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The DMA event, “What’s Next?” gave us a glimpse into what marketers can expect in 2016 – covering the themes of creativity, data and strategy.

In my opinion, the most compelling talk was given by Jonathan Earle, strategic consultant and former Head of Strategy at O2, who shared his views on the importance of harnessing customer data to future-proof business and eliminate competition. After his presentation it became clear that the thing I wanted to understand was what comes after big data?

For instance, when a brand has the systems in place to build a complete picture of what their customers are doing, what’s the next step for the business five, 10 or 20 years down the line?

Or, once they have the means to continually optimise their CRM, segment audiences, use programmatic and serve behaviourally-targeted ads to customers, do they just keep doing this or do they do undergo some sort of “transformation”?

Even though most companies are a long way off from making sense of their customers’ data, some are already evolving.

In trying to come up with some plausible answers to these questions it would be worth looking at some of the brands Earle name-checked in his talk. These brands are putting customer data at the heart of what they do already and are in a strong place to deliver products and experiences customers will want.

Under Armour

The first was sportswear brand, Under Armour, that has been explicit in its intention of becoming a tech company – not just an apparel manufacturer.

In the last few years it has made several lucrative purchases: $150 million on exercise app MapMyFitness in November 2013, $475 million for calorie-counting app MyFitnessPal and $85 million for European fitness app Endomondo, both in February 2015. As a result, Under Armour now controls the world’s biggest digital health platform.

Their latest connected offering is the Under Armour HealthBox, a piece of kit which will measure and analyse your fitness, health and sleep data through one platform.

Customers get their own UA fitness band to track their physical activity and monitor their sleep, a heart rate band and connected weighing scale which will record your data every time you step on it.

Data pulled from all of these sources are stored in the UA dashboard, which is viewed on your smartphone. There’s a dedicated social network for UA customers who want to share their data with their friends and challenge each other.

“Under Armour’s legacy in sportswear tech, and close ties to athletes and sports physiologists, can carry it through this new era.”

Transformations

So Under Armour is clearly a technology brand, not just a maker of sportswear. In 2016 it already has access to a wealth of customer data thanks to its app acquisitions, it can deliver hyper-personalised lifestyle suggestions to help you live better and can cross and upsell products based on behaviour and personal preferences.

It doesn’t seem improbable that in the future, Under Armour could end up developing the world’s first chain of connected health clubs or branch out into the food delivery sector with bespoke meal plans for every customer on its database.

It could bring 1-2-1 training sessions with athletes into your home through virtual reality or push offers directly to customers’ wearables at exactly the right place and time.

There’s so much that Under Armour could do that it’s difficult to put the finger on what it will do.

Jabra

Jabra Sport Coach is another brand using technology and data to help consumers take their workouts to the next level. The wireless earbuds feed the wearer personalised audio workout instructions, which sync to their phone. The more you exercise with them the smarter they get. Data is constantly fed back to the Jabra app so you can review your routines and optimise them.

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http://www.jabra.co.uk/sports-headphones/jabra-sport-coach-wireless 

Like Under Armour it doesn’t seem unthinkable for a data-driven sports tech brand to rapidly advance into new areas.

Could Jabra partner with a brand like Normal, the 3D-printer factory in New York that makes custom earphones personalised to the size and shape of your ear?

Could the same earbuds respond to your phone’s location and weather data so it could tell you what to do in the park on a sunny afternoon?

What about syncing your earbuds with your friends’ so you can all train together?

What Jabra will do in response to the data it’s collecting is already interesting, even the company isn’t as big as Under Armour.

With great power comes great responsibility

Jonathan Earle made it clear that successful brands are the ones that strive to know as much as they can about individual customers.

This comes with its own challenges as the issue of privacy and security crop up in mainstream media and consumers start to question the value of their personal information.

Having a connected home (At&T Digital Life was mentioned during this talk) is desirable but it comes with serious risks.

Sharing your fitness data with an app helps you improve performance but can be used against you by insurance companies.

In 2016, security, not just big data, is already a major issue that brands need to address.

It’s really exciting to think about what the future of companies like Under Armour will look like given the amount of data they hold today. But they also have greater responsibility, will be exposed to more risks and will need to have the systems in place to counteract possible breaches.

What comes after big data is exciting but it’s also full of threat.

Kei Lawford, Planner and Futorologist