Big data isn’t just a buzzword or a fleeting trend: executives are already seeing positive outcomes from these new initiatives–especially when it comes to answering every customer UX question. When you’re trying to optimize your appeal to a certain audience, it only makes sense that you’d gather as much information about them as possible.

To justify increased investment in big data initiatives, the only thing most executives need to do is point to their bottom lines. Research from eMarketer indicates that marketing initiatives driven by big data effectively increased sales 81% of the time and increased ROI at a rate of 76%.

From a purely quantitative standpoint, it’s evident that all the information we’re gathering is driving more purchases and more than paying for itself.

But of course, what makes a business successful, especially B2C companies, isn’t purely quantitative. Understanding and appealing to your customers through marketing takes the kind of creative, emotional thinking that doesn’t just come from anywhere — it comes from the talent your company invests in.

But even the best minds and the most innovative campaigns can’t reach an audience if the data that’s informing them isn’t accurate enough. That’s why big data’s most important use is to increase insights about consumer behavior.

Getting in Your Customers’ Heads

To get real, practical knowledge about consumers, you can’t just rely on focus groups and surveys. Consider how the science of psychology has progressed — at first, we were only relying on abstract theories and one-on-one interviews, basing our knowledge of the human mind off of what it could report about itself.

The problem is that people, unsurprisingly, are more than a little biased when it comes to analyzing their own thoughts and motivations. To really get at what it is they’re thinking, you need something more concrete.

That’s why, in the latter half of the 20th century, approaches like behaviorism began to take hold. The focus shifted from ideological frameworks to observable behavior, as scientists began to see that what’s on our minds is less ephemeral and intangible than we thought.

Today, incredible technology lets us observe activity at the most microscopic levels in the brain, helping us to pinpoint things like how a medication is working.

This is the kind of thinking that should be applied to marketing initiatives. We can’t rely on consumers to honestly tell us what they like or don’t like about a product when we bait them with the promise of money and prizes.

When your customer is only talking to you for their own profit, doesn’t that bias your results from the start? Why not use the behavior that your audience is displaying every day, without being bribed, to predict their actions and opinions?

Quantity and Quality

As I’ve said earlier, executives rely on stacks of numbers to inform their business decisions, but when it comes to questions that aren’t as easily answered by equations and statistics, they shouldn’t give up on empirical data. Already, companies are learning more and more about their customers, enhancing that essential but hard-to-define aspect of every transaction: the customer experience.