There is a lot of hype at the moment about big data and buzzwords like multi-channel, omni-channel marketing and knowing your customer. But what does this all mean if marketers aren’t making the most of this big data to help better understand their customer? Not much is the answer! Data without commercial context and proper application is an easy trap to fall into.
Every day, a vast amount of data is generated as consumers search for and buy the things they need from their chosen brands. While it’s fantastic to have access to all of the “digital exhaust’”coming off the back of those activities, many marketers are now drowning. Every minute of every day, Google gets over two million queries, Facebook users share 684 million pieces of content, brands receive 34,000 likes, about 50,000 apps are downloaded on iTunes and email users send over 200 million messages. Now multiply those numbers by 1,440 to see what’s generated in a whole day.
Actually, the thought that there's more data than we can process (which has probably always been true) is dressed up as the latest trend with associated technology must-haves. It’s not size that matters, but rather having the right data to address the business objectives we are working to. Instead of focusing on the concept of big data, marketers need to concentrate on the intelligence data can offer. Over the next few years, we will see the rise of “componentised small data” - creating and integrating small data packages, rather than building big data monoliths.
At present, marketers are unable to see the wood for the trees and are getting too immersed in the concept of big data in its own right, rather than how it can help their business or, indeed, their customers. While all of this “digital exhaust” presents new commercial opportunities, it also presents challenges.
How should all of these consumer actions, behaviours and insights be interpreted and used to help brands engage with consumers and promote their offerings? What customer journeys are being enacted offline, online and on-premise and what actual data is needed to make these work?
From the consumer point of view, the lines between offline, online and on-premise experience are blurring, especially when we look at retail. A recent survey found that 44 per cent of consumers always research purchases online before actually buying in-store, while a further 52 per cent sometimes check online before buying in-store. But the greatest challenge for marketing is that a customer’s experience is now an aggregate of online and offline events, mobile and desktop, store and device, marketing and service - an all-channel perspective.
By collecting and building the right customer data, a joined-up customer lifecycle programme can be designed and implemented to engage with customers as they discover, explore, buy and revisit, whatever the touch point. Getting to grips with big data and creating small insightful data will prove to be invaluable in creating an individual picture of each and every consumer a marketer is targeting.
This will be the year when more companies actually work out what more complex customer journeys mean for their particular business and their aspirations to become truly “omni-channel”. But there is still plenty of room for improvement, as anyone who’s been the subject of an aggressive retargeting campaign knows.
It is only by embracing the information that big data has to offer that the marketer will be able to overcome the challenges that come with it. Nowadays, big isn’t always better. It’s what you do with that intelligence that makes data invaluable.