Big Data Assets series – Data Sources you could buy

Monetizing your own data assets is not exactly what we call piece of cake. And sometimes just acquiring a third party data source that let’s say can act as glue between your internal data sources is the best way to go.

Beware of Data brokers

You can find almost everything in the internet and the number of companies making money doing exactly that is exponentially increasing. It becomes a problem when it’s about your personal information and it’s made findable and queryable and you can’t do anything about that. The so called data brokers gather all personal information available querying social networks, scraping internet portals, scanning personal purchasing information, credit card transactions, home addresses, etc.

Selling this information, apart from a lucrative business, violates the fundamental right to decide whether to share own information. Examples of data brokers are PeopleFinders, Yasni, Intelius, PIPL, MyLife, etc (intentionally not linking to them).

Enhance your CRM

In a previous post we  talked about your CRM data. A natural way of enriching the CRM information is to buy census data. There are companies specialized in enriching and commercializing the census information published by the local government agencies. The enrichment basically takes place in 3 dimensions:

  • Broader number of attributes: leveraging various surveys and panel information or combining additional sources of information, these companies could provide the likelihood of the customers in your database to drive a BMW or to have a given political preference.
  • Finer geographical granularity: the census information is typically given in standard units like postal codes, district-level, output areas, etc. The granularity is usually not sufficient for the variety of analysis and segmentation required by the businesses, so these companies break the official census information one or two granularity levels further down to get to geographical units containing just a few house numbers.
  • Higher frequency of refreshment: the official Government driven census call–up action takes place every few years. The census data resellers usually re-run at least once a year a set of surveys, that allow them to keep their information more up-to-date

The home address of your customers can be used as the foreign key to enable the Census enrichment.
The top leading companies providing this type of services are typically country specific, although most of them try to go global: for example, in UK we have CACI and Experian, whereas in Germany we have Acxiom and GfK, or in U.S.

Buy data to understand seasonality and external impacts

Other sources than can be purchased to for example understanding the customer behavior are those that provide the description of the customers’ environment at a given point of time: weather, bank-holidays calendar, school days off, etc. Companies like wheatherbase.com, accuweather.com, etc are selling historical weather data.

Also interesting is to know what’s going on where. Analyzing your customers or prospects behaviour depending on certain events or activities going on in their cities,  being them recurring like football matches or just one-off like rock concerts, can reveal interesting patterns and provide immediately actionable insights for marketing, churn prevention, etc.

More static sources related also to places in the city can be combined with the previous ones. For example, real-state price development, criminality index, air pollution, etc

Purchasing behavior can be also an option to understand what’s been bought by which segment of shoppers. The credit card providers like VISA, Mastercard or American, or loyalty programs like Payback, etc have a really valuable insight about what people buy where and when.


In general, the amount and variety of data you can buy increases at almost the same pace as the data gets generated. The business of selling data is booming and it’s just the beginning. Choosing the right sources and more importantly, understanding how to relate the purchased data to your own data assets is going to determine the quality of all your big data products, so take the time and make the right decisions before spending any cent on new data

 (This post is part of the Big Data Assets series, aren’t you curious?)

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