I remember years ago watching Steven Seagal come back from a coma to kick Senate butt in Hard To Kill, and the particular scene where he scribbles an old proverb on the toilet seat that the anticipation of death is worse than death itself. Of course, it was a self-fulfilling prophesy, the evil senator is now afraid knowing that at some point he’s going to die at the hands of our Aikido wielding hero and makes mistakes.
And more recently I watched Looper, a time traveling scifi with Willis and Gordon-Levitt caught in a bit of an infinite loop and the only way to break it is to do something different. And it got me thinking about Big Data and Predictive Analytics (God knows why).
Big data promises companies unparalleled insight into the consumer world; purchasing behaviour, social and personal habits, information in near-to-real-time. Combine this with predictive analytics and businesses start to build a current and future picture of what their customer base will likely react to, what choices they’re likely to make, where, when, both on a mass consumption/ demographic level and surgically targeted individual level. And here is where the new paradigm breaks down and becomes just another endless cat-and-mouse cycle.
Customers aren’t stupid. While you will perceive to gain the edge over consumer and competitor for a while the customer at large will begin to twig that you hold all this information and are using it for advantage as well as providing them with a more personalized and efficient service. And they’ll demand more. They’ll expect you to anticipate what they want because you’ve promised to, and you’ll turn to your data scientists to eke more out of the predictive engines and bucket of data. You’ll want to buy in more data to fuel it. And for a while there’s an uneasy stalemate and the public are satiated with the level of service again.
But then there’s that itch again…heightened expectation and anticipation for you to meet their growing demands. And so the cycle begins again. No longer is the status quo enough. You’ll need to maintain the 2 Second Advantage or the customer starts to leave you in droves, taking their data with them. You have to up your game.
Customers aren’t stupid. But betting your business decisions solely on predictive analytics might be a self-fulfilling infinite loop of cat-and-mouse. At some point you’re going to have to break the loop to win the game.
And we think we’re so clever….