Emily Groch
Emily Groch is Mintel Comperemedia’s Director of Insights, Telecommunications, providing omni-channel marketing analysis and competitive insights to telecom providers.

Companies are collecting a lot of data about us—where we shop, what we buy, how many steps we walk, shops we visit, where we drive, what we watch and when—and brands are challenged to find ways to offer us better visibility into our own data. As consumers, we know that companies are tracking us and collecting information to make products, services, and marketing more personalized to us, but the data itself is largely out of our view. By offering each consumer better visibility into her own data, companies can build trust and avoid surprises, such as sticker shock or marketing overreach.

To illustrate the point, let’s consider some recent, data-fueled marketing campaigns from the streaming media space. This year, Netflix crunched its numbers to reveal some of the more interesting habits of its binge-watching subscribers. The provider released an infographic featuring some of the findings, and tested the waters with a tweet calling out subscribers who’d watched the Netflix original movie A Christmas Prince every day for 18 days straight. This tweet, which generated over 565,000 engagements, is one of Netflix’s top five tweets of 2017.

netflix tweet

Not all of these engagements are positive, as plenty of followers took offense to Netflix’s tone, calling the tweet “creepy” or “big brother”-ish. But don’t we all already know that Netflix is tracking our viewing habits? Don’t we realize that that’s how Netflix is making recommendations to us for content to watch? Of course we do, but there’s a fine line between using the data to make an individual’s experience better, and using it to publicly call out deviant viewership behavior.

Netflix probably got the idea to reveal the stat in a cheeky way from Spotify, which has just produced its second annual series of billboards featuring some of the quirkier stats pulled from a year’s worth of its users streaming habits. And, actually, when looking back at Spotify’s 2016 year-end marketing efforts, its billboards struck the same tone as Netflix’s tweet. One read, “Dear person who played ‘Sorry’ 42 times on Valentine’s Day, what did you do?” Spotify’s approach this year takes a much more celebratory tone than its 2016 campaign.

The negative reactions to Netflix’s tweet help to underscore why it’s so important for companies collecting consumer data to offer customers better visibility into their own data, and reveal it in a fun, direct way. When all of your data—and everyone else’s—exists in a vacuum someplace, it’s easier to ignore the fact that companies have some pretty revealing intel on you and that they may even know some things about you that you don’t. For many, it feels quite jarring for that information (or others’) to be revealed in a big marketing campaign, especially if a brand goes so far as to publicly make presumptions about those behaviors. It can be particularly fun, eye-opening, and even useful, however, for a brand to reveal personalized findings directly to a customer.

spotify adAnd that’s where I think Spotify has gotten it right. Alongside the creative and highly positive public billboards, the streaming music provider invites its users to privately view a summary of their own listening behavior in their own personal “2017 Wrapped.” In fact, according to research from Mintel ePerformance/eDataSource, Spotify sent over 29 million emails to users in the US, inviting them to review their year in music. 2017 Wrapped offers customers a glimpse into their listening habits, featuring stats they probably couldn’t know otherwise, even if Spotify has carefully curated the data it offers up.

Right now, many companies seem to be struggling with how to manage the massive amounts of data that they are collecting from consumers, and to even find the actionable insights to inform their businesses. But as AI enables better data management and interpretation, it will become easier for providers to put some of that data back into the hands of the customers that create it. In fact, we’ve already seen great strides in customer service across many industries thanks to charts and dashboards within self-service tools that help customers better understand how they are consuming specific products and services. This topic is at the heart of Mintel’s 2018 Telecommunications Marketing Trend ‘Dashboard Masters.’ In 2018, providers will get smarter about helping their customers visualize, interpret, and customize their unique patterns of data consumption.

Emily Groch is Mintel Comperemedia’s Director of Insights, Telecommunications. She provides omni-channel marketing analysis and competitive insights to wireless, TV, internet, over-the-top, and home security service providers across the US and Canada.