Monetising data is bad, right?

When we chat to people about monetising data, they frown. They think of GDPR. Those fines! The potential PR damage! What will our customers say? This is because people think monetising data means selling it — selling their customers’ names and personal information to third parties. They think of their valued customers being bombarded with promotional communications. Nobody can argue that this would be bad for business, no matter how much money you make in the short term.

There are other ways to monetise data

Monetising data doesn’t need to be a bad thing. In fact, it can be a great thing. The businesses we’ve worked with have seen their profits increase by at least 10% by using data. And we do it in a customer-focused and GDPR compliant way.

You can use your data to make money, be GDPR compliant and do right by customers, all at the same time. The three are not mutually exclusive, making it a win-win. 

Here are some ways to do it, with some examples from across the web.

Ten ways to monetise your data in a customer-focused way

1. INDEX

Depending on your market and the data you hold, you could create a new index to add more value for your market. Think of a house price index or stock index. 

Nationwide Building Society has housing data going back to 1952, which they use to create house price index reports and special features, as well as a house price calculator.

2. MAP

Build a new map showing local, national or global trends. This could showcase your data in new and insightful ways to your existing and new customers. Think of a weather map or a typography map.

LPAuditor can predict where you live, work and spend your time with more than 90% accuracy – just based on your geotagged tweets. Image credit: Wired.com

3. DASHBOARD

Create an interactive online tool for users to access your data — or their own — in a new way. It could display their usage and purchase behaviour in new ways and demonstrate the value of your service. Read our blog post, 3 steps to great data visualisations.

Dashboards don’t need to be boring. A Day in the Life of Americans (made using d3.js) is a fun visual that brings the data to life.

4. TRENDS OVER TIME 

Show behaviour, activity or purchases over time. This could involve showing day-on-day, month-on-month, year-on-year or even decade-on-decade trends, depending on the data history. These trends could be massively valuable to your market if they’ve never seen them before, and/or they could have PR value.

Google Trends analyses the popularity of top Google search queries across various regions and languages.

5. HOT SPOTS

Visualise business performance or customer behaviour so you can see the highs and lows. Often a business will have peaks and troughs of activity. Visualising this in a heatmap, or similar, can show insightful trends to your existing and new customers.

An example of a heatmap. TCarta is looking at how businesses can use air quality data to improve performance.

6. FORECAST

Predict future performance using past performance. There could be massive value in creating predictive models that help businesses and individuals prepare for future scenarios in advance. Think of weather and pollen forecasts or sales forecasts. Do you have any data that could help people plan for the future? 

The University of Worcester produces and supplies the pollen forecasts for the UK in conjunction with the Met Office.

7. BENCHMARKING

Show your users how they compare to others, either generally or when compared to other users ‘like them’. Is their usage, activity, or purchase behaviour similar, or significantly higher or lower than others? For example, perhaps your energy provider lets you see how much electricity you’re using, compared to others like you?

The annual Economist Intelligence Unit survey ranks cities in order of how expensive they are to live in. Image credit: BBC

8. WARNING/ALERT

Automate warnings and alerts for your users by defining business rules based on data. You may have customers who want to know when a metric has gone above/below a defined threshold. Think of pollen and pollution alerts, warnings from your bank when you’re nearing your overdraft, or even text messages from your mobile provider to let you know you’re on the right tariff.

Stanford scientists are researching a more accurate and consistent way to warn coastal residents when and where tsunami waves are likely to hit. Image credit: Getty Images

9. REPORT/WHITEPAPER

Write a report or whitepaper or guide on your market informed by your data. You could position yourself as a thought leader by sharing trends, insight and new information. You could anonymise information to share trends or share top ranked businesses. 

The Financial Times introduced its whitepaper to boost content marketing performance in finance industry. Image credit: thedrum.com

10. APIs (Application Programming Interfaces)

Sell your data to businesses and individuals in your market. This could be anonymised data or personalised data, if you have permission to share data from your users. Think of data feeds.

Air Malta redesigned its computer systems around web-based APIs and turned a profit for the first time in 18 years. Image credit: BBC

Don’t forget external data sources!

There are many sources of data available outside of your organisation. Some are free, some you’ll need to pay for — and you could consider partnering with other businesses to share data too. External data could include:

  • public, government or council data
  • weather data
  • interest rates, stock market prices and financial metrics
  • demographic data.

You can use these to augment the data you already have, allowing you to look at things with greater depth, or from another angle.

And don’t restrict yourself by thinking about just your current customers.

Your data could be massively valuable to customers you’ve never considered before — businesses or individuals in your wider ecosystem, perhaps those with different products and services that target the same customers as you. Data could be the opportunity to go beyond your current markets.


Businesses we work with have seen 10% increases in profits from using data.

If you like the sound of monetising your data in a customer-friendly way, but you’re not sure where to start, drop us a line at hello@data-cubed.co.uk. We’d be happy to chat through some ideas with you.