Is Big Data Really Working for Marketers?

Big Data has been around long enough to have lost the luster of hype. It’s no longer the latest marketing buzz word, having been replaced by things like the “content marketing cloud” and “second screen” and “gamification” and (insert new buzz term here).

It’s time to be sensible about Big Data. The question we discussed at our ClickZ Live New York roundtable this week was, “Is Big Data working for marketers yet?”

First, you have to understand if small data or any data analytics are working for marketers yet. Too many of us, despite the advent of technology and the integration of social and ad targeting with CRM solutions, are not optimizing the use of any data, let alone multi-structured data in real time or at scale. So we have some basics to get right first, and then we can add more and faster-moving data into the mix.

Our roundtable then discussed how Big Data was impacting or changing some of our core marketing practices and challenges.

  1. Segmentation. When you have more and more rapidly evolving data, you can move away from a list-based broadcast model to a truly customer-centric and 1:1 engagement model. That is pretty exciting – and I’ll have to explore it in a future column. However, if you can break away from a list mentality because your data is fast and complete enough to give you insights on what a customer needs now, by media channel and by life stage or purchase desire, then – wow. That would be a pretty game-changing way to utilize Big Data and all your data.
  2. Personas. They are often dismissed in favor of interest-based offer placement, but personas still have a role to play in modern marketing. Big Data can inform personas in terms of accuracy in dynamic depiction (letting the persona evolve with the data – which I really like because what customer is just one “personality” and so many customers change behavior between channels). It can also help you improve prospecting matches based on richer data sets and strengthen predictive analysis for next-best-offer and other conversion strategies.
  3. Social Analytics. Social has always been used for both marketing and customer service, and Big Data analytics are especially good at parsing through the unstructured data of comments and tweets and posts for analysis and ensuring the ones that need a personal touch actually get one. This is an area where Big Data can be very useful – even if you are not using it anywhere else.
  4. Channel Optimization. Many marketers struggle to optimize each individual channel, let alone optimizing at a customer level across many channels. To the extent that Big Data can help marketers understand what is important in the moment and across touch points, that could be valuable, but it seems more of us need stronger attribution models and analytics methodologies more than access to data. Big Data does seem to be valuable if you want to understand which customers are highest value within each channel and across channels, because the platforms that manage Big Data can handle both structured and unstructured data – which is what you need to truly include Web/clickstream and social data in your analysis.
  5. Content Curation. Could Big Data help you do instant content curation? Could it inform a “command center” to improve the number and offer veracity at key touch points? It seems more and more timely data can certainly accelerate the content marketing opportunity. The risk that we become too dependent on automation to do the work of content strategy is accelerated with Big Data, however. You may find yourself only running more quickly down the wrong road or interpreting an intention or inference. On the other hand, you can fail faster in some situations, and that may be a good thing.

How are you using Big Data to improve your marketing automation and other operations today? Please reply in the comments section below.

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