The Data Is Watching You

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Just how much data and analytics does a brand need?

We can track everything online. How is that working out for you? I believe in the power of micro-transactions (a phrase that I either created after spending time with Google‘s Avinash Kaushik or a concept that I completely stole from him… with proper attribution). The theory is quite simple: most brands care about the main transaction (did someone buy from them), but they spend little-to-no time analyzing and nurturing the micro-transactions (someone watched a YouTube video, signed up to a newsletter, liked your brand on Facebook, etc…). If newer analytics model tell us anything, it’s which combination of these micro-transactions create the most efficient path to purchase. So, the data is not about vanity metrics (how many people did what) but true value-based metrics (was all that effort to drive consumers to our e-newsletter a smart strategy?). As more information gets pumped into these systems, brands will be able to leverage this data against second and third-party data sources to create a bunch of new marketing models… the likes of which business has never seen before. Many scoff at this idea, but Facebook is neck-deep into these models. Last December, Business Insider published the article, Facebook is quietly buying information from data brokers about its users’ offline lives:

“To find out exactly what type of data Facebook buys from brokers, we downloaded a list of 29,000 categories that the site provides to ad buyers. Nearly 600 of the categories were described as being provided by third-party data brokers. (Most categories were described as being generated by clicking pages or ads on Facebook). The categories from commercial data brokers were largely financial, such as ‘total liquid investable assets $1-$24,999,’ ‘People in households that have an estimated household income of between $100K and $125K’, or even ‘Individuals that are frequent transactor at lower cost department or dollar stores.'”

What certain brands know about about their consumers is scary.

It’s not even a question of what they’re doing with this information, it’s the fact that they have all of this information. So, here’s a thought: if brands know this much about their consumers, what’s stopping them from knowing even more about their employees and team members? MIT Technology Review published a pretty terrifying article titled, Your Cubicle Has Ears–and Eyes, and a Brain:

“… an increasing number of companies are outfitting offices with sensors to keep track of employees. These sensors are hidden in lights, on walls, under desks — anywhere that allows them to measure things like where people are and how much they are talking or moving. The raw data is just the beginning… software to crunch information on everything from key card swipes to what applications people are using on their computers to understand how employees — and the business as a whole — operate.”

So, just how productive are you?

There has been monitoring technologies forever. The promise is a work environment that is more creative and productive. The other side of that coin is that your team members feel like Big Brother is not only watching them, but analyzing their every waking breath and telling them how to improve upon it. So, we’ve gone from optimizing the path to purchase in our marketing efforts to optimizing each and every path our employees take during the day. Layer in the promise of machine learning (a computer’s ability to analyze all of these inputs, provide an insight and optimize against it without any human intervention) and then some basic artificial intelligence (let it come to and create its own conclusions without the need for the folks in HR), and it’s not far-fetched to imagine how employees might be reviewed and compensated based on their “true-performance” (what the computer says), instead of just showing up and doing the work (as we have done to date). Also, imagine just how far some semi-smart technology can take this. It could know what kind of performer you are even prior to taking the job (past data sets and analytics). It could provide a real-time dashboard, showing employees if they’re up for the challenge of the day or falling behind. The technology laid out in the article above isn’t just about how an individual performs. It will be used to see how teams operate, which spaces get used (and which don’t) and on and on.

And, just like that, we have a strange reversal of fortunes where many will beg for more data about their customers, but beg even more aggressively for their employers to know less and less about their own performance.