TMI? Not when it comes to marketing and big data
Too much information isn’t the problem; how to transform big data into strategic marketplace intelligence is.
Consumers today have access to more sites, social networks, and online stores today than any individual could ever use, and the arsenal of devices to access them expands constantly, from laptops, smartphones, and tablets to smart watches and glasses (thank you, Google), and whatever’s new next.
Then, there’s the Internet of things (IoT). Now, and in the near future to an even greater extent, many more types of devices can and will connect to the Internet—from things we use at home (microwaves with apps) to things we wear when we venture out (shirts with health sensors.)
We embrace technology passionately because it not only informs us, it also enable us to shop and buy things online; make cash transactions; catch up with the news; watch videos, movies, and TV shows; find a soul mate; and like, comment, and share about any or all of these. It’s no surprise Amazon handles around 1.5 million consumer requests per second, and Google servers process about 100 billion queries per month.
The other side of access.
Those same connections that inform and enable us to live fuller, richer, more productive lives, also silently suck up enormous quantities of information about us—where we go, how fast we get there, what we do, who we like, what we consume, what we spend, and whatever else we put out there about ourselves for others to glean and know.
As a consequence of this—and a few prior millennia of non-digital knowledge creation—the global community has now accumulated more than 4 zettabytes (that’s a 4 with 21 zeros) of data. Mind you, we generated 90 percent of that within the past two years. In the next two years, that volume of that global data will double again.
That’s why we call it big data.
There’s also another reason we call it big data. It’s too large in terms of volume, velocity, and variety for conventional technologies, such as relational databases and customer relationship management (CRM) tools, to process. Despite these challenges, data scientists and the few marketing gurus who speak their rarified dialect continue to assure that as big as big data is, it has even bigger value.
Facebook can help give dimension to the three Vs of big data. One of the world’s most prolific generators and, in turn, users of big data, Facebook has about 1.28 billion active users and handles about 300 petabytes (add 15 zeros) of data daily.
- Volume: Think of all the data generated if each of those billion+ users makes only one update daily—a simple text, a link, an image, a video.
- Velocity: Think of all the likes, comments, and shares users add to the constant feeds in their timelines.
- Variety: Think of all the games, ads, apps, and surveys with which each user interacts and engages.
As big as Facebook’s data is, it’s still six zeros short of a zettabyte, and only a drop in the global data bucket.
The big question: How useful is big data?
Given that consumers use the great quantities of information available to them to help manage their lives and make smarter decision, and in turn generate volumes of big data, shouldn’t marketers use the copious data that customers generate to make smarter decisions about: How to interact with them. Whom to target. The best time to do so. The best channels to use. And so much more.
The short answer: Yes, they should. But maybe they can’t.
Marketers have done a great job of making the tons of information they push out to consumers easy to access, consume, and use. They’ve had less success collecting, aggregating, analyzing, and using all that potentially available data that consumers generate to turn it into understandable, actionable information fast enough to make smarter decisions. The problem: many simply can’t because they do not the have the tools, technology, or time to do it.
That’s where true omnichannel marketing automation and powerful marketing analytics capabilities come in—not just to collect, integrate, and analyze data across multiple channels, but also to turn it into actionable insights to guide current and future marketing efforts, optimize marketing spend, and contribute significantly to top-line growth.