The power of big data is adding new dimensions to marketing and product development, and it’s coming rapidly to the Christian products industry.

Some larger Christian product companies are delving into big data and recent industry CEO surveys have found not only more interest but investment in big data collection and analytics to improve product development, marketing, and sales.

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business found in its biannual “CMO Survey 2017” that marketing executives plan to spend 376 percent more on data analytics to improve customer experience during the next three years, from 4.6 percent to 21.9 percent of respondents. However, a third of them are concerned there’s a lack of adequate analytical tools and processes to make any sense out of the big data that’s collected.

That’s understandable when you think about how much data is collected to analyze. Data sets could range from typical business information, such as sales, expenses, and operations information to cultural activities, such as social media, entertainment consumption, internet habits, and more. Consumer behaviors, polling results, demographics, and geography, including weather and news reports can be mixed in.

Analysis is then about crawling through the data mess to seek trends and patterns based on specifically defined information requirements or desired business outcomes that would enable predictive, real-time information to support business.

Connects with Customers

Rachel Barach, HarperCollins Christian Publishing’s senior vice president, Digital Operations, said big data is beyond useful in the distribution of Christian content. “The ethical use of big data enables the most relevant and compelling experiences for people, whether Christian or not,” she said.

Insights gained from data analysis ought to be used to streamline a shopper’s search-and-buy experience (whether online or offline) and making the journey to purchase relevant, easy, and complete.

“There is no question that Christian businesses must use available data to drive the production of relevant content, understand how best to position that content for its target audience, and market and sell the content effectively.

“I don’t see this as a matter of competition, but a matter of survival. Data-driven experiences are becoming every consumer’s expectation, no longer a nice-to-have,” Barach said.


Brooke Hempell, Barna Research Group senior VP, said the key to big data is the ability to be predictive.

For retailers to be in the right place at the right time, it typically means getting an online ad in front of someone who fits your target demographic while she is in the process of discovering, researching, or deciding to purchase a given type of product. This requires robust data models to figure out the predictive factors, she said.


A simpler application might be identifying ZIP codes or geographic areas where higher concentrations of target consumers or likely purchasers are. New homeowners or people in specific life stages, for example, might be combined with information on which media they frequent. This could enable cheaper, more effective advertising connected directly to likely buyers.

Shawn Everson, chief commercial officer for Ingram Content Group, said this capability can provide the opportunity to have a much more precise approach to everything from stocking to merchandising products. “Big data provides businesses with the ability to be tactical in delivering the most relevant information to the right people at the right time in the right way.”

Ingram’s ipage® database has used curated lists, as well as bestseller lists from the New York Times and bookseller and publisher associations, that related to current trends and issues to increase opportunistic sales and bookseller relevancy.

“Our approach in what and how much we collect, our ability to more thoroughly analyze it, and the speed by which we do it has changed based on the tools available, and that is continuing to change with laws relating to the collection and use of data,” Everson said.

UNITE 2018 Preview

At UNITE 2018, a Future of the Industry Breakfast will include a look at what’s coming to the industry, especially to retail, as a tool to translate big data information into product development and local marketing. Groundbreaking strategic initiatives will be discussed by Edward Roush, chairman of the Roush Foundation and Kurt Ruf, partner with big-data marketing firm Ruf Strategic Solutions, that will reveal insights into new unified strategies to increase industry sales, store traffic, and operational efficiencies using big data, exclusive products built on expressed consumer preferences, specialized inventory financing, and powerful marketing tools.

See more and register at