The problem isn't the data.
We all know that a tremendous amount of online user data is being compiled at an extraordinary rate. An unbelievable, somewhat unfathomable, amount of data is gathered every second of every day. But is all of this data being used to its potential, or are we (collectively) just spending a lot of money to mine and store massive amounts of useless information?
This phenomenon of data overload, known as Big Data, refers to data sets whose size are beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, manage, and process the data within a tolerable elapsed time, and it isn't a new concept.
In fact, Doug Laney has been talking about it for over 10 years. Laney is considered a pioneer in the field of data warehousing, and in a research report dating back to 2001 he described the emerging "Big Data revolution" as the outcome of the effect of the e-commerce surge.
According to a study* commissioned by the Columbia Business School and the New York American Marketing Association, 96 percent of marketers said they believe successful brands use customer data to drive marketing decisions. However, 36 percent of these respondents said they have "lots of customer data," but just "don't know what to do with it." Even more troubling, 39 percent of these marketers admitted they "cannot turn their data into actionable insight."
This is a big problem, because in the universe of e-commerce, being able to interact with your customers based on the behaviors they're displaying in real time is invaluable for driving revenue, creating brand awareness, and engaging with your customers. The key is being able to react to data instantly.
The importance of using a platform that allows for actionable insight based on customer data cannot be overstated.
When choosing among the plethora of data analytics platforms out on the market, there's never a lack of insight metrics offered - demographics, monthly unique visitors, number of clicks, browsing history. It's all there, insight, insight, and more insight, but the key to successful data analysis is not just insight. The one common thread these platforms are all conspicuously missing is the ability to take ROI-driving action from within the same platform.
To truly begin using Big Data to full potential, marketers must be able to take behavioral data and convert it into something actionable. Marketers must have the ability to not only observe the buying behaviors and shopping patterns that their customers are exhibiting on and off their site, but also, be able to take action on that insight instantly - while the shopper is still shopping.
Just having this sort of "in the moment" ability to observe and segment shoppers isn't enough. Retailers need the ability to link together specific shopper segments with highly-tailored, conversion-lifting campaigns that effectively engage and reward customers.
The problem isn't with Big Data, but rather with the fact that a large majority of marketers don't have an all-in-one platform – one that encompasses live customer analytics, segments shoppers by behavior, and most importantly, creates and launches customized campaigns immediately, all within the same user interface.
Once marketers start using tools that enable them to act on data in real time, it won't matter how big the data is, because the problem isn't with the amount of information, but only the way in which we choose to use it.
*Note: The March 2012 study was answered by 253 corporate marketing decision-makers by Research Now on behalf of Columbia Business School and the New York American Marketing Association.
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Aubrey is the director of marketing programs at Salted Stone, a digital marketing agency in Southern California. She specializes in brand strategy and inbound marketing, working with emerging tech companies and B2B providers to identify their voice and create revenue-driving content plans.
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