FEATURE18 October 2010

Using fusion power to shed light on digital consumers


Compete’s chief research officer John Bremer says he’s enthused by the possibilities of fusing web behavioural data to other sources of information on media use and product consumption, as well as survey data, as a means to greater consumer understanding.

For a start, Wired editor Chris Anderson admits to choosing an attention-grabbing title over a slightly more accurate interpretation of his article. His central point is that the means of accessing the internet is changing, with increasing numbers of users connecting to online content via apps rather than web browsers.

This is the result of mobile evolution, and its an evolution “we’ve got to keep on top of”, says Bremer. Compete, which has built its business around measuring consumer’s behaviour on the browser-based web, has a mobile solution “coming soon” – but that’s just one part of the strategy to keep the company abreast of developments in the digital space.

The internet is increasingly a multimedia hub, linking consumers to TV and radio content, digital magazines, social media and the like. To get an understanding of these digitally networked consumers, advertisers and media owners need to view their media behaviour in a joined-up fashion, to see how each piece interacts with others. To that end, Bremer and Compete are looking at ways of tying the data they hold on internet behaviours to other sources of media consumption data.

He wouldn’t talk specifics, but TV data integration seems an obvious place to start. Compete’s parent company Kantar Media has access to second-by-second viewing data sourced via digital set-top boxes and rivals like Quantcast and Tivo have shown there’s value to be had from linking web and TV behavioural datastreams.

Beyond media, Bremer says Compete is looking at tying web browsing data to information on offline shopping habits – something that would also be possible thanks to Kantar’s ownership of consumer purchase and product usage panels. Again we’re talking about the fusion of behavioural data sets, but Bremer says he is also enthused by the possibilities of tying behavioural data to attitudinal data – bringing clickstream and survey data together for a more rounded view of the digital consumer.

Like Wired with the web, there are those who’ve recently seen fit to declare the survey dead. Recent Research interviewee Philip Graves has written a book, Consumer.ology, whose point is that consumers don’t know their own minds, which makes attitudinal data unreliable.

So why all the fuss about fusing these two data sets? Exactly, says Bremer. “Attitudinal data gets at the ‘whys’, while measurement data – well, it does a wonderful job measuring what people are doing but not why they are doing the things they are doing. In this day and age the top brands are becoming the top digital marketers and folks at companies like Coca-Cola or Microsoft or Apple want to integrate the behavioural data with the ‘why’ – why are they using our brand? – ultimately to get insight on their brand and the behaviour of the respondent.”

Understanding the ‘why’ of digital behaviour and consumers may also be the research industry’s best USP as other, bigger companies vie for dominance in the web data space. Biggest of them is IBM, which recently acquired web analytics firm Coremetrics, but creative software firm Adobe is also a player in the space now following its purchase of Omniture.

Each has a different vision of where web data is best used within the enterprise: for IBM it’s in business intelligence, for Adobe it’s creative development and for companies like Kantar and Compete, the data is in the service of customer understanding. But ultimately where each vision converges is in marketing optimisation. “There is overlap,” says Bremer, “and there is certainly going to be competition in this area.”