Interview Rob J Hyndman Forecasting Expert #rstats

Here is an interview with Prof Rob J Hyndman who has created many time series forecasting methods and authored books as well as R packages on the same.

Ajay -Describe your journey from being a student of science to a Professor. What were some key turning points along that journey?
 
Rob- I started a science honours degree at the University of Melbourne in 1985. By the end of 1985 I found myself simultaneously working as a statistical consultant (having completed all of one year of statistics courses!). For the next three years I studied mathematics, statistics and computer science at university, and tried to learn whatever I needed to in order to help my growing group of clients. Often we would cover things in classes that I’d already taught myself through my consulting work. That really set the trend for the rest of my career. I’ve always been an academic on the one hand, and a statistical consultant on the other. The consulting work has led me to learn a lot of things that I would not otherwise have come across, and has also encouraged me to focus on research problems that are of direct relevance to the clients I work with.
I never set out to be an academic. In fact, I thought that I would get a job in the business world as soon as I finished my degree. But once I completed the degree, I was offered a position as a statistical consultant within the University of Melbourne, helping researchers in various disciplines and doing some commercial work. After a year, I was getting bored doing only consulting, and I thought it would be interesting to do a PhD. I was lucky enough to be offered a generous scholarship which meant I was paid more to study than to continue working.
Again, I thought that I would probably go and get a job in the business world after I finished my PhD. But I finished it early and my scholarship was going to be cut off once I submitted my thesis. So instead, I offered to teach classes for free at the university and delayed submitting my thesis until the scholarship period ran out. That turned out to be a smart move because the university saw that I was a good teacher, and offered me a lecturing position starting immediately I submitted my thesis. So I sort of fell into an academic career.
I’ve kept up the consulting work part-time because it is interesting, and it gives me a little extra money. But I’ve also stayed an academic because I love the freedom to be able to work on anything that takes my fancy.
Ajay- Describe your upcoming book on Forecasting.
 
Rob- My first textbook on forecasting (with Makridakis and Wheelwright) was written a few years after I finished my PhD. It has been very popular, but it costs a lot of money (about $140 on Amazon). I estimate that I get about $1 for every book sold. The rest goes to the publisher (Wiley) and all they do is print, market and distribute it. I even typeset the whole thing myself and they print directly from the files I provided. It is now about 15 years since the book was written and it badly needs updating. I had a choice of writing a new edition with Wiley or doing something completely new. I decided to do a new one, largely because I didn’t want a publisher to make a lot of money out of students using my hard work.
It seems to me that students try to avoid buying textbooks and will search around looking for suitable online material instead. Often the online material is of very low quality and contains many errors.
As I wasn’t making much money on my textbook, and the facilities now exist to make online publishing very easy, I decided to try a publishing experiment. So my new textbook will be online and completely free. So far it is about 2/3 completed and is available at http://otexts.com/fpp/. I am hoping that my co-author (George Athanasopoulos) and I will finish it off before the end of 2012.
The book is intended to provide a comprehensive introduction to forecasting methods. We don’t attempt to discuss the theory much, but provide enough information for people to use the methods in practice. It is tied to the forecast package in R, and we provide code to show how to use the various forecasting methods.
The idea of online textbooks makes a lot of sense. They are continuously updated so if we find a mistake we fix it immediately. Also, we can add new sections, or update parts of the book, as required rather than waiting for a new edition to come out. We can also add richer content including video, dynamic graphics, etc.
For readers that want a print edition, we will be aiming to produce a print version of the book every year (available via Amazon).
I like the idea so much I’m trying to set up a new publishing platform (otexts.com) to enable other authors to do the same sort of thing. It is taking longer than I would like to make that happen, but probably next year we should have something ready for other authors to use.
Ajay- How can we make textbooks cheaper for students as well as compensate authors fairly
 
Rob- Well free is definitely cheaper, and there are a few businesses trying to make free online textbooks a reality. Apart from my own efforts, http://www.flatworldknowledge.com/ is producing a lot of free textbooks. And textbookrevolution.org is another great resource.
With otexts.com, we will compensate authors in two ways. First, the print versions of a book will be sold (although at a vastly cheaper rate than other commercial publishers). The royalties on print sales will be split 50/50 with the authors. Second, we plan to have some features of each book available for subscription only (e.g., solutions to exercises, some multimedia content, etc.). Again, the subscription fees will be split 50/50 with the authors.
Ajay- Suppose a person who used to use forecasting software from another company decides to switch to R. How easy and lucid do you think the current documentation on R website for business analytics practitioners such as these – in the corporate world.
 
Rob- The documentation on the R website is not very good for newcomers, but there are a lot of other R resources now available. One of the best introductions is Matloff’s “The Art of R Programming”. Provided someone has done some programming before (e.g., VBA, python or java), learning R is a breeze. The people who have trouble are those who have only ever used menu interfaces such as Excel. Then they are not only learning R, but learning to think about computing in a different way from what they are used to, and that can be tricky. However, it is well worth it. Once you know how to code, you can do so much more.  I wish some basic programming was part of every business and statistics degree.
If you are working in a particular area, then it is often best to find a book that uses R in that discipline. For example, if you want to do forecasting, you can use my book (otexts.com/fpp/). Or if you are using R for data visualization, get hold of Hadley Wickham’s ggplot2 book.
Ajay- In a long and storied career- What is the best forecast you ever made ? and the worst?
 
 Rob- Actually, my best work is not so much in making forecasts as in developing new forecasting methodology. I’m very proud of my forecasting models for electricity demand which are now used for all long-term planning of electricity capacity in Australia (see  http://robjhyndman.com/papers/peak-electricity-demand/  for the details). Also, my methods for population forecasting (http://robjhyndman.com/papers/stochastic-population-forecasts/ ) are pretty good (in my opinion!). These methods are now used by some national governments (but not Australia!) for their official population forecasts.
Of course, I’ve made some bad forecasts, but usually when I’ve tried to do more than is reasonable given the available data. One of my earliest consulting jobs involved forecasting the sales for a large car manufacturer. They wanted forecasts for the next fifteen years using less than ten years of historical data. I should have refused as it is unreasonable to forecast that far ahead using so little data. But I was young and naive and wanted the work. So I did the forecasts, and they were clearly outside the company’s (reasonable) expectations, and they then refused to pay me. Lesson learned. It’s better to refuse work than do it poorly.

Probably the biggest impact I’ve had is in helping the Australian government forecast the national health budget. In 2001 and 2002, they had underestimated health expenditure by nearly $1 billion in each year which is a lot of money to have to find, even for a national government. I was invited to assist them in developing a new forecasting method, which I did. The new method has forecast errors of the order of plus or minus $50 million which is much more manageable. The method I developed for them was the basis of the ETS models discussed in my 2008 book on exponential smoothing (www.exponentialsmoothing.net)

. And now anyone can use the method with the ets() function in the forecast package for R.
About-
Rob J Hyndman is Pro­fessor of Stat­ist­ics in the Depart­ment of Eco­no­met­rics and Busi­ness Stat­ist­ics at Mon­ash Uni­ver­sity and Dir­ector of the Mon­ash Uni­ver­sity Busi­ness & Eco­nomic Fore­cast­ing Unit. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Inter­na­tional Journal of Fore­cast­ing and a Dir­ector of the Inter­na­tional Insti­tute of Fore­casters. Rob is the author of over 100 research papers in stat­ist­ical sci­ence. In 2007, he received the Moran medal from the Aus­tralian Academy of Sci­ence for his con­tri­bu­tions to stat­ist­ical research, espe­cially in the area of stat­ist­ical fore­cast­ing. For 25 years, Rob has main­tained an act­ive con­sult­ing prac­tice, assist­ing hun­dreds of com­pan­ies and organ­iz­a­tions. His recent con­sult­ing work has involved fore­cast­ing elec­tri­city demand, tour­ism demand, the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment health budget and case volume at a US call centre.

Doing RFM Analysis in R


RFM is a method used for analyzing customer behavior and defining market segments. It is commonly used in database marketing and direct marketing and has received particular attention in retail.


RFM stands for


  • Recency – How recently did the customer purchase?
  • Frequency – How often do they purchase?
  • Monetary Value – How much do they spend?

To create an RFM analysis, one creates categories for each attribute. For instance, the Recency attribute might be broken into three categories: customers with purchases within the last 90 days; between 91 and 365 days; and longer than 365 days. Such categories may be arrived at by applying business rules, or using a data mining technique, such as CHAID, to find meaningful breaks.

from-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RFM

If you are new to RFM or need more step by step help, please read here

https://decisionstats.com/2010/10/03/ibm-spss-19-marketing-analytics-and-rfm/

and here is R code- note for direct marketing you need to compute Monetization based on response rates (based on offer date) as well



##Creating Random Sales Data of the format CustomerId (unique to each customer), Sales.Date,Purchase.Value

sales=data.frame(sample(1000:1999,replace=T,size=10000),abs(round(rnorm(10000,28,13))))

names(sales)=c("CustomerId","Sales Value")

sales.dates <- as.Date("2010/1/1") + 700*sort(stats::runif(10000))

#generating random dates

sales=cbind(sales,sales.dates)

str(sales)

sales$recency=round(as.numeric(difftime(Sys.Date(),sales[,3],units="days")) )

library(gregmisc)

##if you have existing sales data you need to just shape it in this format

rename.vars(sales, from="Sales Value", to="Purchase.Value")#Renaming Variable Names

## Creating Total Sales(Monetization),Frequency, Last Purchase date for each customer

salesM=aggregate(sales[,2],list(sales$CustomerId),sum)

names(salesM)=c("CustomerId","Monetization")

salesF=aggregate(sales[,2],list(sales$CustomerId),length)

names(salesF)=c("CustomerId","Frequency")

salesR=aggregate(sales[,4],list(sales$CustomerId),min)

names(salesR)=c("CustomerId","Recency")

##Merging R,F,M

test1=merge(salesF,salesR,"CustomerId")

salesRFM=merge(salesM,test1,"CustomerId")

##Creating R,F,M levels 

salesRFM$rankR=cut(salesRFM$Recency, 5,labels=F) #rankR 1 is very recent while rankR 5 is least recent

salesRFM$rankF=cut(salesRFM$Frequency, 5,labels=F)#rankF 1 is least frequent while rankF 5 is most frequent

salesRFM$rankM=cut(salesRFM$Monetization, 5,labels=F)#rankM 1 is lowest sales while rankM 5 is highest sales

##Looking at RFM tables
table(salesRFM[,5:6])
table(salesRFM[,6:7])
table(salesRFM[,5:7])

Code Highlighted by Pretty R at inside-R.org

Note-you can also use quantile function instead of cut function. This changes cut to equal length instead of equal interval. or  see other methods for finding breaks for categories.

 

Interview: Hjálmar Gíslason, CEO of DataMarket.com

Here is an interview with Hjálmar Gíslason, CEO of Datamarket.com  . DataMarket is an active marketplace for structured data and statistics. Through powerful search and visual data exploration, DataMarket connects data seekers with data providers.

 

Ajay-  Describe your journey as an entrepreneur and techie in Iceland. What are the 10 things that surprised you most as a tech entrepreneur.

HG- DataMarket is my fourth tech start-up since at age 20 in 1996. The previous ones have been in gaming, mobile and web search. I come from a technical background but have been moving more and more to the business side over the years. I can still prototype, but I hope there isn’t a single line of my code in production!

Funny you should ask about the 10 things that have surprised me the most on this journey, as I gave a presentation – literally yesterday – titled: “9 things nobody told me about the start-up business”

They are:
* Do NOT generalize – especially not to begin with
* Prioritize – and find a work-flow that works for you
* Meet people – face to face
* You are a sales person – whether you like it or not
* Technology is not a product – it’s the entire experience
* Sell the current version – no matter how amazing the next one is
* Learn from mistakes – preferably others’
* Pick the right people – good people is not enough
* Tell a good story – but don’t make them up

I obviously elaborate on each of these points in the talk, but the points illustrate roughly some of the things I believe I’ve learned … so far 😉

9 things nobody told me about the start-up business

Ajay-

Both Amazon  and Google  have entered the public datasets space. Infochimps  has 14,000+ public datasets. The US has http://www.data.gov/

So clearly the space is both competitive and yet the demand for public data repositories is clearly under served still. 

How does DataMarket intend to address this market in a unique way to differentiate itself from others.

HG- DataMarket is about delivering business data to decision makers. We help data seekers find the data they need for planning and informed decision making, and data publishers reaching this audience. DataMarket.com is the meeting point, where data seekers can come to find the best available data, and data publishers can make their data available whether for free or for a fee. We’ve populated the site with a wealth of data from public sources such as the UN, Eurostat, World Bank, IMF and others, but there is also premium data that is only available to those that subscribe to and pay for the access. For example we resell the entire data offering from the EIU (Economist Intelligence Unit) (link: http://datamarket.com/data/list/?q=provider:eiu)

DataMarket.com allows all this data to be searched, visualized, compared and downloaded in a single place in a standard, unified manner.

We see many of these efforts not as competition, but as valuable potential sources of data for our offering, while others may be competing with parts of our proposition, such as easy access to the public data sets.

 

Ajay- What are your views on data confidentiality and access to data owned by Governments funded by tax payer money.

HG- My views are very simple: Any data that is gathered or created for taxpayers’ money should be open and free of charge unless higher priorities such as privacy or national security indicate otherwise.

Reflecting that, any data that is originally open and free of charge is still open and free of charge on DataMarket.com, just easier to find and work with.

Ajay-  How is the technology entrepreneurship and venture capital scene in Iceland. What things work and what things can be improved?

HG- The scene is quite vibrant, given the small community. Good teams with promising concepts have been able to get the funding they need to get started and test their footing internationally. When the rapid growth phase is reached outside funding may still be needed.

There are positive and negative things about any location. Among the good things about Iceland from the stand point of a technology start-up are highly skilled tech people and a relatively simple corporate environment. Among the bad things are a tiny local market, lack of skills in international sales and marketing and capital controls that were put in place after the crash of the Icelandic economy in 2008.

I’ve jokingly said that if a company is hot in the eyes of VCs it would get funding even if it was located in the jungles of Congo, while if they’re only lukewarm towards you, they will be looking for any excuse not to invest. Location can certainly be one of them, and in that case being close to the investor communities – physically – can be very important.

We’re opening up our sales and marketing offices in Boston as we speak. Not to be close to investors though, but to be close to our market and current customers.

Ajay- Describe your hobbies when you are not founding amazing tech startups.

HG- Most of my time is spent working – which happens to by my number one hobby.

It is still important to step away from it all every now and then to see things in perspective and come back with a clear mind.

I *love* traveling to exotic places. Me and my wife have done quite a lot of traveling in Africa and S-America: safari, scuba diving, skiing, enjoying nature. When at home I try to do some sports activities 3-4 times a week at least, and – recently – play with my now 8 month old son as much as I can.

About-

http://datamarket.com/p/about/team/

Management

Hjalmar GislasonHjálmar Gíslason, Founder and CEO: Hjalmar is a successful entrepreneur, founder of three startups in the gaming, mobile and web sectors since 1996. Prior to launching DataMarket, Hjalmar worked on new media and business development for companies in the Skipti Group (owners of Iceland Telecom) after their acquisition of his search startup – Spurl. Hjalmar offers a mix of business, strategy and technical expertise. DataMarket is based largely on his vision of the need for a global exchange for structured data.

hjalmar.gislason@datamarket.com

To know more, have a quick  look at  http://datamarket.com/

Predictive Models Ain’t Easy to Deploy

 

This is a guest blog post by Carole Ann Matignon of Sparkling Logic. You can see more on Sparkling Logic at http://my.sparklinglogic.com/

Decision Management is about combining predictive models and business rules to automate decisions for your business. Insurance underwriting, loan origination or workout, claims processing are all very good use cases for that discipline… But there is a hiccup… It ain’t as easy you would expect…

What’s easy?

If you have a neat model, then most tools would allow you to export it as a PMML model – PMML stands for Predictive Model Markup Language and is a standard XML representation for predictive model formulas. Many model development tools let you export it without much effort. Many BRMS – Business rules Management Systems – let you import it. Tada… The model is ready for deployment.

What’s hard?

The problem that we keep seeing over and over in the industry is the issue around variables.

Those neat predictive models are formulas based on variables that may or may not exist as is in your object model. When the variable is itself a formula based on the object model, like the min, max or sum of Dollar amount spent in Groceries in the past 3 months, and the object model comes with transaction details, such that you can compute it by iterating through those transactions, then the problem is not “that” big. PMML 4 introduced some support for those variables.

The issue that is not easy to fix, and yet quite frequent, is when the model development data model does not resemble the operational one. Your Data Warehouse very likely flattened the object model, and pre-computed some aggregations that make the mapping very hard to restore.

It is clearly not an impossible project as many organizations do that today. It comes with a significant overhead though that forces modelers to involve IT resources to extract the right data for the model to be operationalized. It is a heavy process that is well justified for heavy-duty models that were developed over a period of time, with a significant ROI.

This is a show-stopper though for other initiatives which do not have the same ROI, or would require too frequent model refresh to be viable. Here, I refer to “real” model refresh that involves a model reengineering, not just a re-weighting of the same variables.

For those initiatives where time is of the essence, the challenge will be to bring closer those two worlds, the modelers and the business rules experts, in order to streamline the development AND deployment of analytics beyond the model formula. The great opportunity I see is the potential for a better and coordinated tuning of the cut-off rules in the context of the model refinement. In other words: the opportunity to refine the strategy as a whole. Very ambitious? I don’t think so.

About Carole Ann Matignon

http://my.sparklinglogic.com/index.php/company/management-team

Carole-Ann Matignon Print E-mail

Carole-Ann MatignonCarole-Ann Matignon – Co-Founder, President & Chief Executive Officer

She is a renowned guru in the Decision Management space. She created the vision for Decision Management that is widely adopted now in the industry.  Her claim to fame is managing the strategy and direction of Blaze Advisor, the leading BRMS product, while she also managed all the Decision Management tools at FICO (business rules, predictive analytics and optimization). She has a vision for Decision Management both as a technology and a discipline that can revolutionize the way corporations do business, and will never get tired of painting that vision for her audience.  She speaks often at Industry conferences and has conducted university classes in France and Washington DC.

She started her career building advanced systems using all kinds of technologies — expert systems, rules, optimization, dashboarding and cubes, web search, and beta version of database replication. At Cleversys (acquired by Kurt Salmon & Associates), she also conducted strategic consulting gigs around change management.

While playing with advanced software components, she found a passion for technology and joined ILOG (acquired by IBM). She developed a growing interest in Optimization as well as Business Rules. At ILOG, she coined the term BRMS while brainstorming with her Sales counterpart. She led the Presales organization for Telecom in the Americas up until 2000 when she joined Blaze Software (acquired by Brokat Technologies, HNC Software and finally FICO).

Her 360-degree experience allowed her to gain appreciation for all aspects of a software company, giving her a unique perspective on the business. Her technical background kept her very much in touch with technology as she advanced.

Quantitative Modeling for Arbitrage Positions in Ad KeyWords Internet Marketing

Assume you treat an ad keyword as an equity stock. There are slight differences in the cost for advertising for that keyword across various locations (Zurich vs Delhi) and various channels (Facebook vs Google) . You get revenue if your website ranks naturally in organic search for the keyword, and you have to pay costs for getting traffic to your website for that keyword.
An arbitrage position is defined as a riskless profit when cost of keyword is less than revenue from keyword. We take examples of Adsense  and Adwords primarily.
There are primarily two types of economic curves on the foundation of which commerce of the  internet  resides-
1) Cost Curve- Cost of Advertising to drive traffic into the website  (Google Adwords, Twitter Ads, Facebook , LinkedIn ads)
2) Revenue Curve – Revenue from ads clicked by the incoming traffic on website (like Adsense, LinkAds, Banner Ads, Ad Sharing Programs , In Game Ads)
The cost and revenue curves are primarily dependent on two things
1) Type of KeyWord-Also subdependent on
a) Location of Prospective Customer, and
b) Net Present Value of Good and Service to be eventually purchased
For example , keyword for targeting sales of enterprise “business intelligence software” should ideally be costing say X times as much as keywords for “flower shop for birthdays” where X is the multiple of the expected payoffs from sales of business intelligence software divided by expected payoff from sales of flowers (say in Location, Daytona Beach ,Florida or Austin, Texas)
2) Traffic Volume – Also sub-dependent on Time Series and
a) Seasonality -Annual Shoppping Cycle
b) Cyclicality– Macro economic shifts in time series
The cost and revenue curves are not linear and ideally should be continuous in a definitive exponential or polynomial manner, but in actual reality they may have sharp inflections , due to location, time, as well as web traffic volume thresholds
Type of Keyword – For example ,keywords for targeting sales for Eminem Albums may shoot up in a non linear manner after the musician dies.
The third and not so publicly known component of both the cost and revenue curves is factoring in internet industry dynamics , including relative market share of internet advertising platforms, as well as percentage splits between content creator and ad providing platforms.
For example, based on internet advertising spend, people belive that the internet advertising is currently heading for a duo-poly with Google and Facebook are the top two players, while Microsoft/Skype/Yahoo and LinkedIn/Twitter offer niche options, but primarily depend on price setting from Google/Bing/Facebook.
It is difficut to quantify  the elasticity and efficiency of market curves as most literature and research on this is by in-house corporate teams , or advisors or mentors or consultants to the primary leaders in a kind of incesteous fraternal hold on public academic research on this.
It is recommended that-
1) a balance be found in the need for corporate secrecy to protest shareholder value /stakeholder value maximization versus the need for data liberation for innovation and grow the internet ad pie faster-
2) Cost and Revenue Curves between different keywords, time,location, service providers, be studied by quants for hedging inetrent ad inventory or /and choose arbitrage positions This kind of analysis is done for groups of stocks and commodities in the financial world, but as commerce grows on the internet this may need more specific and independent quants.
3) attention be made to how cost and revenue curves mature as per level of sophistication of underlying economy like Brazil, Russia, China, Korea, US, Sweden may be in different stages of internet ad market evolution.
For example-
A study in cost and revenue curves for certain keywords across domains across various ad providers across various locations from 2003-2008 can help academia and research (much more than top ten lists of popular terms like non quantitative reports) as well as ensure that current algorithmic wightings are not inadvertently given away.
Part 2- of this series will explore the ways to create third party re-sellers of keywords and measuring impacts of search and ad engine optimization based on keywords.

Information Ladder for Analytics

One very commonly used diagram in marketing and sales by analytics providers, which is hardly ever credited to its author is the Information Ladder

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_ladder

The information ladder is a diagram created by education professor Norman Longworth to describe the stages in human learning. According to the ladder, a learner moves through the following progression to construct “wisdom” at the highest level from “data” at the lowest level:

Data →
   Information 
                Knowledge →
                                    Understanding → 
                                                                  Insight →
                                                                                 Wisdom

Whereas the first two steps can be scientifically exactly defined, the upper parts belong to the domain of psychology and philosophy.

I sometimes think the information ladder and especially the latter two parts are underutilized, under-quantified as metrics and rarely understood completely by the wise men in analytics and information display.

Some visual versions are below

 

Funny enough, it is one of the rare concepts first inspired by poetry-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DIKW

The earliest formalized distinction between wisdom, knowledge, and information may have been made by poet and playwright T.S. Eliot 

Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

 

Does the Internet need its own version of credit bureaus

Data Miners love data. The more data they have the better model they can build. Consumers do not love data so much and find sharing data generally a cumbersome task. They need to be incentivize for filling out survey forms , and for signing to loyalty programs. Lawyers, and privacy advocates love to use examples of improper data collection and usage as the harbinger of an ominous scenario. George Orwell’s 1984 never “mentioned” anything about Big Brother trying to sell you one more loan, credit card or product.

Data generated by customers is now growing without their needing to fill out forms and surveys. This data is about their preferences , tastes and choices and is growing in size and depth because it is generated from social media channels on the Internet.It is this data that can be and is captured by social media analytics.

Mobile data is also growing, including usage of location based applications and usage of Internet from the mobile phone is leading to further increases in data about consumers.Increasingly , location based applications help to provide a much more relevant context to the data generated. Just mobile data is expected to grow to 15 exabytes by 2015.

People want to have more and more conversations online publicly , share pictures , activity and interact with a large number of people whom  they have never met. But resent that information being used or abused without their knowledge.

Also the Internet is increasingly being consolidated into a few players like Microsoft, Amazon, Google  and Facebook, who are unable to agree on agreements to share that data between themselves. Interestingly you can use Yahoo as a data middleman between Google and Facebook.

At the same time, more and more purchases are being done online by customers and Internet advertising has grown much above the rate of growth of other mediums of communication.
Internet retail sales have the advantage that better demand predictability can lead to lower inventories as retailers need not stock up displays to look good. An Amazon warehouse need not keep material to simply stock up it shelves like a K-Mart does.

Our Hypothesis – An Analogy with how Financial Data Marketing is managed offline

  1. Financial information regarding spending and saving is much more sensitive yet the presence of credit bureaus alleviates these concerns.
  2. Credit bureaus collect information from all sources, aggregate and anonymize the individual components accordingly.They use SSN as a unique identifier.
  3. The Internet has a unique number too , called the Internet Protocol Address (I.P) 
  4. Should there be a unique identifier like Internet Security Number for the Internet to ensure adequate balance between the need for privacy as well as the need for appropriate targeting? 

After all, no one complains about privacy intrusions if their credit bureau data is aggregated , rolled up, and anonymized and turned into a propensity model for sending them direct mailers.

Advertising using Social Media and Internet

https://www.facebook.com/about/ads/#stories

1. A business creates an ad
Let’s say a gym opens in your neighborhood. The owner creates an ad to get people to come in for a free workout.
2. Facebook gets paid to deliver the ad
The owner sends the ad to Facebook and describes who should see it: people who live nearby and like running.
The right people see the ad
3. Facebook only shows you the ad if you live in town and like to run. That’s how advertisers reach you without knowing who you are.

Adding in credit bureau data and legislative regulation for anonymizing  and handling privacy data can expand the internet selling market, which is much more efficient from a supply chain perspective than the offline display and shop models.

Privacy Regulations on Marketing using Internet data
Should laws on opt out and do not mail, do not call, lists be extended to do not show ads , do not collect information on social media. In the offline world, you can choose to be part of direct marketing or opt out of direct marketing by enrolling yourself in various do not solicit lists. On the internet the only option from advertisements is to use the Adblock plugin if you are Google Chrome or Firefox browser user. Even Facebook gives you many more ads than you need to see.

One reason for so many ads on the Internet is lack of central anonymize data repositories for giving high quality data to these marketing companies.Software that can be used for social media analytics is already available off the shelf.

The growth of the Internet has helped carved out a big industry for Internet web analytics so it is a matter of time before social media analytics becomes a multi billion dollar business as well. What new developments would be unleashed in this brave new world is just a matter of time, and of course of the social media data!