Big data is big news, and it’s getting even bigger. The vast amount of data now available relating to user behaviours, demographics and preferences across devices means that we have an incredible breadth of customer intelligence at our fingertips. That’s an exciting prospect for marketers. After all, ‘knowledge is power’ as they say. But I’m here to remind you that that data alone is not going to make a difference to your app’s ROI. As your marketing strategy for 2018 gets underway, it’s worth being aware that the real power comes from customer insights.

First things first: how exactly are data and insights different? Perhaps the simplest way to put it is this: insights are the action points that emerge from a comprehensive and accurate analysis of data. Insights show you the route to take to reach a strategic marketing goal; data forms the metaphorical map that the route is based on.

The Trouble With Data…

It goes without saying that data is an essential tool for business success. With devices in everyone’s back pocket for almost every waking minute, the kinds of data we can gather about users are unprecedented, and a privilege that has to be handled sensitively. But data isn’t the be all and end all. Without the ability to derive insights and then trigger interactions, what you’re left with is an unstructured mass of figures that don’t necessarily produce results. The outcome is that many companies feel like all that data isn’t delivering, and become (understandably) frustrated.

...And Insights To The Rescue

But where big data really can make a big difference is when it’s used to inform insights. Insights enable you to accurately build relevant audiences from huge sets of events in a logical way. By way of example, The American Marketing Association have compiled a valuable article of seven expert opinions on how insights can be used to shape marketing strategy - but, on a more immediate level, customer insights can be used to optimize each and every marketing interaction, from push notifications to tip overlays.

Using our Intent Engine as an example, let me show you what I mean. Swrve’s Intent Engine uses data from the user’s very first interaction right up to the last 15 minutes, folds in behavioral data from other interaction channels, and supports queries sorted by unlimited levels of data to intelligently predict intent and target messaging.

Let’s say a travel app is looking to promote an offer to customers who will be travelling to California. By using multiple data elements, and filtering according to recency and frequency in a meaningful way, we can generate an actionable insight into customer intent. This filters the users who have active intent to buy from those who have casually browsed, creating a group of people who can be effectively targeted with the campaign to deliver maximum ROI.

Intent targeting using customer insights

The alternative would be working off individual data points, looking at a single action that users have done, and it doesn’t take a genius to see that that simply isn’t going to be as effective. Any given data point, however interesting, doesn’t tell you much at all about your customers, and with only one piece of the puzzle it’s impossible to get a full picture of the user. Knowing that certain users searched for a flight to San Francisco, for example, isn’t enough to define a meaningful audience.

Whilst data gives you another statistic in your analytics report, insights give you an understanding of real users. Whereas data points are static facts, insights expand and evolve as your users’ engagements with the app do. And in a mobile world where a personalized experience is expected, apps can’t afford to treat individuals as just another piece of data.

The advantages insights bring for customers (and therefore app companies too) should be clear. For users, having an app that understands their history, knows their preferences, and has a good idea of what they will want next means that experiences are delivered efficiently, their perception of the app’s value increases, and they are likely to spend more time engaging and more money in app. For the app company, that equates to more revenue and ROI, as well as happy customers who share their experience and help bring even more customers on board. Now that really is a powerful idea to keep in mind.