The New ‘Data Myning’ – personal curiosity can get us more for our money

As we come to the end of January, the New Year’s resolutions are all but a distant memory and the reality of festive spending hits home as credit card bills drop on the doormat. I am aware that, having outsourced my Xmas spending (to my wife), while I have three happy kids with more new stuff crammed into their bedrooms than they know what to do with, there is considerably less beer money available than there was in December.

I’m clearly not alone in thinking about my finances as news stories abound about the 50% of households that are burdened with debt and, sadly, the 17% of people who are still paying off Christmas 2011! Hence why the Money Advisory Service is rerunning its TV ad with a young girl giving her parents financial advice before demanding spaghetti for tea – am I the only one who sees shades of ‘The Omen’ in this?!

So, this being a blog about curiosity, how can consumer inquisitiveness help people manage their money and their lives better?  It’s all about ‘Data Myning’ – getting curious about how to use our own personal data to get more for our money and more from our lives.

There has been much talk about Big Data over the past 12 months, focusing on how brands can get more insight and, in turn, more value from its consumer data.  However, according to Trendwatching.com, in 2013 we’re likely to see savvy shoppers reversing the flow.  They believe that consumers will be looking to own and make the most of their lifestyle data for their own benefit.  To do this they will favour those brands that use this data to proactively offer customers help and advice on how to improve their behaviour and/ or save money.

You might think that this is nothing new as the world of entertainment and online shopping has been using consumers’ behaviour to make specific recommendations and feed their curiosity.  Amazon is an obvious example here.

The step change is that consumers are looking to aggregate their data into one personalised lifestyle dashboard that gives them a single view of their own environment.

Take ‘Manilla’.  Launched in 2011, this is a free, easy-to-use, online tool that helps you to organise and manage your financial life. With Manilla you get bank-level security and the ability to see all of your accounts in one place (including your utility bills and rewards accounts).  Additionally, with Manilla you can view (and permanently store) your statements, set up alerts so you don’t lose your reward points, for instance, and even pay your bills.  For a totally new brand and service, the fact that it has been adopted by over three million users in its first year shows the desirability of the ‘Data Myning’ approach.

More recently, Movenbank launched in October 2012 with a refreshing new take on the bank/customer relationship.  It encourages customers to improve their financial behaviour , and rewards them for doing so. The service is based on a user’s CRED score (Movenbank calls this a ‘credibility score’ rather than credit rating, according to how financially fit you are) , which is improved through better managed spending and saving, as well as by ‘social influence’. Customers with higher CRED scores can benefit from reduced fees and access additional products.

With the public’s view on the UK financial sector still looking fairly shabby, some of our banks would do well to watch what the likes of Movenbank are doing.  Perhaps they should take note that, as financial uncertainty is driving consumers to be more curious about how to take control of their own destiny, they value brands that allow them to make insightful decisions about their own behaviours.  And with the majority of these tools being US-based, there is a real opportunity to do more of this over here.

Indeed, I wonder if there might be a whole new business proposition out there from “lifestyle auditors”. Curious savvy shoppers could share their new data dashboards with brands who could offer insight, recommendations and even alternative propositions – like the ultimate personal shopper who knows what you like, what you can afford,  where to buy it and what will go with it all in one .  Although this might be a step too far…….I don’t want to give any ideas to my better half!