Is big data really the future of marketing?

Is big data really the future of marketing? John Fleming runs the EMEA and APAC marketing organisation for Webtrends and is a seasoned multi-faceted marketing director. He is responsible for devising marketing strategies for the region, delivering marketing campaigns to generate revenue as well helping to develop the Webtrends vision.

Marketing data is evolving: from the generic to the specific; from market trends to individual habits and from historic actions to real-time engagement.

We are moving on from knowing that millennials aged 25 to 30 replace their mobile phone on average every 2.5 years. We move to knowing that William replaces his Android three months after new major features are established, keeping a general eye on new developments and looking for upgrade deals from his service provider.

We also know that Claire pre-orders the new iPhone as soon as the availability date for a new model is announced and has a Google Alert for any mention of Apple iPhones.

Just as we know more about the individual and their online activity; they have more choice about how they receive information. Ignoring or filtering out what they consider irrelevant, turning on or off location marketing, using automatic notifications.

Consumers are now always connected, rarely engaged and often distracted.

Lots and lots of data

It’s not just the richness of data that is changing, it’s the amount of data and the types of data that is changing too. A recent report from IBM stated that over the last two years, 90% of the world’s data has been created.

The challenge to make sense of the data you capture becomes increasingly difficult on relational databases as volumes and variety increase

This is a staggering statistic, but when you think of the proliferation of mobile devices and the growth of social channels it’s not really that surprising after all.

Take a look forward another two years and this data explosion will still be continuing: fuelled in part by the increasing demands for personalised content; partly by the continued increase in social conversations but, more importantly, by the fast expanding growth of connected devices, increasingly known as the Internet of Things (IoT).

Gartner estimates that currently 5.5million IoT devices are being connected every day, from fridges, cars and home thermostats to washing machines and TV’s.

This explosion will enrich the data set that the marketer will have available but will only be of use if it can be captured, stored, analysed and made sense of. This will challenge even the best data analyst let alone the marketer who has to utilise it effectively to drive future campaigns.

Marketing has never been more exciting and, at the same time, has never been more challenging.

What to do with it?

The fact remains that within marketing the only constant is change. So, as with the move from traditional marketing to digital marketing, there has had to be a re-aligning of how data is collected, processed and analysed by marketing.

Whilst the avalanche of data for marketers has been rapidly expanding, the technology that could help has not been readily available to the marketing function. Most corporations, challenged with increasing levels of data for many years, have turned to big data technology to help them. big data is only now becoming the answer they are looking for to corral larger and larger data sets into a cohesive system. Only now are we able to manipulate that data to be of benefit.

With the predicted increase in data and the requirement for more personalised consumer experiences, the need for data accuracy becomes paramount.

Many traditional analytics solutions rely on historical reports that, whilst delivering a level of accuracy, lack the instantaneous insight that is needed for improving the customer experience.

Often marketers have to rely on sampled data and take a judgement on the level of accuracy that this provides, but in delivering a personalised experience this is fundamentally flawed.

A big data based web analytics solution could do this better because it allows significantly more processors to work together and user counts can be attributed at data collection; ad-hoc, real-time reports can be generated on the fly, returning accurate results faster, without the need for sampling.

With the continuing growth of data certain to explode further, especially around IoT, there will be increasing pressure on trying to assimilate what data to capture and what will be relevant.

Capture it all

The desire to capture everything may not always be the answer, but as we cannot foretell what data we capture today is or isn’t going to be of use in a year or two’s time, it would be foolish to ignore the potential.

Capturing all the data you need is great but what you do with it is far more important. Making your data work hard is not restricted to delivering campaigns. You now have the ability to extract that data to feed other elements of marketing; feed behavioural information to or from your mobile app, your email service provider or your corporate CRM in real time. By bringing these different elements together you will be one step closer to a single customer view, the Holy Grail for marketers.

It would seem that the future for the marketer will continue to change and at a pace too. The challenge to make sense of the data you capture becomes increasingly difficult on relational databases as volumes and variety increase.

The volumes of data would continue to rise anyway, but you have to factor in the proliferation of mobile; the demands of the consumer for a more personalised experience; the Internet of Things and marketing’s need for ever more variables to be queried.

Big data technology is the enabler. Not the amount of data as such but the ability to interrogate it, mine it for both immediate actions and for predicting individual habits, market movements or global trends.

Technological advances are ensuring that the marketing team can deliver a better end-to-end experience for the customer, more cost effectively.

The need is to be as future proof as possible, with the right platforms and inter-connectivity to take advantage of the future as it happens.

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