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Why Data Science needs Behavioral Scientists

Contributor: Ronald van Loon
Posted: 10/06/2015
Ronald van Loon
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The time when big data and data science were just buzzwords has definitely past. More and more companies and marketing professionals realize that these two specialisms evolved from their ‘hype’ status. However, that doesn’t mean that these companies can fully benefit from it. Besides best-of-breed technology, this also demands the brightest brains. Data expertise alone is not sufficient to truly understand your customer. Data scientists are important but you also need other experts on your team.

FROM DATA TO INSIGHTS

Data in itself is nothing. You can only create value if you turn it into information, like thorough customer insights. The most important information big data can give marketing professionals is the truth about customer journeys. That means moving beyond the traditional touch-point-level insights, such as data from web analytics, e-mail marketing, social media information and countless other data silos with information. Only if you can connect all that information, you are able to map the entire customer journey and start optimizing the brand experience for your customers.
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FINDING THE RIGHT PEOPLE

To profit from big data in such a way, you have to be able as a company to interpret and evaluate data from both quantitative and qualitative research. That requires extensive knowledge of statistics and the application of scientific research. Many companies dedicate a massive amount of time and money to unlock all kinds of data sources within their company. But after that, they find themselves challenged to find the right people to derive information from those huge data masses.

DATA SCIENTISTS

Data scientists are essential for those teams. As a result the demand for these specialists is extremely high, which means that they are also highly compensated. But they do bring value for money. A proper data scientist is a multidisciplinary person who knows how to work data and combines those skills with knowledge of IT, analytics and entrepreneurship. All those different areas of expertise make a data scientist an expert who can use data to identify opportunities and issues, solve challenges and realize a competitive advantage. Besides this, communication skills are essential, because insights also have to be communicated to other people within the organization.

EDUCATION

It is no surprise that educational institutions are doing their utmost to provide the market with data scientists. Many universities have started initiatives to educate data scientists, which is a very good development in itself, but does not solve the shortage there is right now. If the new educations deliver like they should, the first ready-to-go data scientists will be available in three to five years from now. And until then, the demand will only increase.

FINDING AND BREAKING PATTERNS

Data scientists help your company to discover patterns in immense amounts of data. That process is also known as data mining. The behavior that shows from these patterns has to be changed, which is the core of optimization. You measure the behavior and want to change those numbers to create more conversion and sales. However, the right decisions are not always that obvious. Your clients’ behavior does not automatically give you the insights you need to improve your customer experience. And that is exactly the area of expertise of the second type of experts you need to fully benefit from big data.

BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE

Behavioral scientists know all about the human brain. They are specialized in cognitive psychology. How do people perceive? How do they reach a decision? This kind of knowledge is crucial if you want to influence your visitors’ behavior. This sounds very simple, but if you do not know what moves your customer, you cannot change his or her movements. Maybe you can strike lucky once or twice but for continuous customer experience optimization you cannot go without behavioral scientists. Preferably, you should use the expertise of a neurological psychologist or someone that has completed a study like Human Technology Interaction. Otherwise, you will never be able to unify your goals with those of your customers.

KNOWING HOW TO MEASURE EVENTS

Also make sure that your team features people who know how you can measure the things you want to know. How can you get a proper understanding of behavior and attitudes where do you start with that? A frequently recurring example of this are surveys on a website. There is nothing wrong with this research method in itself, however only when you have the right approach. Often, website owners use a very short survey, because these usually have a high completion rate. But that is the opposite of what you should actually do. If you want to bother your visitors with a survey, be sure to make it count. It should deliver the answers you are looking for. Set clear goals and ask a social scientist to compose a survey that is ideal to get the right answers. Just keep in mind that a proper survey takes more than just putting a series of questions together on your website. Validation of the questions is also very important. Does this survey answer your question in a complete and qualitative way? From this point of view, you also should not edit or cut questions from a standardized survey. That is like cutting a measuring-tape; your measuring instrument is no longer valid.

MARKETEERS

Some marketing professionals experience data as a threat. Especially if they do not have a data-driven way of working by nature. They are afraid that the rise of data will endanger their creativity or make it unnecessary. However, the opposite is true. Marketing creativity is more relevant than ever. By using data in the right way, new opportunities arise, that can only be seized using human creativity. Interaction improvement will be the domain of customer experience professionals, and the content and execution of communications will be the job of the marketeers.
MANAGERS
Furthermore, the new opportunities of big data demand a new type of decision maker. Who decides what happens after the data are processed and analyzed? That person should have knowledge of all specializations that have contributed to a proposal. In other words: that person should know what data is used, what the goals of the company and its clients are, and should be able to judge whether a proposal is worth the investment or not. Managers should have a helicopter view more than ever before.

CUSTOMER-CENTRIC CULTURE

Besides data scientists, behavioral scientists, analytics experts, marketeers and managers, there are several other professionals that have a critical role in creating a data-driven organization. For instance the legal department, IT specialists, software developers and even philosophers. The perfect combination also depends on your specific company. There is no standard recipe for success. It is however a key factor that you do not put all your hopes on data science alone. That expertise is essential, but cannot flourish on its own. Fact is however that there are no excuses left to wait with creating a customer-centric culture within your company. Organizations where the optimal customer experience does not top the priority list, do not have their eyes on the future. So be sure to invest in this.

CREATING YOUR TEAM

Find out which expertise is already present in your company and see which knowledge and talents your team is lacking. Go and find your new team members and try to create the perfect balance between data science and behavioral science. This way, you can combine your own A-team that delivers the best possible insights in terms of goals, interactions and customer journeys. And if you devote yourself to optimizing customer experience, your company will most definitely make massive progress. Together with your customers that will feel themselves more appreciated at your website than anywhere else.
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Thank you, for your interest in Why Data Science needs Behavioral Scientists.
Ronald van Loon
Contributor: Ronald van Loon