How Businesses Are Collecting Data (And What They’re Doing With It)


    Data has become a major priority for businesses of all sizes. As technologies that capture and analyze data proliferate, so too do businesses’ abilities to contextualize data and draw new insights from it. The internet of things and artificial intelligence are two critical tools for companies in data capture and analysis, from better understanding day-to-day operations, making business decisions and learning about their customers.

    Customer data is a focus area all its own. From consumer behavior to predictive analytics, companies regularly capture, store and analyze large amounts of data on their consumer base every day. Some companies have even built an entire business model around consumer data, whether they create targeted ads or sell to a third party. Customer data is big business.

    Here’s a look at some of the ways companies capture their customers’ data, what exactly they do with that information, and how you can use the same techniques to improve your business.

    Companies capture data in many ways from many sources. Some processes are highly technical in nature, while others are more deductive (although these methods often employ sophisticated software).

    The bottom line, though, is that companies are using a cornucopia of sources to capture and process customer data on metrics, from demographic data to behavioral data, said Liam Hanham, director of data science at Elicit.

    “Customer data can be collected in three ways – by directly asking customers, by indirectly tracking customers, and by appending other sources of customer data to your own,” said Hanham. “A robust business strategy needs all three.”

    Businesses are adept at pulling in data from nearly every nook and cranny. The most obvious places are from consumer activity on their websites and social media pages, but there are some more interesting methods at work as well.

    One example is location-based advertising, which utilizes an internet-connected device’s IP address (and the other devices it interacts with) to build a personalized data profile. This information is then used to target users’ devices with hyper-personalized, relevant advertising.

    Companies will also dig deep into their own customer service records to see how customers have interacted with their sales and support departments in the past. Here, they are incorporating direct feedback about what worked and what didn’t, what a customer liked and disliked, on a grand scale.

    In addition to collecting data, companies can also purchase it from or sell it to third-party sources. Once captured, this information is regularly changing hands in a data marketplace of its own.

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