Big data is fast becoming more than just a buzzword. In fact, according to a report conducted in 2012, the big data market is predicted to be worth $47 billion by 2017, reaching $18.1 billion in 2013 alone.
But don't let the term "big data" mislead you. Numbers and stats are useless without a host of people to organize and draw meaning from the raw data and turn it into products and campaigns. This process requires a unique combination of the creative, analytical, and interpersonal skills so often siloed into different departments and job roles. As big data rises, so, too, will the need not just for data scientists and architects but also for big data marketers, who can draw insight and inspiration from the stats and target consumers accordingly.
Let's take a deeper look at the growth of the industry and just what this means for businesses and the economy at large.
The Growth of Big Data Marketing
Earlier this year, Distilled collaborated with Rasmussen College to create a data visualization to help students find their ideal career. The visualization compares the number of people employed in any given industry to the median salaries for major occupations in the U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, from which the data was mined, revealed a striking trend. While many job titles in other sectors declined or grew slowly, roles connected to big data were predicted to grow into 2020. The role of Management and Operations Analyst, for example, was predicted to experience a growth rate of 21.9 percent. Financial Analysts: 23 percent. Cost Estimators: 36.4 percent. Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists: 41.2 percent.
Click image to open interactive version (via Rasmussen College).
"Big Data Marketer" is yet to be a measured job title, but as it pulls talent from these related fields, we can take the growth in those industries as growth in the burgeoning field of big data marketing. Supporting this conclusion are surveys like this one conducted by IBM, in which 3,018 CIOs spanning 70 countries identified big analytics as a priority. We can also conclude from this 2013 IDC study that as the demand for big data software platforms and analysis tools rise, so, too, does the need for professionals who can interpret and create from the results produced by those powerful platforms.
Why You Should Care About Big Data
Big data has the power to shape just about every aspect of a business' operations. Here's a closer look at what big data means for a number of job positions.
1. Statisticians, mathematicians, and IT consultants. Since the field is still largely developing, there are relatively few people who are officially trained data scientists, data architects, or data visualizers. As the discipline grows, it will draw from related fields like statistics, mathematics, and IT for talent. However, it's likely that being the top statistician won't be as important as being a good statistician who can also think creatively, has a curious mind, and can translate the story the numbers tell into digestible form.
To underscore this point, it's important to remember that big data in itself is not inherently useful; rather, it's the actionable insight big data provides about consumers that really matters, and how those insights are applied. For that, related fields like software development are also crucial, as data scientists will need sophisticated platforms for hosting data, not to mention algorithms to clean it up. Business analysts will also be crucial in taking those insights and making them into a reality.
2. Marketers and advertisers. Access to big data will affect every stage of the campaign process, from brainstorming and research to production, launch, and post-campaign analysis.
We're already seeing this in platforms like Google Analytics, which provide marketers with insight into how well consumers are engaging with campaigns at the level of click-through rates, bounce rates, and conversions. Even deeper and more accurate reports will tell marketers and advertisers what their customers are looking for in terms of product and content, where they consume their content, and how well they're responding. Review services like Amazon Reviews and Bazaarvoice will provide even richer insights within a natural, social sphere.
Of course, big data also aids marketers and advertisers in customizing shopping experiences. If, for example, a customer buys a vintage dress, the retailer will know to send her ads for similar types of clothing, rather than, say, raincoats.
As the amount of available data grows, so, too, will the need for marketers and advertisers who can glean insights from the data and take concrete action.
3. Customer service professionals. Today's customer service tends to look something like this: you buy a problematic product; you call an 800 number; you get stuck in a web of confusing and overly broad computer menus; when you finally get through to a customer representative, they take you through a standard script that doesn't apply to your problem, and you spend forever hashing it out. Woe to the person who gets disconnected midway and has to start the whole process from scratch.
In the era of big data, customer service representatives will benefit from a much more empowered starting point. Companies like Amazon and Zappos are already using customer data to customize their relationship. Let's say, for example, that a customer, let's call her Sarah, is having trouble with her Kindle. The moment Sarah calls, customer service representatives know her name and the fact that it's her Kindle that's giving her trouble, as opposed to another product she might have purchased. What's more, the customer service representatives have already begun researching solutions, so their response can be both on-point and rapid.
While big data may not increase the number of customer service representatives companies need to employ, the field will need professionals who can quickly interpret data and customize their approach.
4. Business owners and organizational leaders. While they may not dig deeply into the data themselves, business owners and organizational leaders should have a deep understanding of what big data is and why it's valuable. There is a difference, after all, between blindly creating new teams that measure for measuring's sake and really putting a priority on the most important data that will drive and shape business decisions.
What's more, business leaders will need to be adept at identifying data talent, as they'll likely be defining the precise boundaries of the role as they go. Emphasis should be put on intellectual curiosity and storytelling abilities as well as on a deep grasp of the numbers.
Big data is growing even bigger every day. But a wealth of data won't have much value unless there is a team at hand to curate and interpret its insights, and transform those into business and marketing decisions and strategy. Having the right people on hand will be crucial for any organization to thrive in the coming big data era.
Image on home page via Shutterstock.
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Adria Saracino is the head of outreach at Distilled, a creative online marketing agency. When not consulting on content strategy or leading her team of outreach warriors, you can find her writing about style on her personal fashion blog, The Emerald Closet.
March 19, 2014