How to Make Big Data Work for You

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In this age of data, marketers still struggle with how to bridge the gap between perceived value and actual return. Here, analysts explain how to finally realize the promise of Big Data.

Big Data. It's a perennial—and oft-overused—term in marketing.

The reason for that is simple: Data is everywhere. And marketers can cull it from most anywhere. The result is a plethora of social data, open data, sensor data, location data, behavioral data, real-time data—the list goes on and on. Big Data can affect most all aspects of marketing by informing campaigns, enriching existing data sets, and ideally, impacting the bottom line.

Truthfully, the idea of Big Data carries great promise. If leveraged effectively, Big Data can be a major problem solver. It can improve customer experience, boost customer interaction, increase revenue, reduce costs, and identify breakdowns in infrastructure and the sales funnel.

However, there seems to be one constant, pressing question: How can you make Big Data work for you?

“Marketers are struggling to bridge the gap between the perceived value that they feel exists in these large data sets and the value that we're able to actually extract today,” says Matt Abrams, chief technology officer for AddThis, a Web-tracking technology company best known for its social bookmarking widget. “Joining the insights of Big Data sets together is a challenge. That's another point of frustration for marketers. Even if they're able to extract these insights, they're not able to execute on them.”

Abrams says that, bottom line, marketers must learn how to leverage Big Data. And to do that, he says they must tie insights to execution.

In other words, use Big Data to craft, target and personalize, and contextualize.

“Today it's just extremely important that we understand who our audience is. It's important to craft different creative for different cohorts in your audience. To give them the right message at the right time,” Abrams explains. “That's what Big Data provides.”

And one of the best ways to leverage Big Data is to use it to always “deliver on a brand promise,” says Wilson Raj, global director of customer intelligence at data software giant SAS. Raj says that customer experience is directly tied to the ability to deliver on a brand promise, which in turn is directly linked to Big Data.

“Customer experience is really nothing more than the verification of whether the brand promise has been delivered,” Raj explains. He says if a brand delivers on a promise, that's a positive customer experience; if the brand does not deliver, it's a negative one.

“So the customer experience is really an evaluation of brand promise,” Raj continues. “So from that perspective—the customers' perspective—Big Data plays into a lot of [aspects]. One, Big Data can be used to enrich that [customer] experience in a number of ways. The more data that we can harness, the deeper, more comprehensive portrait of the consumer.”

He says that marketers also can use Big Data to create brand advocates, understand customer motivation, know what's driving their actions, and delve deeper into shoppers' emotions.

“It's no longer just the amount and the volume of data. It's the variety of Big Data,” Raj says. “Tap into those micro, digital footprints: digital breadcrumbs on websites, customer keystrokes, what [devices] they're turning off and on. Then mesh that with the Internet of Things. Those customer details—the granularity—is absolutely amazing.”

On a final note, both Raj and AddThis' Abrams say there's no question that the future of marketing is data.

“Big Data is certainly part of that future,” Abrams says. “Analyzing data is important, but the creative will never go away. Use Big Data to succeed. Big Data is amplification for your creation.”

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