In this series, Talk data to me, we chat with leaders from the world’s biggest brands and agencies about how they’re using insights to drive their business strategies.
We caught up with Guo Jie Chin, Head of Customer Insights & Analytics at the neighborhood network, Nextdoor, to get his thoughts on social commerce, behavioral targeting, and how the company is using AI to take Nextdoor to the next level.
Tell us a bit about your role.
My role is to not only help our customers understand the potential of Nextdoor, but also quantify the performance of their ad campaigns, providing concrete evidence that Nextdoor truly creates value for our advertisers.
What’s keeping you busy at the moment?
My main focus right now is keeping our insights hub fresh with the latest trends and data to help inform our advertisers on their brand strategy. From holiday shopping behaviors to vital health and wellness insights, our hub is meant to empower brands and agencies to make informed data-driven decisions.
Talk to me about an example of data-led creativity that you loved.
Early on during the pandemic, we started digging into home moving trends on our platform. For context, if a customer updates their address, they can see locally-relevant content on Nextdoor.
We got a pretty good idea of where neighbors were moving to, and their actions on Nextdoor before and after their move. We realized just how critical Nextdoor could be in helping people settle into their new neighborhoods, which inspired us to develop the neighborhood spot for new movers.
The New Mover Spot is a one-stop-shop for all important tips and resources as members settle into their new homes. It provides support for moving neighbors, but it’s also an opportunity for brands to reach neighbors who are going through a transitional moment.
How does data inform your business strategy? And how does it give you a competitive edge?
Neighbors engage on Nextdoor via posts and comments, as well as searches for relevant content. Analyzing this information allows us to understand the types of things neighbors are discussing and searching for.
The largest share of posts we see across the country are about neighbors seeking recommendations for local businesses. The industry verticals that these posts are about are a strong signal of the kinds of products and services neighbors are coming onto Nextdoor to discover.
We’ve recently aligned our sales team to focus on these areas to better capitalize on this opportunity.
If you had a magic wand to change anything about your use of data, what would you change – and why?
I’d create an AI assistant to translate key statistics into sentences that are easier for all business stakeholders to interpret. Statistics are so often wilfully misinterpreted, but I’ve found that phrasing something in a clear and succinct sentence can go a long way in getting rid of any confusion.
What will be the biggest opportunity in your sector in the coming years?
The use of AI, for sure. We’re already using AI as an integral part of some of our product experiences. We’re currently using generative AI to drive engaging and kind conversations in the neighborhood and we also have a generative AI “Assistant” to help local businesses grow. We’re excited to continue exploring the heaps of possibilities for generative AI to enhance the neighborhood experience and fuel business growth.
What will be the biggest threat in your sector in the coming years?
The biggest challenge that I see is the demand for more rigorous performance measurement. The digital ads industry has grown at a breakneck speed over the last two decades, largely because online audiences are so much easier to target if you have the right tools, and performance data is so much easier to get a hold of.
Somewhere along the way, correlation has been interpreted as causation. And in some cases, digital channels have probably gotten more credit than they deserve.
As digital marketers become more sophisticated, they’ll continue to push for more rigorous performance measurement.
Under closer scrutiny, many of them may find that a huge chunk of their digital ad spend is not as effective as it once seemed.
What’s your take on the cookieless future?
The gradual phasing out of third-party cookies will increase the importance of having high quality first-party data for behavioral targeting.
Publishers without rich first-party data may be forced to focus more on running ads that are contextually relevant to consumer behavior. Going against popular opinion, I believe this will help drive more effective ads. I know I personally would rather see an ad related to the content I’m looking for than to be followed around the internet with ads for products that I’ve just bought.
From the advertiser’s perspective, on-demand consumer research – like GWI – will become more critical than ever in helping brands to understand their consumers better and refine their advertising.
What top trend are you seeing emerge in your wider industry?
At the risk of saying something obvious, the emergence of social commerce is definitely something worth keeping an eye on. The rise of social commerce platforms like Xiaohongshu in China might be an indicator of what’s to come for the rest of the world. In the US, Gen Z is more likely to find out about new brands and products from social media than search engines.
Social commerce is the logical next step in the evolution of how consumers make purchases.
It’s going to become a lot more common to drive awareness, consideration, and conversion all on the same platform.