Want to improve business performance? Here are five things about visual data that marketing professionals should know, says Dr Shasha Lu, University Lecturer in Marketing at Cambridge Judge Business School.
- Visual images are a big part of the explosion in Big Data. A study from IDC states that Big Data is growing by 42.5 per cent each year, and 80 per cent of Big Data is unstructured data, including text, audio and visual data. Visual data such as images and videos is a big part of this growth. The numbers are staggering: on WhatsApp alone, a million photos are shared every minute, so it’s important for marketers to analyse these kinds of publicly available images and videos to harness valuable information about consumers.
- Photographs show a lot more than we might think. Photos show basic traits such as age, gender and ethnicity, of course, but also emotional states (happiness,disgust, anger), habits (smoking and drinking), personality (extrovert, introvert)and even behavioural tendencies such as leadership. Analysed properly, a facial image can provide an indication of how long someone might live (useful to insurance companies), recruitment (whether someone would fit a particular company or role), or whether a person might be a compatible date (useful to dating agencies).
- Visual reactions are valuable in helping salespeople understand customer preference. Despite the rise in online shopping, many people still like to visit stores – so salespeople can gain important insights from customers’ visual responses such as their expressions and behaviour. These include, for example,a clothing customer’s emotional response to a garment from his or her facial expression and body language, and also which part of the item they like or dislike as indicated by touching certain parts of the product. We have a project that uses a camera to observe people in this way, and then combine it with data from other customers in order to make recommendations.
- Some visual features (e.g. faces) may be better than others to attract customers to a product/brand through advertising. Many companies use celebrities in print or broadcast advertising because famous faces attract instant attention. But the faces of other people who are not famous might actually be better for certain target customers, because their faces can better influence perception of the product – and the same goes for other visual stimuli such as colour and scenery in advertisements.
- Visual data can not only help influence customer choice, it can also help generate new products or ideas. In addition to using visual data for marketing communication, marketers can gain customer insight from visual data to develop new products that fit people’s needs, habits and personalities, for example,designers can gain useful insights from customer’s responses to product design features and use this to improve the product design. This power of visual data is still relatively untapped – but watch this space.