CES 2015 Recap: How Marketers Can Use Big Data in the Path to Purchase

January 14, 2015

This post by LinkedIn's Head of Marketing Products, Russell Glass, originally appeared on the Digitas blog as part of their coverage of CES 2015.

CES 2015 showcased disruption in the path to purchase. Here's how marketers can use big data to take advantage.

At previous CES events, tech companies exhibited hardware such as personal computers, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones that have given consumers widespread access to the Internet -- which has in turn transformed how consumers consume information, do research and make their purchase decisions. Additionally, software products and websites, such as search engines, social media networks, and product review sites, also had coming out parties at CES and have gone on to fundamentally change the buyer's journey.

CES 2015 is no exception.. At this year's event, exhibitors are showing off new mobile devices, wearables, and other connected products that are the building blocks of the Internet of Things. The big data created by these new products will further transform the consumer's path to purchase and provide marketers a giant opportunity to gain deeper insight into their customers.

Mobile's Influence on the Path to Purchase

Ahead of this year's CES, the Consumer Electronics Association, which puts on the show, released research that illuminates some of these changes in the consumer's path to purchase. Here's one finding that demonstrates mobile's increasing influence on the buyer's journey: 58 percent of shoppers who use mobile phones prefer to look up information on their devices rather than consulting an in-store salesperson.

This finding is both amazing and instructive. Buyers would rather visit product review sites and consult with their peers online to gain pricing and other product information than speak with a salesperson 10 feet away from them. It's more evidence that the salesperson and the retailer no longer control the information flow in a consumer transaction. This phenomenon is most stark in the car buying process. By consulting Edmunds.com, KBB.com, and other automotive sites, car buyers are armed with information and no longer at the mercy of the car dealer.

It's clear that the path to purchase, both offline and online, has changed. (In a book I co-authored, The Big Data-Driven Business, we thought changes to the buyer's journey were so critical, we devoted an entire chapter to this transformation). What's also clear is the big data produced by this changing buyer behavior can help marketers to embrace this change and to take full advantage of it. If the consumers above had talked to sales reps instead of researching on their phones, the rich insights might have been lost forever. Online, however, the search history, content viewed, and other data produced can be processed and used by marketers to create better experiences and improve products for their customers.

Massive Opportunity for Marketers

These changes in the consumer's path to purchase are a massive opportunity for the marketing department. It's the marketing department – not the sales team – that now has access to the data that gives it clearest view of customer and prospect behavior. That's because marketing can use data to read their audience's "digital body language" -- in the phrase of Steve Woods -- as those prospects visit websites, interact with their connections on social media, and consult review sites.

To read the consumer's digital body language, however, requires software to gain access to the data and to analyze it. Marketers, for instance, can use analytics tools to determine who is visiting their website, how long they're staying, and what products they're interested in. This data can then be used to serve personalized and relevant content that moves the consumer down the path to purchase.

Data management platforms use data to help marketers reach their target audiences at scale using online advertising. For companies that offer high consideration products, such as consumer electronics, they can deploy marketing automation software that uses data to help identify prospects who are ready to buy.

Big Data's Next Frontier

The next frontier of big data is all of the consumer data produced by the proliferation of mobile and connected devices, and CES features many of these products. No marketer can sit still. As the path to purchase continues to change, there's an arms race as marketers fight to figure out more ways to use big data to target prospects effectively.

Think about the data that might be produced by consumers using the products that have been on exhibit at CES 2015. Then consider how that customer data might be used to more effectively target the right people and help create better experiences for them. I'd love to hear the insights you come up with!

Learn more about how to use big data to win customers, beat competitors, and boost profits. Order your copy of ‘The Big Data-Driven Business‘:

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