U.S. political pollsters predicted one outcome, yet voters decided something else. Over the last few weeks, since the late hours of November 9, pundits have been trying to decipher how their predictions were so skewed and why so many experts were so monumentally wrong about the 2016 Presidential election tally.

In one word: Data.

The election’s results provide valuable, even painful, lessons for mobile marketers about the significant role that data plays in nearly everything they – and their customers – do.

Of course, the immediate question after President-Elect Donald Trump emerged as the winner was HOW? Were predictions of a close-but-certain win by Sen. Hillary Clinton based on wrong data? Incomplete data? Outdated data? Was data taken out of context or misinterpreted? Did Trump's presence in the campaign skew data or insert never-before-captured data into the equation?

Many questions have emerged and, regardless of one's political affiliation, here are some of our thoughts on what mobile marketers can take away from this year’s Presidential election:  

1. Value voluntarily offered data and use it to understand your audience: Surveys and polls have limitations, especially if underlying data is based on historical patterns or traditional assumptions.  Mobile marketers benefit by having access to data that is (in many cases) offered voluntarily by consumers – not solicited by outsiders. As such, marketing data should be valued for its personal insights and treated with a level of trust that does not exist with data from activities like political polls or surveys.

2. Keep collecting real-time data to maintain a pulse on the market: Some political observers noted that 2016 predictive data was flawed because Presidential elections occur every four years – a long interval in which sentiments, behaviors, preferences and “marketplace” situations can change substantially. Mobile marketers, however, have access to never-ending streams of real-time, relevant data, and they can keep collecting, analyzing and leveraging it for deeper insights and more personal connections. Even if data has no immediate value, keep collecting it so that it's available for future activities, to create benchmarks or to monitor change over time. When the opportunity arises, you'll still have a finger on the pulse of your customers.

3. Use the right data for the right channel: Perhaps political surveys missed certain audiences or asked the wrong questions. Maybe some respondents – upset at the entire political process – weren't completely honest. As a result, pundits were making predictions based on flawed data, or relying too heavily on survey responses to predict actual voting behaviors. In marketing, it's important to use the right data for the right channel. Marketers can use data from the mobile environment, for instance, to make decisions about and drive actions in other marketing channels or even non-digital environments. Example: Measure retail foot traffic via geofences to influence and identify the best locations to set up new retail spaces, displays or interactive areas.

4. Integrate bits of data to tell the whole story: Marketers, like politicians, collect a lot of data from many sources. The most efficient and reliable way to act on data is to remove it from data silos and integrate all information so that it can be analyzed fully and contextually, not as one-off insights. Individual marketing data points from email, in-store, online, CRM and mobile initiatives, for example, tell individual stories about those specific activities. But together, they tell the full story of the entire marketing strategy. When all data is integrated, it's less likely that key insights will be missed or overlooked.

5. Examine data without bias: Numbers don't lie, and data tells a story – assuming that analysts and marketers approach data with open minds and without bias or expectations. Bias increases the possibility that marketers will miss the obvious. – or avoid seeing potential outcomes for what they are. Look at data for what it is. If what you see isn't clear, find more data to help complete the picture.

6. Remember that marketing is still about relationships with consumers - you know, real people: Political polling data told one story, but actually listening to and talking with voters determined the election. In marketing, take the data at face value but analyze what's going on across channels to truly understand your customers' underlying sentiments, experiences and intentions. Personalize your messages with the data as much as possible to make sure you're hitting the mark with your messages or campaigns, paying attention to the obvious, and listening to what your customers are telling you in return.

Data can be used for message optimization, customer engagement and feedback, onboarding, social engagement and other key activities. The possibilities are endless. Find specific data-related tactics in the Swrve Cookbook, and let us know if we can help you get the most out of your marketing data.