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Big data, big opportunities: How can marketers capitalise on big data?

Refining the customer experience has never been more important for today's brands. The Drum spoke to industry leaders operating in data, to provide insight into the big opportunities provided by big data.


In the age of austerity and accountability, the role of data has never been more important in understanding consumers, their habits, and what drives their behaviour.

Marketers now have access to data from a variety of different sources – purchasing data, social media, customer service interactions and web searches are just a few of the elements comprising what has become known as big data.

This huge amount of data can be leveraged to glean insight about consumer behaviour, ultimately influencing targeted decision making and creating successful campaigns. But amid concerns over consumer privacy online, brands and marketers need to be aware of what value this data really holds, and how it can be used without crossing a line with consumers.

Here, we catch up with a cross-section of the industry to find out how marketers can successfully capitalise on the big data opportunity.

Ben Hatton, managing director, Rippleffect Companies need to be ready to effectively manage massive quantities of data; it has become a fundamental skill and a driver of bottom line business results.

Big data can also be extremely complex, and having the right technology and skill sets are central to understanding and using the data successfully. The entire data lifecycle, from capture to analysis to archiving, needs to be geared toward organising and structuring the data into a system that delivers specific outcomes for the business, including a level of data accessibility that is necessary for running real-time analytics.

Consumers and businesses generate, capture and share data in much shorter cycles than in previous generations, forcing businesses to react in real-time. This has also been accelerated due to the explosion of social media, with platforms such as Twitter and Facebook becoming an essential customer data source and method of communicating directly with the target audience. However, consumers want to see how their data is being used and need to see a relevant return. For example, a company may gain a high volume of ‘likes’ in Facebook for its product, but if they then neglect to interact and engage with the audience, that interest and loyalty will soon dissipate.

Unfortunately, many traditional technologies, analytics and CRM systems can’t keep up with the real-time pace of data and even delays can discount the value of data – it’s important that businesses know how to prioritise the identification and implementation of technologies.

Capturing data across a variety of platforms is merely the beginning. A company must be able to analyse and handle the data. Success is dependent on the technology that the business has in place and its ability to translate it into something of worth for the company, which will drive sales, encourage consumer loyalty and increase profit.

James Withey, head of brand insight, Precise In the past, marketers often had to second-guess the issues that mattered to their customers. Today, we have the richest and most comprehensive source of knowledge about customers at our fingertips. From a practical point of view, big data has the potential to enable brands to make the best, most enlightened decisions for their customers and ultimately their bottom line.

The problem with big data is implicit in its name. The sheer size of big data can make it unwieldy. Fortunately, there are number of automated tools on the market that will do the heavy lifting for you. But the key is to then apply traditional research rigour to the findings. Data is relatively redundant unless accompanied by expert analysis and interpretation. Given the volume and variety of data, what comes out of the software can be as unintelligible as what goes in. The key is to initially break down the job of analysing the information into individual data points in order to yield small but important insights. Once you have identified these learnings, you can start to compare data, identify themes and trends and build a picture of the total customer experience. Only then does big data yield big insights.

Debbie Oates, principal consultant data & analytics, Experian Marketing Services Organisations need to assess what data they can collect and how it can impact their business. There will be much greater transactional and engagement data available which provides real opportunities to relate customers in a more relevant way. Businesses need to focus on the data which can drive decisions and consider how it needs to be to be consolidated.

Data fragmentation is no longer an option. Many organisations collecting large amounts of data hold this data in silos: this severely restricts how they can use it for maximum impact. Creating a data hub is imperative – getting all the relevant data on consumers into one place where it can be analysed and actioned. The key here is linkage – how do you know you are dealing with the same person across systems where varying levels of contact details are collected from name and address, email only, mobile or cookies?

There is no point collecting the data if there is no ‘so what?’. It then needs analysing and interpreting to drive business strategy across functions such as call centres, email, web and traditional direct channels.

Gavin Stirrat, managing director EMEA, Millennial Media With marketing campaigns increasingly relying on massive amounts of machine-generated data – from impressions, clicks and engagements, to likes, follower-counts and dwell-time – it is imperative that your partners can effectively manage this wealth of data. The numbers are only useful when they are turned into insight. Detailed reporting and analytics is therefore key. Defining clear objectives and KPIs is fundamental, along with robust measurement and analytic tools, to ensure your campaign performance can be analysed and optimised for success.

Jamie Brighton, product marketing manager EMEA, Adobe Every second of the day, the systems used to serve consumers capture and store a wealth of data which, if managed and mined correctly, can provide businesses with the ability to target their audience with far more relevant products and services; this big data equals big opportunities.

Certainly one of the biggest benefits of big data for marketers is the insight and intelligence it can provide around the way customers are interacting with the brand, via the numerous channels now available – not only physically, but increasingly via the web, mobile and social media.

Web analytics in particular has been growing in importance over the past few years because the insight gained from this technology can transform experiences from impersonal, generic ones to those that are personal and relevant to consumers – ultimately supporting the conversion of sales. For example, a travel marketer may find that a relaxing picture may generate more sales in the evening and weekend than a more business-looking page, which would work better for daytime. This allows marketers to ‘push the winner’ – in other words, promote the page or product that is most likely to convert a sale in the relevant circumstances based on the known data.

Jed Mole, European sales support & marketing leader, Acxiom Data has been getting exponentially bigger in terms of rapidly increasing volumes for many years, but big data has emerged as a buzzword relatively recently. The fact is, the explosion of data has been caused by changes in consumer behaviour and consumption; the way we shop, work, and relax. As consumers ourselves, it is easy to imagine the amount of data generated by the growth in numbers and kinds of channels, devices such as smartphones and all the real-time data they provide through apps and social networking. Consumers have created big data; the same people who buy goods and services from the world’s brands. Marketers absolutely must care – this is their space.

If harnessed properly, all kinds of data can be used to improve a brand’s ability to win, service, keep and grow customers. For example, customer service or product usage data may not traditionally be termed marketing, but in tomorrow’s world, the marketer may want to bring this data to bear having identified its previously unimagined potential value.

Data image via Shutterstock

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