Take Your Marketing to Infinity and Beyond by Utilizing Space Data

Information gleaned from satellites can offer fascinating insights into consumer preferences

Space data can also give additional context about emerging trends. Getty Images
Headshot of Ben Lamm

Space data is about to get wildly popular in the world of marketing and advertising. Thanks to the growing sophistication and falling cost of satellites, more businesses than ever are looking to the final frontier for insights that can be put to use here on Earth. In a matter of years, the CMO will be turning data from space into actionable information through geospatial, real-time and predictive analytics.

There is no doubt that we are entering a satellite revolution. Venture capital companies have pumped billions into space startups, with investment across space tech growing by 29 percent in 2018. The pace of growth is resembling the early days of personal computers, where people are seeing new opportunities in once rare, bulky and expensive technologies. Home computing of the 1980s brought information technology to the masses, just like satellites are bringing a wave of detail-rich imagery and broad coverage to companies.

Today, space-based solutions are playing a larger role in our daily lives than we think. On sea, online and in the air, businesses are using satellite data to grow their company. Glance down at the Uber and Lyft apps on your phone, and you’ll notice that all your ride-sharing apps are “space delivered” and have dominated the taxi industry by leveraging satellite or geospatial imagery. Turn off the satellites, and the application doesn’t exist. Satellite data has repeatedly proven its utility in so many fields, but companies have yet to utilize this powerful tool for customer growth.

The next generation of technology will zoom marketing insights out—all the way to space.

Reopening our field of view

With the rise of technology that can literally track your eyes on a page and the ability to map the customer journey second by second, the magic behind marketing has become very granular. Not to mention, marketers are so stuck in the weeds that they suffer from “InfoObesity,” the gorging of inconsumable amounts of detailed customer data.

That’s where we need to zoom out. Space data provides the necessary context for every customer engagement, giving insight into the larger trends that are influencing behavior. For example, understanding a customers’ geographical reality (from weather to traffic to development) is just as important as knowing their time spent on page.

Space data provides the necessary context for every customer engagement, giving insight into the larger trends that are influencing behavior.

We’ve become obsessed with web and data analytics. We pour tens of thousands of dollars into deciphering the core reason a user makes a purchase or clicks on an ad that we lack situational awareness. By drawing on this satellite data, you can learn the history of a customer’s environment as well as their present situation, which can allow you to better predict long-term customer success.

On one hand, this is the type of data that some companies already collect, but it’s about to be available much more widely and for specific purposes accessible even to smaller companies. It’s not a matter of satellite data replacing digital user data, but rather how we can correlate that ground truth with geospatial analytics to achieve insights we might not even realize we’re missing.

Anticipating customer needs

Marketing has always been interested in what customers will do next, and digital data has unlocked that potential like never before. On the macro-level, however, these specific insights have been held only by major corporations, governments or the data firms that could afford the satellites or pay for their capabilities. With the coming radical democratization of satellite data, this will flip, and space data will help companies garner more context, anticipate what is coming next and stay ahead of customers.

When armed with satellite data, retailers make better business decisions to transform the customer experience. Take, for example, Walmart, who has been partnering with The Weather Company, IBM Business and owns one of the largest private satellite networks in the world. Data collected from its sales numbers showed that consumers don’t like to buy berries during hot, windy days. So the company shifted its retail strategy, boosting the advertising of berries in locations experiencing low wind and temperatures under 80 degrees and reducing the stock of berries in unfavorable conditions. The result was incredible, with store sales of berries tripling in some locations.

This is a complete 180 degrees from how we’ve passively analyzed and dissected customer data before. We’re not twiddling our thumbs waiting for online purchase data, click-through rates, browsing behavior, social media interactions and mobile device usage. By utilizing space data, you’re not only meeting ever-evolving customer needs, but you’re anticipating them. And with small satellite startups popping up by the month, you don’t even need you own private satellite network.

Cashing in on space

If imagery can be updated quickly enough, retail companies could see how many cars are at a given location in order to estimate growth or decline. They could also plan new locations based on factors like accessibility or even locations that have lots of cars parked at their competitors’ stores. As Cade Metz recently pointed out in The New York Times, companies are already using “this satellite data to track the progress of their direct competitors, though those customers and their competitors are very reluctant to talk about it.”

Advertising could likewise leverage different types of data toward better ad targeting. Someone like Facebook could use satellite imagery to generate a wealth of data about a user’s specific location that they can then provide as part of their user targeting suite for their customers. This could include measuring vegetation in residential areas to advertise garden supplies or knowing proximity to mountains and trails to advertise hiking gear or mountain bikes. And satellite data goes beyond just simple imagery to even provide layers of infrared or other “invisible” data that detect patterns like cell phone use.

We don’t yet know exactly what kind of marketing insights will result from zooming out and combining new macro space data with micro digital data. There will undoubtedly be important impacts on supply chain and logistics, on brick and mortar retail development and interesting correlations from trends in transportation, weather and other macro factors on retail. We can look to industries like agriculture and how satellite data has given rise to precision agriculture as just one example of what happens when ground data and space data are combined.

The first era of customer data was about getting really close and personal. Soon we’ll be zooming back out and combining that information with affordable macro data. If you are not thinking about how space data can transform your marketing and advertising efforts, you are seeding the future to your competitors.


@federallamm Ben Lamm is co-founder and chairman of Hypergiant. (Disclosure: Adweek’s parent company, Beringer Capital, is a minority investor in Hypergiant.) He is also a member of the Adweek Advisory Board.