The stakes are currently being placed in the ground. The next great commodity will be data — and you can already sense the battle beginning to heat up.
Consumer data will be generated by connections. Those connections will fall into two categories: broad and deep. Both will generate data points that will become critical to businesses looking to augment their own internal data.
First, broad data is the domain of Google, Apple, Amazon, eBay and Facebook. Their play is to stretch their online landscape as broadly as possible, generating thousands of new potential connections with the world at large. Google’s new “Buy” button is a perfect example of this. Adding to the reams of conversion data Google already collects, the button means that Google will control even more of the transactional landscape.
The company is packaging the button with the promise of an improved mobile buying experience, but the truth is that purchases will be consummated on Google-controlled territory, allowing it to harvest the rich data that will be generated from millions of individual transactions across every conceivable industry category. If Google can control a critical mass of connected touch points across the online landscape, it can get an end-to-end view of purchase behavior. The potential of that data is staggering.
In this market, data will be stripped of identity and aggregated to provide a macro but anonymous view of market behaviors. As the market evolves, we’ll be able to subscribe to data services that will provide real-time views of emerging trends and broad market intelligence that can be sliced and diced in thousands of ways. Of course, Google (and its competitors) will have a free hand to use all this data to offer advertisers new ways to target ever more precisely.
This particular market is an online territory grab. It relies on a broad set of touch points with as many people across as many devices as possible. The more territory covered, the more comprehensive the data set.
The other data market will run deep. Consider the new health tracking devices like Fitbit, Garmin’s Vivoactive and Apple’s iWatch. Focused-purpose hardware and apps will depend on deep relationships with users. The more you rely on these devices, the more valuable the data collected will become.
But this data comes with a caveat: unlike the broad market, this data should not be striped of its identity. The value comes from its connection with an individual. Therefore, that individual has to be an active participant in any potential data marketplaces. The data collector will act more as a data middleman, brokering matches between potential customers and vendors. If customers agree, they can choose to release the data to the vendor (or at least, a relevant subset of the data) in order to individualize the potential transaction.
Expect an extensive commercial ecosystem to emerge as the data marketplace evolves. Soon, there will be a host of services that will take raw data and add value through interpretation, aggregation and filtering. Right now, the onus for data refinement falls on the company attempting to embrace Big Data marketing. As we move forward, expect an entire Big Data value chain to emerge. But it will all rely on players like Google, Amazon and Apple with front-line access to the data itself. Just as natural resources provided the grist that drove the last industrial revolution, expect data to be the resource that fuels the next one.