Your Big Data Needs Some TLC

Published Originally on Wired

In this customer-driven world, more and more businesses are relying on data to derive deep insights about the behavior and experience of end users with a business’ products. Yet end user logs, while interesting, often lack a 360-degree view of the “context” in which users consume a business’ products and services. The ability to analyze these logs in the relevant context is key to getting the maximum business value from big data analysis.

Basic contextual analysis requires a little TLC: Time, Location and Channel.

Thinking within a TLC framework will simplify the identification, collection, assimilation and analysis of context and make it more value driven. Enterprises can apply TLC for better attribution and explanation of end user behavior, to identify patterns and understand profiles that generate insights, and ultimately to enable the business to deliver better, customized, personalized products, services and experiences.

So what does it mean for business owners in the app economy to give their data and analytics a dose of TLC?


Does the time of day, the week, the month, or a particular event impact app usage?

The hypothesis is that certain events at a point in time and certain classes of events have a positive or negative impact on app usage.

Are there different patterns of app usage on weekends versus weekdays or on mornings versus afternoons versus evenings? Are you a retail business hurtling towards Black Friday (the biggest shopping day in the year in the USA)? What patterns have you observed in recent years? What can you expect from your store locator app, your catalog app, your gift card and coupons app… in the days before the event and on black Friday itself?

Are you running a Super Bowl ad? When it airs, will it drive traffic to your web and mobile apps? Will it cause a spike in API traffic?

Business executives need to understand how external events like these impact the use of their apps. Making the correlations and understanding the contexts in which the apps are used can then be used to promote or discourage certain usage of the app for maximum business impact.

  • What external events impact the use of my app?
  • Are there patterns? What types of external events impact the use of my app?
  • As users use an app over a time, do their usage patterns change? Does the how/why/what of app usage change?


Does app usage lead to cross-channel transactions such as store foot traffic or web based fulfillment?

Retailers deploy mobile apps to enable enhanced shopping experiences and sometimes with the purpose to drive foot traffic to their stores.

Where are users before, during and after they use an app? Business owners can use information about where their apps are being used and where they are being the most effective to tune the user experience and maximize impact.

Is your store locator app used most in the vicinity of your store, or most in the vicinity of your competitors’ stores? Do users follow through and walk into your store after using the store locator app, the catalog app…?

Is there a pattern to where users are when they access a gas station app? Are they in the vicinity of a gas station and trying to find the cheapest gas? Are they trying to find the gas vendor to whose rewards program they belong? Are they in a rural setting and looking for the closest gas station?

Location information provides the app developer and service provider with context to answer questions that help chart a customer’s journey of interacting with the service provider across multiple channels and across multiple locations, allowing the identification of patterns that signify and impact the customer’s search, discovery, decision and transaction.

Business owner should be asking questions like:

  • Where are the users before and after they use the app?
  • Are users using the apps in the vicinity of retail stores? How close are they to the stores?
  • Are the users using the apps in the vicinity of competitor stores? How close are they to the stores?
  • Do users use apps and then walk into the stores? Vice versa?
  • Do multiple users use the app in the vicinity of a single store?


Are online or mobile channels increasing? How do my business channels impact and improve transactions on neighboring channels?

The hypothesis is that the multiple channels of your business are symbiotic.

Does enabling one channel cannibalize, harm or improve business on other channels? Is your mobile app driving more traffic to your store… to your web site?

A powerful example of enabling business with apps, and the impact across their channels comes from Walgreens. The pharmacy chain made mobile technology a key part of its strategy and finds that half of the 12 million visits a week to its numerous online sites come from mobile devices. Additionally, Walgreens indicates that the customers who engage with Walgreens in person, online and via mobile apps spend six times more than those who only visit stores.

Some questions for business owners to ask about their channels include:

  • What is my strongest channel?
  • For multi channel transactions
    Do transactions transcend multiple channels – that is, do users channel hop?

    • Which channel is responsible for starting most transactions?
    • Which channel is responsible for successfully completing most transactions?
    • Which channel is responsible for most abandoned transactions?
  • How and what does each channel contribute to the users’ needs towards driving improved experience and transactions?

TLC for the User Experience

Consumers today are “always addressable”. We are increasingly surrounded by digital screens, which make us reachable at anytime, in anyplace and on any device. This leads to a new type of problem and opportunity that I like to call “screen optimization.”

Screen optimization is the opportunity and the ability of a service provider to optimize the message and content delivered according to the user’s context – time, location, channel, and position in their journey.

  • Adjust and adapt a user’s experience to their context and screen across the various digital touch points on the customer’s journey
  • Adapt the content delivered to a user’s surrounding screens (mobile device to highway billboards) according to the user’s context
  • Provide a personalized, mobile-centric experience that enables a user to orchestrate their multi-channel experience successfully
  • Enable a user to enter and experience the appropriate channel given their stage in the journey of interaction and transaction with your business

So, apply a little TLC to your data and analytics and create better, customized, personalized products, services and experiences for consumers.


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