Unlocking the Potential of Alternative Data: A Marketer’s Handbook

Unlocking the Potential of Alternative Data: A Marketer’s Handbook

Have you ever wondered how some companies are always one step ahead of the competition regarding understanding their customers? The answer lies in their use of alternative data.

By tapping into non-traditional sources of information and using advanced analytics techniques, these companies gain a deeper understanding of consumer behaviour and market trends. 

In this article, we’ll explore the world of alternative data and provide a comprehensive guide for marketers looking to unlock it’s full potential.

What is Alternative Data?

Alternative data refers to non-traditional sources of information that can be used to gain insights into consumer behavior and market trends. Examples of alternative data sources include social media, web scraping, satellite imagery, and mobile location data.

While traditional data sources like surveys and demographic information can provide valuable insights, they have limitations. For example, surveys can be time-consuming and expensive, and they may need to provide a complete picture of consumer behavior. Alternatively, alternative data can provide a more granular view of consumer behaviour in real-time.

Best Practices for Collecting and Analyzing Alternative Data

Marketers must follow the best data collection and analysis practices to leverage alternative data effectively. Here are some critical steps to consider:

Define Your Goals

Before collecting alternative data, defining your goals and objectives is essential. What insights are you looking to gain? How will you use the data to inform your marketing strategy?

Identify Relevant Data Sources

After defining your goals for using alternative data, the next step is identifying your business’s most relevant data sources. For instance, if you’re a retailer, social media data may be particularly valuable for understanding consumer sentiment and identifying trends. Social media marketing can be an excellent resource for gathering this data type. 

Other potential alternative data sources include web scraping, public records, and credit card transaction data. The key is identifying data sources relevant to your business goals and available for analysis.

Ensure Data Privacy and Security

Collecting alternative data can raise concerns about data privacy and security. Marketers must ensure that they collect and use data responsibly and ethically.

Use Advanced Analytics Techniques

Analyzing alternative data requires advanced analytics techniques such as machine learning and natural language processing. Marketers may need to partner with data scientists or other specialists to analyze the data effectively.

Iterate and Refine

Lastly, it’s important to iterate and refine your data collection and analysis approach over time. As you gain new insights, you can refine your strategy to optimize your marketing efforts further.

Data Analytics Techniques for Alternative Data

Analyzing alternative data requires specialized skills and tools. Machine learning algorithms, natural language processing, predictive analytics, network analysis, and geospatial analysis are all techniques that can be used to analyze alternative data.

  • Machine learning algorithms can identify patterns and trends in large datasets.
  • Natural language processing can analyze text data, such as social media posts or online reviews.
  • Predictive analytics involves using historical data to make predictions about future behavior.
  • Network analysis can help to understand the relationships between different variables in a dataset.
  • Geospatial analysis involves analyzing data based on geographic location, which can help understand consumer behavior in different regions.

Real-World Examples of Alternative Data in Marketing

Now that we’ve covered best practices for collecting and analyzing alternative data, let’s look at real-world examples of how companies use alternative data to improve their marketing strategies.

Netflix – Personalized Content Recommendations

Netflix is a prime example of a company successfully leveraging alternative data to enhance its marketing efforts. Through the analysis of users’ viewing habits and search history, the company has developed a highly personalized content recommendation system that keeps users engaged and loyal to the platform. This has significantly enhanced Netflix’s marketing efforts and contributed to its success in the highly competitive entertainment industry.

Uber – Demand Prediction

Uber uses a combination of traditional and alternative data sources to predict demand and optimize pricing in real time. By analyzing weather, traffic, events, and more data, Uber can adjust pricing to ensure supply meets demand, resulting in a better experience for riders and drivers.

Walmart – Supply Chain Optimization

Walmart has optimized its supply chain by analyzing various data sources, including weather, social media, and transportation data. With this approach, Walmart can better predict demand, manage inventory levels, and ensure timely delivery of goods to its stores.

Amazon – Personalized Product Recommendations

Amazon uses alternative data such as browsing history, search queries, and purchase history to make personalized product recommendations to its customers. This not only enhances the customer experience but also drives sales and loyalty.

Challenges of Using Alternative Data in Marketing

While alternative data can provide valuable insights, it poses some challenges for marketers.

Data Privacy and Security

Alternative data sources like social media and web scraping can raise concerns about using personal data. Marketers must ensure that they collect and use data responsibly and ethically.

The Complexity of Data Analysis

Enhancing data analysis with AI, including machine learning and natural language processing, can make analyzing alternative data more effective and efficient.

However, these techniques require specialized skills and tools, which can be expensive and time-consuming. Marketers must be prepared to invest the necessary resources to analyze alternative data effectively.

Ethical Considerations

Ethical considerations are also important when using alternative data in marketing. Marketers need to be aware of the potential impact of their actions on consumers and ensure that they are not engaging in unethical or discriminatory practices.


The advancements in worldwide technology have opened up new possibilities for marketers to gain a competitive edge in today’s marketplace. 

Alternative data is valuable for any marketer wanting to make more informed decisions, better understand their customers, and ultimately drive business growth.

Companies that can leverage alternative data effectively will be better positioned for success and stay ahead of the curve in the fast-paced marketing world.