Q&A with David Schweidel

We recently interviewed David Schweidel, a professor of marketing at Emory University's Goizueta Business School and a thought leader in the sphere of analytics and customer relationship management. Read on to find out more about his book, how to succeed in the data economy, what the future holds for data and data sharing, and more.

What is your current role at Emory University?
I am an associate professor of marketing at Emory University's Goizueta Business School. My research focuses on customer relationship management and social media analytics as a source of marketing insights. I teach undergraduate and graduate courses in marketing analytics.

Can you describe your book, Profiting from the Data Economy, and why you wrote it?
The book looks at three different players: consumers, innovators, and regulators. Through our daily activities, consumers produce large amounts of data, from purchase records and financial transactions to social media posts and detailed location records. A number of businesses have been built at least in part on the data that consumers produce. For example, targeted advertising and product recommendations are based on information that consumers have provided. One question that is looked at is, "what do consumers get in exchange for the data they provide?" From the standpoint of innovators, it examines what can be done using consumer data. The key in this relationship is the value that consumers are provided in exchange for their data. Lastly, what is the role that regulators should play with regards to protecting consumers and encouraging businesses built with consumer data?

What are some examples of organizations that are succeeding from the data economy?
We're familiar with many companies that are successfully leveraging consumer-generated data. Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are just some of the companies that benefit from the data that consumers generate. It's a win-win situation, as consumers also benefit from these companies putting insights based on consumer data to use. We also see examples of government making use of consumer-generated data, such as to inform police departments of potential crime hot spots or to identify the locations of potholes that need to be filled.

What does an organization need to do to get started?
Obviously data is part of the equation. But beyond the data that organizations may collect, there should be a strategy about how data collected will be put to use and how those providing the data will benefit from sharing it. Once that strategy is developed, then a number of questions still need to be answered, including "how do we communicate the benefits to consumers?" and "how do we secure the data that we are asking consumers to provide?"

What role does the customer play in whether an organization achieves benefits from their data?
The notion that organizations can benefit from consumer data is predicated on consumers being willing to provide that data. There needs to be a sufficient incentive for consumers to provide data, whether it is actively provided or collected through a passive means. The onus is on the organization to make its case to consumers to share their data.

Are you seeing a growing interest in data products and solutions organizations develop for customers? If so, what kinds of products are you hearing about?
There's a substantial interest on the part of the organizations to monetize their data assets. They already have the data, so building new products and services based on what's already been collected to produce a new revenue stream is a wise move. From a marketing standpoint, we're seeing companies become more data-driven in their decision making. Companies such as Cardlytics facilitate targeting based on past consumer activity. We can also look to social media platforms as new sources of data being provided by consumers, offering insights into the brands they prefer and how persuasive other marketing actions are. Location data is another source that is becoming increasingly popular for decisions such as site selection and marketing.

How important is data sharing and collaboration as part of the success equation?
Within an organization, data sharing across units is key. Multiple teams are going to be involved in collecting data, preparing it for analysis, and developing products and solutions based on the analysis. Collaboration is key to successfully developing and deploying data products and solutions.

What developments in 2016 relating to data and data products are you most excited about?
One continuing development that we need to pay attention to are shifting preferences about data privacy and the role that government is going to play in this space. Mobile devices have tremendous potential as data collection devices. We're getting closer to being able to connect mobile and online activity to consumers' offline actions.

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