Is it a leap forward, helping the world to run smoothly on unprecedented levels of unstructured data? Or is big data a new buzzword used by sales and marketing to frighten organisations into purchasing multimillion dollar IT platforms?
History is certainly repeating itself. I’m old enough to remember the birth of CRM and how the industry was split between IT companies and their solve-it-all multimillion pound databases, plus the pointy heads claiming it was their domain. CRM turned out to be data-driven marketing using IT as a tool and eventually became the buzzword of the 90s.
With this in mind, it’s vital that we monitor how the big data debate develops and how it will impact on our industry. But there are some cautionary steps that must be taken. Some companies are rushing to buy expensive machines to capture what is, in many cases, vast amounts of ephemeral data without giving thought to how it will be of value to them in the long run. Others are burying their heads in the sand as they find big data to be too overwhelming and are still stuck with figuring out whether or not social media is worth it. (It is!)
One can throw enormous volumes of data into a mega-machine costing a fortune and it will come out with all sorts of interesting figures. But are these details useful or (more importantly) even usable? Is a machine really better at understanding how human data can be used?
The most effective way to approach big data is to combine the entirety of a company’s data collateral and then decide where to look within the social media plane. The data is not thrown into some black box, but analysed by humans using IT tools and software. It’s the creative interpretation of the data which will do most to drive the bottom line.
Some marketers may struggle with the sheer volume of data, but it is important to have the relevant skill sets and understand the technology being used. Many brands may have the right data analysis software which can pool data from various touchpoints. Without having the personnel that can properly analyse the incoming data, the insight is wasted. Brands should look at how their teams can make the most of customer information and deliver comprehensive insight based on this. Furthermore, those brands that look most likely to succeed are those that can translate this personal data into tangible strategy and activity.
This is doable, scalable and, most importantly, actionable. The most important question of all, before embarking on any big data project, is to ask an organisation what they want to get out of it.
Essentially, despite the hype and fanatical strategies surrounding big data, it’s not difficult or confusing - it's just about asking the right questions.
Ultimately, those brands that can accurately analyse customer data and apply it to segmented marketing campaigns are more likely to deliver successful campaigns. Being able to correctly identify target audiences with data-driven insight and having the right team to analyse this information will give marketers the tools to produce campaigns that are not only cost effective, but achieve strong ROI.
Another challenging year lies ahead for the marketing industry. Marketers have to keep pace with consumers and data is fundamental to this. Understanding consumer behaviour will be the key to bolstering the industry as a whole