4 Most Popular Alternative Data Sources Explained

Alternative data is the new game changer. To start with alternative data, people might even wonder from where you can get hold of alternative data that can give such a competitive advantage. This post details 4 alternative data sources that you can exploit to the fullest.

By Hiren Patel

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Let’s agree for a moment that data is the new game changer in business strategy.

But pause for a moment and think; if everybody has access to and makes use of the same data readily available on the Internet, how can anybody get a competitive edge?

Ready access to the traditional web data neutralizes its value as competitive advantage.

This is why there’s a growing thrust on harnessing alternative data.

Yes, alternative data is the new game changer.

It’s data which is curated from a variety of non-traditional sources. Alternative data basically implies data that is created with the advent of connected devices, varied sensors, transactional systems, social networking sites and of course, the Internet.

Data derived from online browsing activity, satellite images, credit card transactions, social media posts etc. all fall under the category of alternative data.

What matters here is how you can make use of alternative data derived from these different sources and leverage it to forge a competitive advantage and edge.

To start with, you might even wonder from where you can get hold of alternative data that can give such a competitive advantage.

No worries.

We have put together an extensive list of alternative data sources that you can exploit to the fullest.


Alternative Data Sources:

1. Sensors

There’s a huge pool of alternative data which is getting created out there. The more you pay attention to these non-traditional sources, the more you are likely to acquire an advantage. For instance, with Internet of Things, you have a number of sources from where alternative data can be obtained. A host of sensors connected to all sorts of electronic devices keep churning out this data which can be accessed and processed from new insights. The more powerful these sensors are, the more they can provide real-time information in a much more efficient manner.

  • Geo Locations from Wi-Fi signals

    • With Wi-Fi, you can track a number of devices accessing the Internet and generating data. Even Bluetooth beacons can give you significant chunks of data.

    • With the help of Wi-Fi signals or Bluetooth beacons, you can monitor foot traffic data.

    • Tracking geography-specific retail foot traffic is a popular use case.

  • Satellite

    • There’s a growing trend to collect data from satellites or even low-level drones. The data collected in this way would be costly and its quality may vary. While you may get access to a lot of raw data, it may not be exactly useful. Hence, image processing is equally important.

    • For instance, satellite data on parking lots can be handy only in case the more pertinent data of store activity or spend data is not available.

    • Data collected from satellites can be useful in tracking supply chain, monitoring agricultural yields, construction tracking, oil & gas production and storage.

  • Weather from sensors

    • Weather related data can be extremely important for certain kinds of business such as travel and hospitality. Data related to weather patterns collected from sensors can be quite handy.

    • It can be also useful in agriculture and commodities.

2. The Internet

  • Web data

    • What you see on the website of a particular company is not all that is there on the Internet. There’s much more when it comes to web data that you can explore and exploit.

    • With 4 billion web pages, there’s more than enough than you can handle. However, you can consider exploring data pertaining to job listings, company ratings and online retail data.

    • For instance, if a company is hiring aggressively, it means that it’s all set to grow exponentially. So data scrapped from job listings can be an important way to spot a company for investment or other transactions.

    • Company ratings are yet another way to understand companies better. Sites like Glassdoor enable employees to rate the concerned company. Better company ratings coupled with a boost in job listings, it could be easy to spot a company which is in a fast lane.

    • When you see really good product rankings, it can give you a sense about the manufacturer or the company. Data harvested from online retailers can throw new light on a company. If a company is giving too much discount, it means weakness and desperation.

  • Web traffic data

    • It includes the data regarding users visiting a particular site. It can be immensely useful for ecommerce sites as they can study the purchase behavior of the customers and accordingly customize the way products are displayed and marketed to the customers.

    • App Usage

    • App Usage and analytics is a great way to uncover new markets, countries and customers. You can make use of insights derived from App Usage and work out reliable and effective business strategies. Popular use cases pertain to food delivery, gaming, streaming services etc.

3. Social Network

  • Social Media data

    • Social media is the treasure house of a lot of interesting alternative data. You can mine the social media sites and derive new insights regarding products, brands and much more. Sentiment analysis based on social media data is no longer a novel idea.

4. Transactional systems

  • Credit card, debit card data

    • People have switched over to credit and debit cards for shopping for a long while now. However, there’s a lot of data that is generated every day regarding the purchase behavior and trends that you can make use of.

    • Retail revenue tracking is a well-known use case in this regard.

  • Email receipts

    • The world has yet to find a better way to communicate electronically than emails. Studying the email receipts of giant corporations like Amazon and Uber, you can derive a lot of insights regarding sales, marketing and other business aspects.

    • Companies that provide email service can have a look through these companies. Tying up with such companies and getting a look through can provide new clues to the way these mammoth corporations work and where they are headed.

    • Retail revenue tracking in case of Amazon or Uber is a popular use case.



The world of data is constantly expanding thanks to increase in connected devices and a host of sensors scattered all over.

However, you need to understand the intricacies of the various sources of alternative data and smartly navigate them for churning out a competitive advantage.

Considering your industry, the sources of alternative data may differ. But the smartness lies in sifting through what is useful and what is not.

Harness the power of alternative data from these various sources and race ahead of the others!

Bio: Hiren Patel enjoys working on web scraping and understanding more about big data. He’s impressed with the endless possibilities that web scraping and web data integration offers. He’s fond of yoga and thinks a cup of hot tea can work wonders.