The birth of the data natives: challenges and opportunities for marketers

The data natives are coming, says Mac Bryla, and they’re willing to work with marketers who invest in using data in respectable, trustworthy and delightful ways.

For a decade, marketers have been getting to grips with the rise of ‘digital natives’ – young people who grew up using computers and the Internet, and who pick up new technology intuitively.

This digital generation has experienced the world very differently to its ‘digital immigrant’ parents and grandparents who adopted technology later in life. In fact, research suggests that their brain chemistry might actually be different than previous generations too; more attuned to reading web pages than the printed word, and reacting differently to social interactions.

 

The new world of data

Today, digital natives are surrounded by technology, and as a result, they are immersed in data. Data is everywhere, and, just as marketers have adapted to the habits and consumer behaviours of the digital native, they need to be prepared for the next evolution of that journey: when digital natives turn into ‘data natives’.

Whether on social media, where likes, shares and other reactions create a steady stream of feedback, or using smart devices that track health metrics, sleep quality, and daily step counts – the newest generation of digital natives are accustomed to using, sharing and analysing information about every aspect of their lives.

Data-heavy living means young people expect to have access to real-time energy usage meters showing them how they can save money; traffic data and transport services that provide up to the minute guidance on the best route to take, or alternative journey options when a bus or train is delayed. Everyday data and analytics is not a novelty or luxury for young people: immediate data-driven feedback is expected as the new normal.

Given this familiarity, it is no wonder then that ‘data natives’ have less of a problem in handing over their personal information to others as long as they get something in return.

A study by the American Press Institute in 2015 found that only 20% of Millennials worry a good deal or all of the time about their information being available online.

This marks a profound generational gap and shift in consumer psychology that will benefit marketers in the long term. Parents of data natives, and perhaps even older digital natives, might balk at being asked to share their personal data with third parties, but this new generation of data natives are annoyed if they can’t sign into an online service with their Facebook account.

Simply consider the statistics: 90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years and more data was created in the last two years than the previous 5,000 years of humanity. With their native use of technology, computers, the Internet and the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), this new digital data-driven generation and the ones that follow will only become even more comfortable analysing and understanding data, utilising it for decision making across their personal and professional lives.

Not only has the world been infiltrated with a new data-literate generation, but new tools and technology are emerging that are better than ever at analysing the data that the world is generating.

Modern BI and data analytics technology are adapting constantly to better work with the streams of data waiting to be understood and analysed. These improvements in data analytics tools and tech bring with them improvements in productivity.

The latest BI and analytics technology is using machine learning to make recommendations to help users quickly find data that’s meaningful to them. It also adds ease to finding and analysing data, allowing PDFs to be read as data sources too.

These user-friendly advancements and intuitive design in software are making data even faster and easier to understand, and users don’t need to know data back to front to start getting insights quickly and finding the information to help make positive business decisions.

Organisations want to do more with the vast data they have at their disposal. They want the power to unlock all of their data with ease and efficiency to allow them to proactively monitor key metrics and take action to be more agile.

 

The marketer’s challenge

We are living in a world consumed by data.

Given that data natives expect specificity from their service providers, it follows that they also expect targeted offerings from anyone trying to sell them something.

A study by Accenture found that 49% of consumers aged 20-40 in the United States and the UK wouldn’t have a problem if their buying behaviour was tracked – as long as they receive relevant offers from brands and suppliers in return.

This is a key opportunity for marketers – it means that data natives are willing to hand over their information. But it also means several key changes to how we think about marketing in the next decade, and beyond.

The first change is that marketing decisions need to always be informed by data. That isn’t to say that marketing should be automated or controlled by an algorithm (there is still a need for human creativity), but campaigns and messaging should be shaped by hard facts and metric-driven insights from a variety of sources in order to resonate with an audience that cares about data.

Secondly, businesses need to gain as much information as they can about their customers in order to create a fully-formed, 360-degree view of their user base. Knowing as much specific information as possible is crucial to creating experiences that stick in data natives’ minds. Data is their language: use the information that they willingly share in order to receive added value, and give it to them.

Invest in creating opportunities to track those touch points, and be honest with data natives about how, when and where that information is used.

It is hard to pierce data natives’ barrier to purchase: many are inherently distrustful of politicians and brands, many of which they deem as archaic (perhaps due to the lack of data-driven approaches).

What is particularly important is that data should be used as an informant to create human experiences that will delight data natives. The content of that touchpoint will still be reliant on marketing creatives – it is both an art, and a science – but the journey must take into account both the data available about the target audience, and the data that the target audience expects and consumes.

If the content and messaging hits its mark, data natives will be more motivated to share their experience on social media, in turn creating even more data that marketers can interpret and respond to.

 

The human touch

It would be easy to be fooled into thinking that data holds all the answers, but it doesn’t. Data can inform and help us make better decisions, but at the end of the day it’s human judgement that has to understand and interpret data from multiple sources in order to create a complete picture. As more organisations adopt data-driven marketing, the businesses that spot trends first will be those that have invested fully in their data tracking, visualisation and processing.

The sooner you can track change, the sooner you can respond to it.

Data natives are coming, and they’re more than willing to work with you. Data is their language, so talk data to them.

 

Mac Bryla is technology evangelist at Tableau ANZ

 

Further reading