woman shopping online in the dark, lit by her laptop

We've all heard the call to deliver data-driven customer experiences, but what does this look like in practice?

Brands aspire to a common goal: to use data to gain an understanding of customers as individuals, to find insights into each person's context at the time they interact with your brand and to act on those insights by delivering relevant experiences that meet an individual's needs in the moment.

All this starts with semantically enriching your data. 

What Is Semantic Data?

Semantics are a form of metadata (data about data) that describe the meaning of your data. The simplest form of semantics are definitions of words. The definition enhances your understanding of "what" the word is. This is the start of understanding the meaning of the word, however, depending on the context, a word can have drastically different meanings. For example, take the word "white" — a color without hue. Seems simple enough, but as you can see in the examples below, the word's meaning is completely different depending on the context:

  • White wine.
  • White paint.
  • White noise.
  • White lie.

Context Increases Insight Into Your Data

In the above example, each pairing of white with another word alters the meaning dramatically because of the context of how the word was used. The context is not established until the words are connected. This is the essence of semantic's value, in that once the connection between terms is established, the meaning is enhanced.  This establishes a major tenet of semantics:

  • The more connections you make — the more meaning you have.
  • The more meaning you have — the more understanding you have.
  • The more understanding you have — the more knowledge you have.
  • The more knowledge you have — the more insight you have. 

Connections Can Be Unlimited as Context Is Increased

Every bit of your data can be semantically enriched to increase its context. Who, what, when, where, why and how are all descriptive elements that can be connected to your data to enhance its meaning, which will in turn enhances your insight into the data. How is data enriched? The following data types are examples of what you can use to enrich your data by connecting it to your transactional data:

  • Taxonomical (Categorization and Stratification).
  • Sentimental (Surveys, Reviews, Comments, Epistemolographies).
  • Behavioral (Web Activity).
  • Ethnographical (Cultural).
  • Contextual (IoT, Geospatial, Visual Recognition, Semiotics).
  • Ontological (Descriptive).

The Goal: Delight Your Customer with Relevancy

The richer your data is, the more accurate your knowledge will be of an individual’s goals and desires. Putting a person in the context of the current moment, gaining a deep understanding of who they are as an individual, will ultimately lead to you connecting with them as a unique person. This connection is key to improving user experience and customer engagement. The ultimate goal is relevancy in every interaction you have with an individual. 

Improving User Experience and Customer Engagement with Insight

When you bring this relevancy into application design and content delivery, you gain so many advantages: your customer engagement improves as does the customer's view of your brand. Better insight, driven by enriched data, allows you to predict with a higher degree of probability what will meet that person's current needs as well as predicting what he or she is likely to be thinking and their next likely action. Creating profiles for individuals or groups based on this information drives how the application behaves and what content is displayed. When you map the connections between all of this information, you've created an ontology, a powerful tool to drive the customer experience.

Ontologies Drive the Data-Driven Revolution

What are ontologies? The standard (and slightly confusing) dictionary definitions are: 1. The branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being. 2. A set of concepts and categories in a subject area or domain that shows their properties and the relations between them. Still confused? A picture is really the best way to understand ontologies:

basic ontology

From the illustration, you can easily see an ontology is a construct for connecting things together and how they are connected. While a simple concept, it's a powerful one, as there are no limitations in how many things you can connect about any context, topic or individual.

Mapping a Person Ontologically Dramatically Enriches Your Insights

In mapping a person through an ontology unique to them and them alone, you have the key to unlimited data points about that person that you can use to present the text and images that are more interesting, pleasing and more likely to evoke a potential action (your goal). In this way, you are customizing your application per individual via content that is dynamic based on their uniqueness.

an ontology mapped for a specific individual

As shown above, the ontology tells the application what images are likely to drive positive emotions. The images and content overall can be tailored to his unique likes, tastes and interest even at the current moment.

Taking the Revolution to the Next Level: Context of the Moment

Mapping environmental data, location and even mood into an individual's ontology can dramatically increase the accuracy of delivering effective content for that current moment of time. This is called "maximum relevancy."  

Ultimately, the holy grail of predicting behavior is to predict with decent certainty that an individual might consider purchasing something they did not consciously set out to buy a few moments ago. In a way, you could say the ontology knows a person better than they know themselves.