How to Avoid the Hangover from Overdoing It on Data

17th December 2015

It’s late 2015, and we’re only a matter of weeks away from holding hands in an awkward fashion, singing Auld Lang Syne and moving into 2016.  I think few would argue with the case that society can now be truly regarded as digital. With the development and progression in technology, even those with with very limited knowledge of digital marketing, now have access to a large range of intuitive tools, allowing them to hit the ground running.  To name a few of the most usable tools and resources – Google Analytics, Strikingly, MPZmail and Hootsuite


The main driving factors behind becoming more digitally focused are glaringly obvious: greater control of activity and budget, full transparency, instant access to an active and responsive audience, and most importantly collecting data that specifically relates to your business.

As a business we are fortunate enough to work on a broad range of digital projects. Irrespective of their size or complexity, what interests me more than virtually any other aspect of the process, is the consideration for data collection, its management and how actionable it is.  I take genuine pleasure in introducing clients to new tools or suggesting activity that may result in a deeper, more meaningful understanding of their business and their customer behaviour.  Ultimately I enjoy seeing how these insights, or nuggets of invaluable data, assist in generating a stronger response.  

The broad challenge is how to impress upon clients the importance of collecting and using some data, but also why having a strategy appropriate to their circumstances is just as significant.  By being appropriate, I am referring to a number of factors such as:

  • Number of facets to business model
  • The scale of the business
  • Resource and capability of person(s) responsible for data management
  • Scope for implementing changes


The opposing ends of the scale represent virtually no data, right through to vast data sets that are just far too large to interpret into anything vaguely useful.  
The objective therefore is to create equilibrium: having enough data to have practical application, but not so much you are overwhelmed.  A great place to start when identifying your data requirements is to simply outline a set of achievable business goals.  

Example: Let’s say you own and run an online store, selling a small range of consumer gadgets such as drones, remote control cars, phone accessories, travel aids and helpful kitchen devices.


Scenario 1

As the founder of the business you will (hopefully) have a genuine interest in gadgets and technology and, as such, regularly write or post articles about the products you stock, would like to stock or simply like/don’t like.

Objective and data requirement 1

  • Encourage site visitors to like, follow or comment on social media.
  • Grow your email database through email sign-up.


Scenario 2

In order to ensure you have enough of the right stock on your site you must order 4 months in advance with your supplier.  In addition, the stock you order needs to move quickly and offer a good return.  

Objective and data requirement 2

  • Understand how frequently items are added to shopping cart.
  • Understand how frequently items are purchased.
  • Understand how often items are interacted with.


Scenario 3

The number of transactions you record are healthy and consistent, however you wish to increase the average basket value.

Objective and data requirement 3

  • Highlight if there are trends between one item being purchased and another; i.e. are there a significant number of people who bought X and also Y, either in one or multiple transactions.  This would allow you to build a suggestion model.


Scenario 4

The volume of traffic coming to your site is reasonable but the people visiting don’t tend to make purchases as often as you would hope.

Objective and data requirement 4

  • You need to increase the volume of traffic.  Collecting demographic/behavioural data from social media and your own site might help you narrow your targeting options for some paid activity.  This would allow you to attract the right  visitor.
  • Qualify and pre-qualify the traffic coming  to your site for the first time or revisiting.  Essentially you need to concentrate on attracting the right people.  Running a site survey, creating a loyalty program or measuring your exit/ abandonment will help you understand what you are doing right or wrong.


All of the points above clearly outline what basic tasks you, as a business, may wish to achieve.  Underneath the tasks are listed what type of data and activity driving data is required.  A simple analogy might be using Google Maps on your phone; once you establish where you are and where you want to go, the path is clear.  However, without the data you would simply have a start and end point on a blank background, containing no reference points.  Data unveils the path of least resistance – it is effectively the names of all roads, towns and cities you could pass through for the most efficient journey.




The data requirements of your business will constantly adjust and evolve, however the best advice I could offer would be to keep things simple.  Test and manage the use of data and what impact these actions have on your business over time.  If you can’t easily make use of the data – don’t collect it.


Duncan Burgess: Head of Delivery | Spicerack Media Ltd