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Big Data Meets Design

By Noel Jeffrey

Big Data Meets Design

Among the experts appearing at iMarketingSF in November, there were numerous seminar conversations about multimedia marketing campaigns and how they can be used effectively. For designers and printers who serve marketers, understanding the significance of data and how to use it effectively is crucial to future success. Stephan Sorger, professor at Hult and Vice President of Strategic Marketing for On Demand Advisors, presented “Big Data Marketing, Who’s Doing It Right?” The talk was full of examples that had lessons for people who want to deliver successful campaigns or elements of a campaign to their clients.

Spephan SorgerOf the six success stories Stephan shared, Amazon.com, Birchbox, eBay, Rent the Runway, Walmart and Data Exhaust, three are household names and three not all that familiar to most people. Yet, these three not so widely known use data in sophisticated marketing efforts.


For example, Birchbox started out as an online market for grooming and beauty products for women. The founders envisioned a way for customers—women just like themselves—to easily and efficiently try, learn about, and purchase beauty products online. They combined monthly deliveries of personalized samples with original editorial and an exciting ecommerce shop. It was easy, efficient, and fun—a monthly delivery of surprise and delight.

They shipped their first Birchboxes in September 2010. Surveys and behavior online told them that men needed a better way to shop too. Birchbox Man launched in April 2012 to bring guys tailored shipments of grooming and lifestyle products. Millions of boxes and product matches later, their mission remains the same: to help customers find products they love. Birchbox is headquartered in New York City, with operations in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Canada and Belgium.

Rent The Runway

RTR is totally data driven. They rent designer dresses, retailing at $2,300 for $70. What’s driving the prices? They find women who look like their customers to model the clothes. 200% of visitors are more likely to rent when dresses are worn by “real women” (vs. model). They up sell accessories and 25% of their customers add accessories to the dress orders. An astounding 40% of their traffic is from mobile phones.

Some 60% of their rentals have a one-day turnaround (stains, etc.). Note the impact of social media here, since everything is curated for history. You can’t wear the same dress again.

RTR takes advantage of this. They’ve done a lot of analytics, not just on the website, but in the company.

Data Exhaust

Data Exhaust rents combines to farmers. Since a combine is the most expensive equipment a farmer will own but it just sits around most of the year, many farmers lease it. As the harvest moves across America so does the machinery. There are data everywhere. Data collection about fuel consumed, soil moisture, equipment and the harvest. They use data samples to predict harvest metrics. They are always on the lookout to monitize these data. Farmers may use the data but the real customer for this data are companies like Goldman Sachs commodity brokers, wheat futures, and so on.

In summary, Stephan says marketers should look around and understand what’s important. Like RTR, use data for everything. Companies that already have tradition marketing can use data for contests, to optimize their websites to get people to go to the website. Do events. Sponsor something.  Use event marketing to measure and track. Engage with customers in a data monitoring way. Most important of all, use the data to understand the customer.


Marketing is like jazz: done poorly it is annoying background noise; done well it is recognized as art.

– Emily Chong, frog

 This article also published in Connected Winter 2015

Connected Winter 2015

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