“Big Data”.  The phrase is ubiquitous now, like “cloud computing”. In theory, it essentially refers to having a large amount of data pertaining to purchases, transactions or behaviors that can be aggregated, analyzed and then used for some other purpose, oftentimes marketing or selling additional services.

There are many ways to use this data, whether overtly or subtly. Act too overtly, and you have the potential to spook the a client or prospect on the multiple data points that you have captured. Think about it; with customers you have a bevy of data on their shipping patterns, commodities, rates and volumes. With prospects, you can track visits to your site, browsing habits, social media interactions or message open rates. That doesn’t even include parts of their business you can review and analyze through publicly available data.

Earlier this week I received an email from Pandora; one of several internet music streaming services. Just this year I converted to a paying customer, giving them $36.00 for an annual subscription to allow me to stream more than forty hours per week, and commercial free. There is a huge fight going on right now over streaming rights and royalties for radio vs. the internet. And with Apple set to launch iTunes Radio this fall, Pandora and others are certainly feeling the heat.

This email served to remind me just how easy it can be to capture information. This is what they shared with me:

That's some pretty specific information there.  Wonder what else they've got on me?

That’s some pretty specific information there. Wonder what else they’ve got on me?

It doesn’t take a statistician to determine that I don’t really spend a lot of time “liking” music that they serve me. I can tell you that I probably started with The Wailin’ Jennys (a must-listen for fans of Canadian folk bands) after hearing them appear on Garrison Keillor’s phenomenal Saturday afternoon program on NPR, A Prairie Home Companion.

From there, every time I found an artist or them that I liked, I added them.

What they’re not telling me (but probably have at their disposal) are things like:

  • How many songs didn’t I like?
  • What is my average listening session length?
  • When am I listening?
  • Do I stream it to my Pandora app on my iPhone or iPad, or to their desktop client?
  • Which channels do I listen to the most frequently?

They capture that, I’d assume, for both advertisers and their own analytics.  But at the end of the day the message is tailored to thank me, Scott Case, with things that are specific for me as their customer.

What kinds of data can extract from your system and talk to a client about?  Could you run a report on company and entered value over the course of a period of time to sell them on cargo insurance?  What about observing shipping patterns on a domestic trade lane and offer them a greater discount or specials or additional services like early AM delivery or later lockouts?  Could you look at air or sea freight rates in the aggregate and make an economic decision to adjust rates on particular lanes that deliver value for the customer without sacrificing revenue?

The information that is captured to generate documents, move, release or ship cargo, is your customer data.  Don’t just collect it like a museum, mine it for valuable information to increase business and raise revenues.

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