More than a third of marketers don’t know how to use data for decision-making.

Between not knowing which data is useful and how to interpret the data that is, marketers are left with a mountain of information they’re not quite sure how to climb.

The good news is that you’re already collecting data you can leverage to make analytical decisions about your business and its sales and marketing strategies.

The top strategic priority for 51 percent of marketers is to use data analytics for decision-making. By analyzing four types of customer data, small businesses will get ahead of marketers who are already planning to use customer data to drive business decisions.

Let’s go through the four different types of customer data and how each one can provide useful decision-making insights to drive marketing and sales efforts.

Types of customer data

Before getting into the gems hiding in your data, it’s important to distinguish between the different types of customer data up for analysis.

SmartInsights outlines four types of customer data that can be collected and analyzed.

Keep in mind, customer data management, including collection and storage, is subject to the laws and legislation of your country and the location of your customers.

  • Identity data: The most basic personal information that identifies a customer.
  • Quantitative data: Quantifiable data about how your customers have interacted with your brand.
  • Descriptive data: Dives a bit deeper into a customer’s personal life.
  • Qualitative data: Gauges customer preferences and sentiment.

Below, I’ll go through each type of customer data in more detail, where to find it, and how to make use of it.

1. Identity data: Who are your customers?

magnifier icon Identity data: This is the most basic personal information that identifies a customer. It includes such things as name, gender, age, phone number, email addresses, social media handles, and job titles.

Spoiler alert: You can learn a lot about who your customers are by poking around in your own data. This seems like the most poorly “hidden” treasure in your customer data—it’s sitting in plain sight—but you’d be surprised at how much you can do with seemingly mundane information about your customers.

 Where to find it: 

You’re likely already collecting identity data. You’ll have contact information from customers making a purchase or signing up to newsletters or the social media handles of your Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram followers.

If you’re using a CRM, all this information can (and should) be stored and centralized there using the appropriate fields and tags to make analysis easier. Having the right CRM data structure in place will ensure that you have an organized data set that you can easily analyze.

 How it works: 

Identity data is the basis for identifying buyer personas, which gives you an informed picture of who is buying your product or using your service (i.e., who your target demographic is). From there, you can use tags and filters to create customer segments and develop marketing messages specific to different segments, as well as target customers in different stages of the sales cycle.

2. Quantitative data: How much do your customers engage?

magnifier icon Quantitative data: This is data about how your customers interact with your website, the types of products they’ve purchased, how they interact with your brand on social media, and any history of customer service interactions.

Hidden treasures often have a map to lead the way, but when it comes to customer data, the map is the treasure. Knowing the journey that your customers took to find your product can help you optimize it to drive more conversions.

Tracking the customer journey includes identifying the:

  • Search terms that your customers used to find your website
  • Device that your customers accessed your website from
  • Amount of time that customers spend on different pages on your site
  • Channels that drive the most conversions.

 Where to find it: 

Tracking is one of the most important ways to find out where your customers came from. If you’re using tracking pixels, you can track everything from the device that your customers were using to access your site, to the web pages that drove them there. You can also analyze how long they spend on a certain page, where they clicked, and which page they converted from.

Analytics tools like Google Analytics or Kissmetrics can help you set up tracking for lots of different metrics including the ones mentioned above.

 How it works: 

Knowing which channels drive the most conversions can help budget marketing spend better. If you see that people who come from your mobile site convert more often than those that enter on desktop, you can check to make sure that there aren’t any bottlenecks in the desktop buying process that are stalling conversions.

Similarly, if you see a higher ROI from customers who landed on your site from social ads compared to those who entered through search engines ads, you can invest more marketing spend on social channels.

3. Descriptive data: What best describes your customers?

magnifier icon Descriptive data: This data dives a bit deeper into your customers. It gives more info about things ranging from marital status and pet ownership, to car type and career details.

When used in conjunction with quantitative data, you can get a really strong sense of your buyer personas through descriptive data. Imagine a buyer persona like a customer that checks all of the proverbial boxes: It’s your ideal based on who they are and how they interact with your brand, product, or website. Once you have buyer personas, you’ll be able to use that data for predictive analytics.

 Where to find it: 

Descriptive data isn’t as easy to find as the other types of data. Quantitative and identity data is normally data which you’re automatically collecting. You have to go out of your way to collect descriptive data.

In-depth surveys that ask specific questions about your customers are the most common forms of collecting descriptive data. Asking the right questions can help you dive a bit deeper into the relevant personal details, preferences, and attitudes that help define who your customers are.

A Net Promoter Score (NPS), which asks how likely your customers are to recommend you to a friend, is another useful number to help you get a sense of customer sentiment toward your brand.

An example of an NPS survey from Qualtrics, an experience management survey platform

An example of an NPS survey from Qualtrics, an experience management survey platform (Source)

 How it works: 

The idea is to collect enough quantifiable data about customers to make predictions about buying habits and behaviors. Predictive analytics uses tons of descriptive data cues to help make forecasts about buying behaviors, seasonality surges, and product lifetime value. This is all used to inform marketing and sales strategies to target customers are the most optimal time.

4. Qualitative data: What makes your customers tick?

magnifier icon Qualitative data: This data gauges customer preferences and sentiment. This includes how people feel about your product or service, their opinions about your brand (and your competitors), and why they made a purchase.

The idea behind qualitative data is to read between the lines in order to decipher how your customers really feel about your product. This isn’t about explicitly asking for it, but rather interpreting customer opinion and sentiment on various online channels and platforms to tease it out.

 Where to find it: 

Social media is one of the best places to look for customer sentiment. It’s a candid platform where customers speak their mind about brands, products, and customer service experiences. Review sites also help gauge customer opinion about your product or service in a less structured format.

Social media monitoring tools can help you find mentions of your brand online, including social media and review sites (depending on the tool). You can even find mentions of your competitors to see how sentiment compares regarding specific topics.

 How it works: 

Like online eavesdropping, deep listening provides insight into both who your most loyal customers are, as well as where there might be room to improve your product or service. Identifying loyal customers can help you find potential brand advocates. Considering that acquiring a new customer is five times as expensive as retaining an existing one, finding these existing brand advocates can be highly effective for getting more loyal customers on board.

Tools to capture customer data

You won’t be able to find any hidden treasures in your customer data if you’re not capturing it. To make sure that you have an accurate pool of customer data from which you can make an analysis, capture customer data with:

  • Web tracking: captures online activity and customer preferences using things like cookies to see how your customers have interacted with your site.
  • eCommerce checkout: captures contact details and purchase history, along with how long customers may have spent between initial interaction and purchase.
  • Lead forms: capture identity data.
  • Social listening: helps you find out what customers are saying about your brand and its competitors.
  • Surveys: collect descriptive data and captures customer sentiment and opinions.

Read this article if you want more details about how to successfully capture customer data.