Creative Ways 3 Brands Used Big Data to Drive Sales

Have you ever wondered what companies do with all the personal data they collect from you? When companies track your purchases (yes they do this), what is their end game?

Big data is a term used to refer to all the data you exchange with companies when making a purchase. It could be in a structured or unstructured form but any information you give out is recorded.

Marketing and advertising teams use big data to aid marketing strategies; the data collected is used to evaluate how well a product will do in the market, or how profitable a campaign will be. Smart companies also use big data to build a personal relationship with their customers.

They study the data collected, learn their customers’ likes, spending habits and the range of products they buy (affordable or high-end) and use the information gathered to determine an easy way to get closer to them.

These 3 companies decided to go a step further and create some of the most impactful marketing campaigns noted in this decade, with very impressive accuracy. Some consumers have commented on how they found some of the campaigns sent to them strangely in line with what they needed at that exact time in their lives.

Seriously, some people were creeped out when they discovered how much the companies they patronized knew about them.


During hurricanes, it is expected that supermarkets store up on protective clothing and flashlights. They study weather forecasts and identify what places are likely to be hit, then make those locations their next stock points.

When Hurricane Sandy hit the US, using sales information gathered, Wal-Mart’s Data Cafe discovered that in light of the expected weather, many people in several locations were buying strawberry Pop Tarts. It was amazing how quickly they were able to pick up on this, considering the amount of real-time data they needed to analyze. Extra supplies of strawberry Pop Tarts were sent to various store locations and the sales numbers were incredible.

When writer, Bernard Marr asked how they were able to pick up on this sales opportunity, Walmart Senior Statistical Analyst, Naveen Peddamail, who ran the Wal-Mart’s Data Cafe at that time, told him: “If you can’t get insights until you’ve analysed your sales for a week or a month, then you’ve lost sales within that time. Our goal is always to get information to our business partners as fast as we can, so they can take action and cut down the turnaround time. It is proactive and reactive analytics.”


In 2012, Target was using data collected to identify expecting mothers in their first trimester. They did this by picking up on changes in customer purchases. Although this sounds like a load of work, they designed a system that would make filing information for each individual, relatively easier. Target provided each customer a guest ID, which would be linked to every information provided including credit card, name, and email address. This way, they were able to track each purchase made by a customer.

Their target (pun wasn’t intended till I typed this), was to market their products to expecting mothers before their pregnancies became obvious and other retailers moved in on them.

Most expecting mothers in their first trimester would start buying unscented lotions, unscented soaps, and other telling items. Once their data analytics team picked up on these, they would start sending coupons for maternity clothes and baby items to the expecting mothers’ emails!

One time, their marketing strategy revealed a teenage girl’s pregnancy to her dad before she told him. He came to the store, furious that Target was sending coupons for baby items to his teenage daughter. The manager profusely apologized and decided to call back in three days to apologize again. During the phone call, the father revealed that his daughter came clean about her pregnancy after the coupon drama.


Coca-Cola’s approach to using big data is probably the most insightful of all. Coca-Cola has approximately 3,500 different products being sold worldwide, so their big data is more like big, BIG data. Still, this brand has been able to capture their customers’ minute interests and make them into campaigns that sell every time. In 2009, Coca-Cola invited Dean Kamen, an inventor, to design the vending machine called the Coke Freestyle that collected information directly from consumers on what their beverage preferences were.

Along with the vending machine, a corresponding app which users could use to connect to the machine was developed. That app was downloaded over a million times. Consumers used the app to save the name of their favorite drink combinations and the machine used this information to pour them drinks automatically.

These machines together poured over 5 billion servings. Beyond the sales made, the consumer information gathered at that time was basically priceless.

Businesses have been using the power of insights to build relationships with their customers, which in turn promotes customer loyalty. Big data is the most influential market research tool any brand can wield.

The best part is, information is not provided from the customers’ need to please; it is data on both their conscious and unconscious actions. Big data provides information that surveys can’t, and every brand should know how to take advantage of the benefits that information gathering presents.