two decades of strategic marketing experience, Hill brings substantial expertise in areas such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Value Proposition Development, Strategic Business Planning, and Data-led Communications Strategies.