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Analytics and the Paradox of Knowledge

Published 16 Oct 2015 by Tim Langley, CANDDi
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Over the last few years, analytics have become incredibly powerful, and companies know more about their customers, their supply chains and their businesses than ever before. However, as the technology for data collection has improved, the amount of data out there has increased at a similar rate - creating a paradox where we know more than we did a few years ago, but the gap in our knowledge has increased at an even bigger rate, meaning that compared to the big picture, we remain clueless.

Paradox of Knowledge

This phenomenon applies not just to analytics and customer data, but to facts in day-to-day life too. The existence of Google is, according to some, making us stupid by impairing our ability to retain facts in our heads. What we know is shrinking as what we need to know increases - but we have the power to make up for that thanks to technology, and web analytics can offer an interesting insight into the minds of our customers.

#What Do Marketers and Business Owners Need to Know? Today marketers have access to a huge amount of information about all of their prospects. They can pull up information about their likes and dislikes, their interests, political affiliations, incomes, device ownership and browsing habits. With all of that information, it is easy to push the right buttons and get people to spend money with you. As profiling technology gets better, we are reaching the point where advertisers can speak to consumers as if they are their best friends. The challenge is collecting that information in an ethical way.

While marketers have access to unprecedented amounts of information, they still cannot predict the future, and when it comes to analysing the broader part of your business, we are still relying on guesswork. Educated guesswork, and sophisticated models based on past data, but still guesses.

We can say that “during the summer, people tend to travel more”, but we cannot guarantee that they will choose a specific destination or a specific company to travel with. We cannot be sure that the economy will support regular holidays or that people will continue to use their disposable income in a given way. Human behaviour is still a mystery that we cannot break down into neat trends and patterns, as much as we want to believe that A/B testing, heatmaps and statistical models will tell us a lot about our customers.

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