Instinct is a trained attribute of successful people
American business folklore is filled with tales of the instinct-driven entrepreneur who eschews data in favor of instinct. At CassarCo, we see the relationship between instinct and data as complementary, not competitive. We believe that continuous study of the data that affects one’s business, over time, creates instincts that can be trusted. Instincts unsupported by data are overly dependent on luck. We believe that a well run business is one that minimizes the importance of luck while still making bold decisions.
A myopic focus on internal data leads to slow degradation of consumer relevancy
We love data, and retailers uniquely create an amazing amount of data, from purchase data to Web site and app usage data, to customer satisfaction surveys, and on and on. However, internal retailer data is only a record of the impact of the decisions that retailers have had on existing customers within that retailer’s own four walls. An exclusive focus on a retailer’s own data can cause retailers to miss important changes in the broader market, which, even for the most dominant retailers, accounts for a minority of consumers’ total wallet.
Data transformation is costly and dangerous
Transformation of raw data into ‘market-ready’ data is a practice widely used by virtually all market research firms. For example, to make the actions of a panel of 100,000 people representative of a broader population, the behaviors of these panelists must be multiplied. But this process of projection invariably involves not just multiplication, but fundamental transformation of the raw data. Under-represented groups are given heavier weights than over-represented groups. Some people and behaviors are deemed ‘outliers’. At CassarCo, we believe that presentation of data in the most raw form, with as little manipulation as possible allows those making decisions based upon that data to truly understand the messages that the data sends. Too often, transformation replaces errors with assumptions that reflect the biases of those that build the models that transform the data.
Behavioral data is the only reliable data
Consumer surveys form the basis of much of what we know about consumers. They are easy, relatively inexpensive, and most importantly, we can ask about anything. At CassarCo, we believe that consumer surveys belong in a narrow space; they can reliably tell us how consumers feel about something right now. Survey data cannot, should not, must not be used to quantify behaviors. When we have the ability to compare behavioral data with data about behaviors collected through surveys, we invariably find significant differences between the two with skews that cannot reliably be corrected.
Data generated in the wild trumps data manufactured in a lab
Any effort that consumers need to go through to allow collection of data instantly changes the nature of the data. It influences who will participate in the research in ways that data scientists
Maintain data practices that your Mother would be comfortable with
Concerns about privacy from consumers and governments will not abate. While collection of data about the behaviors of individuals is a requisite function of market research, it does not follow that consumers' privacy must be invaded. Data collectors must be clear and explicit about what they are collecting and how it is to be used. And well-structured data analysis performed with aggregations of anonymized consumers can yield insights maintain full fidelity.