Behavioral Data Is About to Take a Back Seat to Declared Data

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Marketers can infer a lot about consumers through behavioral data — from their go-to Starbucks beverage to their favorite time of day to shop. But behavioral data provides only half the story: Who’s the Starbucks order for? Why is the consumer always shopping at that specific time of day? And what’s he or she shopping for, anyway?

Related: Access to Data Is Great, but It’s How You Communicate It That Matters

Even just one detail could change how marketers approach a particular consumer. If, for example, our consumer is picking up Starbucks for her co-workers as part of her job duties but doesn’t drink coffee herself, that changes how a coffee house with her data will see her.

Alternately, if she’s always shopping at two o’clock in the afternoon because that’s when her baby typically naps in the stroller, the store she visits can adjust its offers accordingly.

In fact, behavioral data can be misconstrued by the customers themselves. MediaPost explained how simple signage made to discourage bad behavior — like, say, asking tourists not to take stones from a stone forest, because that destroys the habitat, or asking hotel guests to reuse their towels — actually encourages the bad behavior that’s being targeted. The reason? Such signs show people that everyone is engaging in the bad behavior, thus normalizing it and even encouraging it.

If the average Joe is getting the wrong message from the data provided, then what’s to say brands aren’t doing the same thing?

Not all data is created equal.

Behavioral or transactional data is based on a moment in time. It’s a snapshot of a behavior a customer engaged in or an action he or she took at a particular moment. A lot can be inferred from this data, from an affinity for dogs to a dairy allergy.

Declared data, on the other hand, is data gathered directly from consumers themselves; businesses take the step of asking the customer a follow-up question that can fill in a blank, providing a decisive rather than assumed answer.

“Transactional first-party data can help answer a lot of questions marketers want to know, like who did the purchase, what did they purchase with, when did they purchase it,” Ben Cockerell, vice president of marketing at Jebbit, a declared data platform, told me when we spoke recently.

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“[But declared data] is limited in answering ‘why,'” Cockerell continued. “I’m not a golfer, but my dad is. His birthday’s in July, so I’ll look for something online for him. Afterward, I’ll be followed by Callaway golf ads for a month.

“It’s all…