Let’s start with the punchline: globally harmonized consumer data helps businesses make better decisions at global and regional levels. 

But how do we know this? To understand the true value of harmonized data, you first need to know what it is. 

So here are the facts.

What is globally harmonized data?

As the word ‘harmonization’ suggests, this kind of data isn’t collected in silos. 

This means a consistent methodology is used to gather the data.

One of the biggest problems with data being collected region by region is that often multiple data sets are needed. 

With the vast majority of regions shown the same set of questions (depending on cultural nuances) you can gather instant results and cross-compare with ease. 


Why is it so important?

As every marketer knows, data is essential for effective targeting. 

But expectations are changing, and consumers want content that aligns with their personal lives, attitudes and preferences.

To meet those expectations, strategies need to be built on a solid understanding of target regions and the consumers within; and the more detailed the better.

This allows you to create bespoke campaigns that hit on key insights uncovered in that region, leading to greater returns.

But how do you accomplish this with different data sources, across different regions, all giving you different answers on your audience?

Here’s where the value of harmonized data lies.


What does it allow you to do?

1. Make like for like comparisons of regions.

Most regional data collection is done with a set purpose in mind – ‘to understand X’. But conducting data in this way means making wider generationlizations and comparisons isn’t reliable.

Using harmonized data, media planners can undertake consistent analysis across multiple markets and data points. 

It offers simple and varied analysis, and provided there’s a large enough sample size, comparisons can be made at any scale.

Example: Ad-blocking by continent and country. 

Let’s look at ad-blocking behavior as an example, first breaking it down by continent, then by country.

Participants were asked whether they’d used an ad-blocker in the last month. 431,000 responded ‘yes’ globally, but let’s break it down further. 

Ad-blocker usage in the last month.

At a glance, the continental percentages seem fairly consistent with one another, but when you look at the countries within, the range of results is revealed. 

Let’s focus in on a few nations within Asia Pacific.

ad-blocker usage in in Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.

Instinct tells us that ad-blocking behavior isn’t universally consistent, but a harmonized data set reveals the extent to which behaviors like this exist in specific regions.

2. Identifying trends and where they’re headed.

Having a huge taxonomy updated at regular intervals not only offers an accurate representation of the current state of consumerism, it means you can identify new trends and where they’re headed.

Perhaps even more importantly, you can also see why they’ve evolved.

This means planners need not rely on seemingly similar, or ‘proxy’ countries to predict and monitor trends.

For example, ‘if we’re seeing this trend in the U.S., then the same must be true for Canada.’

Instead they can identify the consumer landscape in each region to help minimize risk, and maximize returns.

Example: Uptake of internet banking in Mexico.

Internet banking is now a global phenomenon, but uptake happened at different rates across different regions. Mexico, for example, saw fast growth in late 2017- early 2018, while other nations witnessed this pre-2017.

Since 2017, we have asked respondents globally whether they’ve used an internet banking service within the last month – so let’s focus on the responses of consumers in Mexico who answered ‘yes’ to that question.

Monthly internet banking usage in Mexico.

The number of people engaging in internet banking on a monthly basis saw a massive uptick between Q3 2017 and Q3 2018. Since then, the number of monthly users has stayed consistently high, with a slight drop off as we move into Q4 2019.

Being able to add insights like these to planning and strategy is invaluable to the longevity of a business, especially if your industry is turbulent and competitive.

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Case study: How Zenith uses harmonized data 

Zenith is a global agency that blends data, technology and specialists to scout out new opportunities, solve complex challenges and grow businesses. Labelling itself ‘The ROI Agency’, Zenith forms part of the wider Publicis Media team, who lead communications and buying for a vast array of brands. 

The challenge 

Identifying new opportunities for engagement.

For media planners, the difference between hype and reality is crucial; return on investment depends on it.

Staying close to consumer trends and recognizing opportunities to keep their clients ahead of competitors is paramount. The benefits of this are less cluttered environments, and often new ways to tell a brand’s story that shifts consumer perceptions.

Which platforms are here to stay, getting real and growing traction in the marketplace? And which are just fads, too small to warrant focus?

“We need to know when to jump and when it’s still too early to adopt new technologies, especially when it comes to digital.” says Rikkert Van Loo, Brands & Insight Manager at ZenithOptimedia Belgium. 

The action

Getting market-specific insight with global consistency.

“We didn’t really have any reliable data before,” says Rikkert.

“Now we can advise our clients on whether or not to invest in mobile apps or if they have to start thinking about using Snapchat, for example.”

GlobalWebIndex data takes an in-depth look at social media usage and engagement across a wide variety of audiences and demographics.

On a daily basis, the team analyze key aspects of the data set, such as social media, commerce and marketing touchpoints to ensure they’re up to speed on the behaviors of the target audiences in their market, and how that might contrast with the same segments in other countries.

With this, the team has a strong understanding of how global communications and media plans need to be tailored to fit local needs.

The result

Driving revenue with better data.

In addition to servicing the needs of existing clients, Rikkert explains how the data is used to drive revenue for the agency.

Using it, the agency has won several key clients, including a major public transport operator in Belgium.

“We advised the client to use mobile as their central point of communication – using data on mobile and social networking – which ultimately helped us win the pitch”, says Rikkert.

Harmonized data enabled them to:

  • Win new business with unique insight they couldn’t find elsewhere. 
  • Create opportunities for increased engagement.
  • Improve efficiency with a single-sourced data solution.

Overall, he points to the evolving nature of the data set and platform that helps keep them informed on the behaviors of their target audiences:

“I’m very happy with the research which is constantly developing to keep us up-to-date with the latest developments in digital media.”


Harmonization adds trust, breadth and speed to your insights

Having a single data set from which to segment your audience, assess the consumer landscape and track trends makes gathering consumer insights easy. 

It all comes down to a single methodology. 

It saves time by reducing the need for multiple data sets while increasing the scale, breadth and accuracy of comparative analysis possible. 

Similarly, with a single survey, it’s possible to track data points over time, identify the developments of certain trends, and the decline of others, which is an essential part of business planning.

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