Lyris Connections Blog

Serendipity, Segmentation, and the Softer Side of Big Data

Nov 09, 2012 by

You know Big Data is a big deal when people who write about it use capital letters. And let’s face it, it is a big deal. For digital marketers, big data holds the key to truly understanding who our customers are and what motivates them to act. It’s about capturing and integrating dynamic customer profile data – transactional, behavioral, demographic, and preference data – to drive meaningful and relevant customer communications. It’s all very technological and precise. And it can be a little daunting. But it doesn’t have to be if you introduce the concept of serendipity into the big data mix.


Serendipity has been identified by linguists as being one of the hardest English words to translate into other languages. The definition that resonates with me is, “making fortunate discoveries while searching for other things.” That got me to thinking about how marketers use data to segment their audiences based on similar attributes in order to target them with relevant communications. It’s a proven tactic, but what if we were to take it a step further.

Here’s a simple example:

Say you’re an online marketer at a large discount retail chain and you use marketing analytics to identify a group of customers who self-report that they are females between 35 and 49 years of age. You notice that during June and July they browse your website for markers, kids’ scissors, glue sticks, and colored pencils. 

The data suggests that they are mothers of small children, or crafters. Great! You have the fodder to develop a couple of digital campaigns with good potential for success, targeted to these groups. But what if you dug a little deeper into the data, and let serendipity take the reins. You might discover that this group purchases these items in bulk in August, about 20 sets at once. That’s right – they’re teachers. And you’ve nailed it – your digital campaign is assured of hitting its mark, plus you’ve identified a seasonal segment to re-market to annually. Cha-ching!

So rather than be intimidated by big data, relegate it to lower case, and leave room for serendipity in data-driven decision-making. By being open to discovering what you’re not looking for, you might discover something that’s just as valuable – or even more valuable – than what you were looking for. 

This post is the first in a series of my “softer side” perspectives, emphasizing  the human element behind the art and science of digital marketing. I’d love to share your thoughts on the subject as well – let me know what’s on your mind.  

Deb Papp

About the Author: Deb Papp

Deb Papp is Marketing Communications Manager at Lyris. She develops content for lead generation programs and resources, company messaging, event and promotional collateral, and the Lyris website.

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