Turning Big Data into Major Insight

Knowing which data to collect, analyze, and take action on doesn’t have to be elusive for marketers. The right data strategy will inevitably solve internal challenges, provide a clearer view of target customers, and fuel effective, engaging campaigns. Kevin Geraghty, SVP of advanced analytics and decision sciences for 360i, explains how marketers can get there. In this revealing Q&A, Geraghty shares how to identify and then zero in on the most relevant data sets to your brand. He also divulges why more marketers should attempt to extract insights in real time.

How can marketers determine what data to collect to inform their campaigns?
The real first step [in data collection] is bringing together the data scientists with marketers. Then there needs to be a free-flowing, brainstorming approach. Of course, some of the ideas that you think will work, won’t at all. There needs to be a sort of testing process and a willingness to fail fast. But you need the right people to do that testing [to find the best way to collect and analyze data] so your team understands what’s working or what’s just spurious correlation. So, testing and that internal partnership are two important parts of great data collection.

Should marketers take a closer look at open data?
Absolutely. Red Roof Inn is one a number of successful cases where a brand leveraged open data and the semantic web [the idea that metadata added to Web pages can make them readable for machines]. And there are a couple of key components in the success [of the Red Roof Inn example]. First, there’s the real-time aspect of it. This is the one of the challenges marketers have with, for example, government data. It lags behind that market for so long that it can quite often be difficult for businesses to leverage in that sort of real-time marketing space. So one of the things [marketers] need to look for when they’re searching through this type of data is whether we can get real-time feeds and [insights] that we can make use of.

The other key thing is [open data’s] effectiveness for the business. Here again, we consider collaboration. Any time we’re taking on these projects or problems [the team at 360i] sits down our data scientists who know what data is available. Then we tie that together in a conversation with [marketers], or business folks, who really understand what key factors would drive the business. And for a large number of clients, weather is just so important, such as in the case with Red Roof Inn. Marketers can really tailor timing of that marketing [campaign] to the weather.

How important is the speed at which marketers transform information into insight?
I can’t envision a world now where you can’t be fast. For example, when electricity was first made available, the factories that adopted [the development] quicker gained a competitive advantage. It’s the same today—perhaps even more so. Nowadays we’re in that transition with real-time data. Right now, it gives [brands] a competitive advantage. If you’re not responding to changes, you’re just going to get killed…. But what I will say is that speed is not enough in and of itself. If you’re responding [to open data] in the wrong way, you’re just going to lose money faster. You have to be efficient and fast.

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