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70% of marketers feel ill-equipped to handle “big data” challenges, says GfK report


By Jessica Davies, News Editor

September 16, 2013 | 4 min read

Marketers feel underqualified to handle the challenges presented by the rise of “big data”, with 70 per cent admitting they don’t have the necessary skills, according to a GfK and Guardian Media Network report.

The report, which polled the views of 1,011 UK consumers and 157 marketers on the use of data between July and September this year, revealed the majority (86 per cent) of marketers believe “big data” is changing marketing, with over half of respondents classing it as “very important”, and 62 per cent saying their job has already changed as a result of it.

The overall sentiment from marketing respondents was that mining data sets is vital to improving cut-through to their target audiences via relevant, personalised campaigns, rather than “just relying on mass techniques and the old TV advertising standby”, according to the report.

Yet only 30 per cent consider marketers to be well-qualified to manage the challenges of big data. One respondent said: “How many marketers currently even know what an algorithm is - let alone how it can determine product development, placement, price etc?”

Meanwhile, although consumers are aware their activity is tracked by companies and that their data is used for targeting them with offers, almost half admitted they don’t know what actual data is being collected.

The report also revealed most people think little of the personalised offers they currently receive, with only 34 per cent saying they were "happy" when companies suggest products for them based on the information they know about them.

Three quarters (77 per cent) agreed it is “annoying if companies think they know me too well.”

The majority (81 per cent) of consumers said they believe companies share or sell their data to other companies online.

However, almost a third agreed that brands don’t always do much with their data, which GfK suggests could mean they are either not seeing evidence of personalisation from brands or there is not enough dialogue between brands and their customers.

Colin Strong, GfK’s managing director for Business & Technology said: “Consumer sensitivity about the way brands handle their personal data is coming at a time when the government’s midata initiative could potentially change the landscape.

“If midata legislation was implemented it would allow consumers to manage much of their own personal data so in some instances they could choose what to share with brands. This would significantly change consumer sentiment and the dynamics of the market place, giving people what they say they want, more control over their personal data.”

More than 80 per cent of consumers said they were more likely to give their business to companies that use their personal data appropriately, according to the report.

Strong believes this research shows a contradiction between what big data means for marketers and consumers.

“Whilst companies can see opportunities for cost-efficiencies and media cut-through, the people we surveyed were often underwhelmed with the personalised messages they had received as a result of campaigns using big data.

“This suggests that with the use of big data in its infancy, the marketing industry has to become more sophisticated in its use of the information it collects to convince consumers that relevant, accurately targeted offers do actually make their lives easier.

"Crucially, they also need to prove they can be trusted with people’s personal information. Those that don’t risk not only ever decreasing business returns, but reputational damage if marketing messages are considered inappropriate or intrusive.”

Strong will present his “Manifesto for Big Marketing” at The Guardian Changing Advertising Summit next month.

Guardian Media Group Data

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