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  • Writer's pictureHamish Mackenzie

Dumb data.

Why purchases are still about people.

OK, I get it. The future of sales belongs to AI and algorithms, and data geekery is helping businesses know what I want before I do. It’s scary, but it’s true. There’s just one problem. In most cases, the future isn’t here yet. And even in an always on, hyper-connected world, the human element still matters. A lot. Let me give you an example.

I’m in the market for a new watch this year. I have a shortlist of three, from three different manufacturers. And I know for a fact that I have spent a lot more time on the website of one of them, compared to the others. If someone were to use web data analysis to predict the likelihood of a purchase, they might reasonably assume that the watch from this manufacturer is the front runner. But their assumption might change drastically if they had access to some additional information that won’t show up in any data analysis:

• I spent more time on the website of one manufacturer simply because it was the one with which I am least familiar.

• I am interested in one of the other watches because its colors match those that I used in my first logo when I started my business in 2006.

• I fell in love with the third watch when I saw it advertised in the Economist a decade ago, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

• There is also a fourth, extremely rare watch that I saw in a store Tokyo in February, the potential investment value of which could make the other three irrelevant.

No algorithm can give the watch companies access to this crucial data. And we’re talking about the purchase of a consumer product. What happens when you’re dealing with the acquisition of something a lot more complex, like a house, a B2B software solution or even a business?

Data you can measure is useful in the story of any purchase. But the story won’t make any sense without understanding the people who sign on the dotted line.

I don’t expect that to change in my lifetime.

My challenge to you this week: Are you relying too heavily on data in your sales and marketing efforts, and neglecting the human element?


Copyright, Hamish Mackenzie 2019


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