This article was first published on GulfNews

We now live in a world where each and every one of us leaves a long trail of information, from the products and services we consume, the technology we use and the platforms we interact with. While some see in it an invasion of our privacy, there is a benefit in sharing that information, as it enables us to enjoy more relevant services and more personalised experiences.

Whether it’s through our online shopping or advanced wearable technology, tracking has, and will continue to, become eminently easier.

At this week’s BrainScape conference, staged by PHD in Dubai, marketing professionals have seen how far tracking can go, including analysing the moods and emotions of individuals in a crowd. The applications of such tracking in marketing are numerous, as brands seek out the most relevant opportunities to engage consumers who, in turn, seek ways to block out irrelevant messaging.

Search behaviour, which often signals potential consumer demand and usually translates into increased website traffic or even direct purchases, is an immediate example of how tracking bridges this gap. Tracking search terms for industries that are impacted by seasonality — such as travel during the summer months or recipes during the holy month of Ramadan — could very well be a good indicator of what is relevant to consumers and what will drive their behaviour.

The real challenge is not the physical tracking, but rather the translation of the collected data into valuable insights from which marketers can identify relevant opportunities.

The media industry has only just scratched the surface of this capability, as technology continues to elevate both consumers and marketers’ expectations and the need for tracking consumers across platforms or the “offline” and “online” worlds becomes paramount. Today, with the aid of wireless beacons, we can track consumer journeys within retail stores, entertainment parks, showrooms and quite literally, any defined space.

The data collected provides in-depth information on consumer preferences, paths, time spent, footfall, engagement and interaction. This intelligence can optimise salesforce shifts, replace low engagement games in theme parks with stronger ones, bring speed to markets where the replenishment of fast-selling items is critical and advise showroom managers on how to best display their items.

In other words, it can drive real business growth.

Therefore, anything that can be tracked should be measured to gain a better understanding of the user journey and improve efficiencies, save time and optimise paths towards our objectives. At PHD, we utilise data management platforms (DMPs) to ingest large amounts of data from multiple tracked sources.

Every single ad that we serve is now tagged and its impact on any outlet — be it a microsite, website or even physical store — assessed. By forming this larger picture of the user’s overall journey, we can then better attribute leads to the right channels, thereby improving the precision of our clients’ targeting strategies on the back of this tracked data.

We are no longer dependent on insight tools fuelled by historic data sitting on remote servers. Our ambition is to build a live connection between all tracking systems, meshing the data together and understand what people consume, where they shop, what brands they like, which ones they would recommend.

Tracked data can answer these questions for brands. This is actually the point when the data about consumers can actually become more important than the consumers themselves, identifying new sources of revenue through techniques, such as lookalike modelling to identify consumers with similar behaviours.

This is only the beginning of a journey that will see tracking become powerful and rich. Just think about what we can achieve once we are able to link our tracking systems with data from virtual reality games and other immersive technologies.

To make things even more interesting, imagine if every single data owner — such as Uber, Airbnb and Google — all come together to form the ultimate tracking forum for businesses to use.

In order to thrive in this tracked world, organisations will need the necessary resources to ask the right questions and get the right answers from the tracked data. By combining different data sets, they will be able to develop innovative solutions and create richer consumer interactions and deeper relationships.

So, are you tracking yet?