"Humans are hard-wired to find patterns, so when analyzing consumer behavior, we tend to stick with the concrete rather than abstract," Sridharan said.
At the Forrester marketing forum Tuesday, Sridharan gave a presentation on understanding customers before a few marketers weighed in.
Sridharan recommended a few ways to close the insights-to-action gap, including the use of customer journey analytics, text analytics, emotional measurement, and creating systems of insights.
Small Data Pays Off
MGM Resorts offers 41,000 rooms on the Las Vegas strip, where gaming numbers have shrunk, said Lilian Tomovich, the company's chief experience officer and CMO. Now 70% of revenue is non-gaming, with entertainment becoming a bigger focus. MGM Resorts' loyalty program -- created originally for gamers -- had to evolve, and the company had to find ways to get to know its non-gaming guests.
One way was through a tablet supplied in rooms at MGM Resorts' Aria hotel line, which integrated the loyalty program but also allowed guests to personalize in-room functions such as drapes, lights and temperature. The tablet can also order room service and show tickets, and facilitate housekeeping requests.
Many people used the tablet as an alarm clock, so the hotel had information on when guests were waking up. MGM decided to push breakfast messaging offering coffee and breakfast delivered to rooms, and saw a 600% increase in such orders with the time-based service.
Hire Curious, Growth-Minded People
Harry Tannenbaum is head of business analytics at Nest, a company that builds tech-infused products. He recommended hiring "hungry people that are smarter than you."
Analytics is challenging, Tannenbaum said, and people who are rigid in their thinking often can’t adapt in a scaling business. A growth mindset and curiosity are good qualities to look for in new hires.
Tannenbaum also recommended wide data over Big Data. Big Data means more rows, more granularity and tons of records per customer, he said. Wide data is more columns and breadth, and fewer records per customer, but more sources.
“You will get more bang for your buck by joining disparate sets"
-- key to understanding the customer from end to end, Tannenbaum said.