Do you ever wish companies had more of your data? Very few people will answer yes to that question, at least when phrased this way. But imagine if, everywhere you turned, companies used your data to make your life better. Would you provide them select access to additional data, if the benefits to you were clear and you trusted the company?

A few days ago I found myself asking myself this – and answering “yes” – for the first time ever. I was trying to select from dozens of credit card options, and was frustrated by the amount of research I had to do to make an informed decision. Did I want the card that focused on restaurant perks, or airline points? What membership level made sense for me? All the data that makes up my social footprint – demographic, psychographic, location, interest graph, social graph, etc.  – could help this trusted company make me the perfect recommendation. For example, judging from my Instagram photo locations, Foursquare check-ins, and other geo data, do I travel enough for an airline points to make sense? I wanted this company to have my data, to help me make a better decision.

I was thinking about this while working on the 2012 Social Trends Report, because one of the themes we discuss is the data-responsive company. Companies in nearly every space are starting to turn data into better products, smarter decisions, and great experiences. And they’re doing this faster, and more efficiently, than ever before. Here are five of my favorite examples of “data into doing.”

Parse.ly predicts the most traffic-grabbing content. The company’s SaaS analytics application mines traffic data to highlight trends based on authors, topics, geographies, keywords, and other factors. Users can discover which topics attract more traffic in which regions, or which topics have already peaked in attention (based on anonymized data from the collective Parse.ly user base), and use the information to craft content more likely to attract viewers.

Netflix short-circuits the pilot process. The online video streaming service is gathering massive amounts of data on users’ watching habits and preferences. As the company focusses on cutting costs, they’re using viewer data to evaluate new original programming from launch – promoting programs that attract repeat views and higher ratings, and quickly killing programs that fail. Viewer data also helps Netflix choose which cost-effective third party content to license.

Walmart crowdsources new products to stock. The Walmart Labs team launched a “Get on the Shelf” contest, inviting entrepreneurs to pitch their product ideas online. Consumers could then vote for the items they’d most like to see in stores; over a million votes were cast. The votes guaranteed demand for the products selected, and the top three most popular products are now available in Walmart aisles.

Williams-Sonoma creates personalized multichannel marketing. The retailer combined its customer database with third party data on 60 million households, including factors like income, number of children, home value, etc. They use this data to create different versions of catalogues and targeted emails that speak to shoppers’ individual needs, for relevant marketing and a more satisfying multichannel customer experience. These data-driven emails can generate 10-18 times the response rates of generalized emails.

AMEX powers highly relevant mobile ads. A new American Express mobile app uses consumers’ transaction history and location data to offer users discounts. The credit card company will also create a “commerce ID” for customers, summing their transactions, locations, and brand loyalty. Partner brands can then target these consumers with discounts while near a particular store, or while browsing certain relevant internet sites. Unlike Facebook data, which often projects who consumers want to be rather than who they truly are, the AMEX app data comes entirely from consumers’ real-world actions.

We’re still a long way from most people wishing companies had more of their data. Brands that use data to make consumers’ lives easier and their experiences more satisfying create a win-win relationship that encourages consumers to open up. As the companies they trust become data-responsive, consumers may be willing to share more to get more.

Learn how to become more data-responsive, and see the other trends shared by top brands in our 2012 Social Trends Report.

  • http://twitter.com/txTDM Tara DeMarco

    Hi James, it’s true that a lot of companies aren’t responsibly collecting and using consumer data. But a lot of companies are already finding ways to turn the data they have on consumers into mutual benefits – better products, better services, personalized experiences, etc. And as more companies start doing that, the better the marketplace will be for everyone involved.

    Thanks for your comment!

  • http://web.me.com/jimpasquale James Pasquale

    An intention economy and tools allowing the individual to manage the relationship is when I’ll go all in. Today’s TOSs are only one sided agreements which is no agreement at all. Individual gives up everything, vendor changes the rules at will and get released from being held accountable vis vi held harmless clauses.

    Until this happens let them try and figure it out wasting time and money on all that big data. I’ll click through when I have an intent.