Must Every Marketer Depend Upon Big Data or Die?

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What does it mean to a business when Don Schultz, renowned professor of integrated marketing communications at Northwestern University writes, “Marketers no longer control the system . . . .  The consumer is an individual and acts, thinks and operates like an individual, which the marketer cannot control.”
The gist of his argument in the September/October 2015 issue of Marketing Insights is that linear, circular, even consistent behavior pattern models for market segments such as the funnel, hierarchy of effects, and shopping pathways are meaningless in the face of evidence that people are behaving like flies.  Consumers’ seemingly random decision-making processes suggest the wondering and yet perpetually active searching flight of flies seeking food or sex.   Consumer behavior is aimless wondering interrupted by intense effort, followed by more aimless wondering until the next opportunity for gratification presents itself.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][mk_image src=”” image_width=”800″ image_height=”350″ crop=”false” lightbox=”false” frame_style=”simple” target=”_self” caption_location=”inside-image” align=”left” margin_bottom=”10″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]
Professor Schultz model for this is, of course, more analytically graphic:  “Consumers are a moving kaleidoscope of continuing change.”  The only way for marketers to regain power over market segments is to approach them as individual consumers through Big Data: “We must look for patterns over time, not points in time.”
There is a paradox in Professor Schultz’s modern marketing management model:  “Networked, interactive, integrated marketing and communications plans and programs are needed, and they must be adaptable and adjustable to the continuously changing consumer.”  The paradox, of course, is that most businesses don’t have the economies of scale to attempt this kind of data driven marketing to relate to customers one-to-one, and instead have always relied on salespeople maintaining close enough contact with customers to know what they want.
This distinction implies that there are consumers and product categories that are switching to online sales where the customer takes on more responsibility and risk, versus customers and product categories that are dominated by human contact and physical examination of products.  A business that sells in both ways ends up needing two marketing plans: one plan for the in-person shoppers and one plan for online shoppers.
Has human nature changed so much that everything that made sense before internet selling no longer applies?  No.
Local shoppers still want to be informed through human contact.  Their consumer behavior purchase process is augmented by online information, but not determined by it. Online shoppers, on the other hand, present a different face of change to marketers.  The constant change appears as going in and out of phase with the product.  The marketer has to catch the consumer in the few moments when they are in phase with the product.
Marketers have to use research and sales analysis to decide how to allocate their marketing efforts between the two kinds of marketing.  The constant change in consumers perceived by retailing marketers is not so much a change of consumer needs as a change in thinking about what kind of energy to expend satisfying those needs.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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