Data is Nothing Without Instinct

Stimmy toasters, Stimmy blenders
March 19, 2021

We’re drowning in a sea of data. Think about how much data you encounter on a daily basis: number of follows and likes, directionality of the stock market, the warming climate, the rate of inflation. There’s so much data - and how did we ever live in a world before big data? 

In a 2019 Medium piece Data-Driven Design is Killing Our Instincts, Benek Lifeski writes that “Instinct is recognizing pitfalls before they manifest into problems, recognizing winning solutions without having to explore and test endless options.” To Lifeski, the gulf of ones-and-zeros is causing us to aspirate on the notion that data itself has innate value. But it doesn’t.

Data requires a storyteller, someone who brings insight to what the data is saying.

Think about it, we live in an era where seemingly positive trends have contraindications: for instance, the U.S. household savings rate is at an all-time high. But that’s due to the fact that nobody has left their homes for a year, and the ongoing stimulus isn’t meeting the needs of most Americans out of work due to the pandemic. Insights aren’t formed in isolation, they’re informed by experience, and the most learned of us know that failure is the greatest teacher.

Lifeski goes on: “[Instinct is] seeing balance, observing inconsistencies, and honing your design eye. It’s having good aesthetic taste, but knowing how to adapt your style on a whim.” Balance is sorely needed in eCom. Not a week goes by where I don’t have a conversation about how to “move the needle” — but which needle? There are so many! And much of the investments we make into improving one area can harm another. This, then, is the essence of balance. Maintaining balance requires instinct. Data can only inform us whether our instincts were right.

Data is nothing without instinct**. My fear is, in this era of playbooks and platforms and copycats, that our instincts are being dulled. We’re losing the ability to think for ourselves, to chart our own path, to challenge the “best practices.” 

For more on instincts, especially those of the new-mommy variety, Ingridy Cordy had a lot to say about how being in DTC informs the way she makes decisions as a mom-to-be in the newest episode of the podcast, “Ecom for New Moms.” Listen over here

— Phillip

** shout out to the brilliant design minds at Rightpoint who coined this phrase, and to Anamika Lasser, Chief Brand Officer at Rightpoint, who introduced it to me.

Shopping as Entertainment: Nordstrom’s newest location: your couch. Eyeing the success of livestream shopping experiences in China, Nordstrom has debuted its own live shopping channel. Previews of collections with partner brands, exclusive influencer content, and education styling events will all be part of their roster of live events aimed at connecting more closely with their customers shopping from home.

Klarna isn’t just about paying in four anymore. Last week, they announced the acquisition of Toplooks, an AI platform designed to generate personalized shoppable content for apparel and fashion brands. A look at their recent acquisitions and the growth of their own shopping app shows that Klarna isn’t satisfied with just changing how shoppers pay, they want a hand in what they purchase and how they choose.

Meet the TikTok Queen of Foraging: Depending on your locale, you may finally be seeing a bit of green in your neighborhood as the weather warms up. So why not pick up a snack on your neighborhood walk and let Alexis Nikole Nelson be your guide? Her tik toks aren’t just hilarious, they’re loaded with great tips on identifying and eating wild food.

“When the third stimulus hit my bank account last week, I made my most absurd purchase since the time I commissioned a taxidermist to create “Two Mice in a Llama Suit.” I spent $200 for a Muji toaster. All the labels are in Japanese. The toaster was $140 and I spent $60 to get a step-down transformer so it wouldn’t self-destruct from my American 120v outlet. I know it’s way more than what a toaster needs to cost on a functional level, but it’s worth every penny to me to have the most beautiful version of a toaster sitting on my counter each day.”


On the topic of toast… Tommy Cash is at it again and this time Maison Margiela is along for the ride. The avant-garde fashion label and Estonian rapper have teamed up to produce a collection together. The flagship product is a slipper that has the appearance of a loaf of bread.

Stripe has closed a $600M round of funding to fuel European expansion efforts. This puts the value of the private fintech behemoth at $95B, making it one of the most valuable private companies on the planet. Waiting on that sweet, sweet IPO? Well, keep waiting. Stripe has yet to indicate any intention of going public this year.

Subscribe to The Senses.

Commerce futurism.
Straight to your inbox.

Thank you for being a risk-taker.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Share This Post

Commerce futurism for the risk-takers.
Straight to your inbox.

By clicking Subscribe you're confirming that you agree with having The Senses delivered to your email address.
Thank you for subscribing.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.