In a world littered with seemingly endless streams of data, marketing has some interesting challenges. What exactly are we supposed to do with terabytes, even petabytes, of data? Unfortunately, there is still a lot of buzz in the phrase, “big data”. Most believe it’s still just a marketing term that provides little value in the long run.
However, big data is quite powerful. While its relevance may seem obvious for certain industries that are heavily structured around data, for most organizations, big data still represents an unknown. Most marketing organizations have now implemented some form of customer relationship management (CRM) systems, but most of these programs have been poorly executed. Storing huge amounts of consumer data may seem appealing, but how exactly can marketing teams use this data to the company’s advantage?
There are numerous examples of analytical tools and campaign software. How does big data fit into this mix? How can marketers leverage these tools to notice trends in a timely manner that would allow us to properly direct resources, thereby eliminating waste and improving ROI? How can big data provide insights that might otherwise be overlooked?
Raw data can tell us what, but it can’t tell us how or why. Insights are key. It can seem like searching for a needle in a haystack. But as more advanced technology surfaces, big data can help marketers turn information into insights at a relatively break-neck pace. This offers substantial competitive advantages.
Here are a few areas where big data can help marketers gain a competitive edge:
Predictions: Big data is fundamentally about predicting outcomes and behavior. By analyzing data from multiple channels and multiple points in time, big data can potentially supply marketers with information about customers’ buying and behavior patterns. We now have highly advanced real-time analytical models to ease these challenges. Instead of taking data from only the past, we can now use big data to find patterns based on real-time data, not simply averages over certain periods of time.
Better Decisions: When we have accurate predictive models in place, we can make better decisions about all aspects of a marketing campaign. And more importantly, these decisions can now be based on evidence, rather than guesswork. How many times have you seen marketing and sales teams make decisions based on gut feelings? Gut instinct is a nice way of saying gambling. As creative marketers, we certainly like intuition and creativity, but, for the most part, decisions in this context need to be based on evidence. If we can know what, how, why and when, there is no need to rack our brains on “what if” scenarios.
Social Media: When social media began to surface, it made us realize that companies can interact and engage with customers (and potential customers) immediately. And with further development of analytics, it’s becoming more important to evaluate those interactions to determine customer opinions and perceptions, and identify ways to improve. Social media has given the public a platform to voice their opinions, which can go viral in the blink of an eye. Depending on what has been said, there may be a need for serious damage control. Never before has the public had the power to make or break a company with an expression of their thoughts and experience. Big data can help gather the information and make predictions based on that data. Just as governments, NGOs and other organizations have used data to predict patterns in crime, health epidemics, and even financial events and fraud patterns, companies can utilize the huge amounts of data in social platforms to not only observe customer thoughts, but to analyze their online behavior to predict the success of a company’s product or service.
Customer Experience Management: Consumer data is extremely valuable. It’s the marketer’s currency. And with recent advancements in technology, there are now ways that data can help us discern what is valuable to the customer, what influences customer loyalty and what makes them return. This is relevant because having this insight can help marketers tailor advertising campaigns to current and perspective customers.
Automation: Marketing automation is now expanding into more advanced functionality, partially with the help of machine learning. Big data is giving marketers the ability to create advertising and content that is highly personalized. When actions are automated, machines and humans can form a partnership and the platforms can eventually decide what is released to the customer, why it’s released, and how. This can be very powerful because the more relevant the material for consumers, the more likely they are to make a purchase.
Marketing Evaluation and Performance: One of the most valuable aspects to big data is that the technology can be used to measure nearly everything. It not only gives marketers insight into their customers, but also into their own organization’s efficiency. Big data makes it possible for marketers to monitor the productivity of marketing programs through constant analysis and evaluation. Campaigns are virtually useless if their performance isn’t being measured.
The Bottom Line:
Big data is often a missed revenue opportunity. If marketing teams can incorporate data management into their strategy, the payoff is potentially huge. Think of data as the essential ingredient to an overall strategy. The combination of insights from big data, decisions based on those insights, and the actions taken will ultimately prove worthwhile.
Jessica Marie is a consultant, writer and recovering banker. After nearly 10 years holding various positions in commercial banking and finance, she moved on to pursue her passion for enterprise technology and corporate strategy. In her spare time, she is a volunteer with non-profits and a concert pianist by night. Reach her via Twitter @jessicamariemba.
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