Big data comes with big challenges for marketers

With the rise of big data, companies have been primarily concerned with  their ability to access and store big data sets, debating about which solution fits their needs the best: Hadoop or NoSQL?, MongoDB or Couchbase? However, there are other issues to be considered when it comes to Big Data that involve other departments beyond the IT management team.

The question is, then, are companies using data sets to spot new opportunities and serve their customers in new ways? Are marketers ready to become data scientists? Indeed, Big Data comes with big challenges for marketers who aren’t ready to turn raw data into marketing strategies that lead to personalization and automation.

Among these challenges we find:

  • Knowing what data is useful
  • Discovering which channels deliver the best data
  • Analyzing big data properly
  • Having the proper infrastructure set up

For years, marketers have relied heavily upon their own knowledge, experience, and intuition for making marketing decisions and to this day, not so many have experienced how to use big data to make the best marketing decisions. According to a report from Harvard Business Review marketers are only using statistics for 11% of their marketing decisions.  The marketers who are able to utilize business analytics properly are at a significant advantage because they are able to cater their efforts in accordance with the statistics they have gathered. The end results are more effective campaigns and higher conversion percentages.

One of the biggest issues that marketing departments have is that their staff has not been trained to handle big data because up until the past few years, it simply was not a concern. This change has led to companies hiring new employees specifically for the purpose of handling big data. These candidates come in the form of engineers, data analysts, and people with computer science degrees. According to this Whitepaper by YesMail, 66% of marketing departments will be hiring new employees for big data purposes during this year.

Where Marketers are Failing The Most

The sheer amount of statistics available from big data is one of the biggest challenges marketers are facing with big data. Deciphering what data is useful and which has no significant effects can be difficult. When marketers focus on data that will not benefit the company, the results are wasted time, effort, and money.

On a more technical side of big data, some companies are still operating with relational databases. This is an issue because relational databases have proven to be much more difficult for big data than the alternative—NoSQL. This means that more marketing departments will have to convert to non-relational databases to be able to sort through data better and allow for more scalability. The sooner marketers realize that NoSQL is here to stay, the better.

Handling Real Time Data

Real time data is another challenge of big data. Thanks to advancements in technology, companies are starting to have data available to them quicker than ever. As emails are submitted, purchases are made, phone numbers are entered into the database, and other data becomes available, marketers need to be able to make decisions on the fly. The days of having to wait months in order to make decisions are gone. Marketers can make decisions in real time such as pricing, editing ads, and more.

Another related issue is that marketers now have to monitor data from a variety of sources. Data comes from many sources including:

  • Emails
  • Social Media
  • Print
  • Telemarketing
  • Website
  • Mobile devices
  • E-Commerce
  • Location (mobile check- ins), and more.

Gathering and analyzing data from social media is one major area of concern. This is because there are several different social media sites that must be monitored such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and others, and the information comes in extremely rapidly. At any given time, a press release or advertising campaign can go viral through social media. When this happens, marketers have to be aware of it and capitalize on the exposure.

Overcoming Big Data Challenges

Marketers are currently working towards overcoming the challenges of big data. It will be an ongoing process, but it is a necessity for any company that wants success. To start, companies must invest in infrastructure that allows for deep insights and quick access across various channels. Later, no tools but humans will be responsible of analyzing the collected data and using it to optimize their message and refine their campaigns.

Once companies learn how to use data-driven insights and real-time data to their advantage, a new business model will be created to benefit both customers and markets. 

Author Byline

Matt Asay is Vice President of Corporate Strategy at 10gen, the company behind MongoDB NoSQL database.  With more than a decade spent in open source, Matt is a recognized open source advocate and board member emeritus of the Open Source Initiative (OSI).

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1 May 2013, 3:14 a.m.

Thanks for sharing these insights. Companies need to make better use of their data scientists to make sure the data gets used.

I wrote my top tips, based on many years' experience, for how to bring the two disciplines closer here:

I'd love to hear if you agree!