The human decision error: blinding big data

'Consequently, most online marketers are missing out a majority of the conversions in their reports and, ultimately, in their decision making'

 The human decision error: blinding big data


In psychology, there is a known behavioural effect called ‘inattentional’ blindness and it’s something that happens to all of us every day. The more focused we are, the less we see. Can this really be true?

An example of this is when students were asked to watch a short video of two groups of people (wearing black and white t-shirts) passing a basketball around. The students are told to either count the number of passes made by one of the teams or to keep count of bounce passes verses aerial passes. Half way through the video a person walks through the scene wearing a full gorilla suit.

After watching the video the students were asked if they saw anything out of the ordinary take place. In most groups, 50% of the students did not report seeing the gorilla. The failure to perceive the gorilla is attributed to the failure to attend to it while engaged in the difficult task of counting the number of passes of the ball.

Hence, while engaged in a difficult task such as analysing the metrics of thousands of keywords in hundreds of product combinations and campaigns, it’s very likely that most of brand marketers will fail to attend to some very obvious things. It’s not intentional; it’s a psychological effect.

Let me give you a marketing example. Most brands have a customer service helpline often facilitated by a outsourced or in-house call centre. Most call centre managers have little knowledge of where their callers come from but they know all about average hold time, average call duration etc. These are metrics they analyse, while doing this they fail to ascertain how these inbound callers discovered their business in the first place.

>See also: The failures of big data

Similarly, marketers at these brands do not see any phone calls in their reporting tools, but they know all about CTR, number of visitors, CPC, CPA etc. While analysing this data, they fail to aim their marketing objectives to all the online visitors who purchase over a phone call to the brand’s call centre. Despite the fact that the call centre sits in the same building, brand marketers still pass it every day to their desk.

It seems obvious that the call centre manager should be interested in finding out how consumers found them and the path they took before making that call, yet this is something they neglect to ask themselves. The information is simply not available from all the legacy telco platforms out there and call centre managers are fully occupied by analysing the information these legacy platforms provide.

Likewise, marketers should ask themselves if all the online marketing they are doing is behind most of the inbound calls to the contact centre. Unfortunately, marketers are not doing this. The reason behind this is that the information simply isn’t available in legacy reporting tools like Google Analytics. Preoccupied with rotating data in Google Analytics in a million different ways, marketers miss the obvious: the call centre they pass on the way to the desk every working day.

For most industry verticals, except pure online shops, 30-80% of the online visitors end up talking to customer service employees at call centres to complete their purchase.

Consequently, most online marketers are missing out a majority of the conversions in their reports and, ultimately, in their decision making. It also means that most brands set targets for their online budget on completely inaccurate data. These are the ramifications of the psychological effect inattentional blindness has on online marketers and, subsequently, the brands they manage.

How do brand managers avoid it?  They can’t. But they can be aware of it so they can make better decisions and build stronger brands.


Sourced from Carl Holmquist, CEO and founder of advertising technology company Freespee 

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