Taking a Bite Out of Big Data

Much of the conversation about big data seems to send one message: companies need to stop what they’re doing, and figure out how to connect their X number of data sources to uncover new insights about their customers.

But there’s a good chance that combining all the databases in the world won’t tell anyone what they actually want to know about their customers. You’ll more or less end up standing in front of an expensive buffet table with an empty stomach and no idea where to start.

Here are three steps that you can take today to start nibbling on big data rather than biting off more than you can chew.

1. Turn off your computer. Walk away from your desk. Stop reading about data technologies and vendors, and look within your organization. The reality is that stakeholders within your organization already know 80 percent of your key customers.

Talk to your marketing team, your merchandising team, your sales team, the ad agency, anyone on the front lines. They already know who your high-value customer segments are, and can help you shape your big data plans going forward.

2. Ask the right questions. Once you’ve found your internal experts, ask them how to get more out of the identified key customer segments.

Let’s say you’re a denim retailer. Your merchandising team likely already knows that your average male customer buys one pair of jeans per year, while your average female customer purchases four pairs of jeans every year.

With that information in hand, the questions become:

  • How do I get more out of both of these valuable customer segments?
  • How do I get our average male customer to buy three pairs of jeans this year instead of one?
  • How do I get our average female customer to buy five pairs of jeans instead of four?

Based on analytics you have, you already know the customer segments that are “over-performing” and “underperforming.” Focus on how to get more out of your most valuable customer segments instead of taking a deeper dive into even more metrics.

3. Pay a visit to your analytics team. Once you’ve identified your most valuable customer segments and know your goals, it’s time to bring your analytics team into the fold.

Talk to your lead reporting analysts or others in similar roles. Find out the types of dashboard reports they create for different departments like marketing, merchandising, or the executive team. Then ask which segments they think are valuable to track. Your analytics team has a lot of visibility across the organization, and likely already works with disparate data sets.

Some companies will spend two years or more creating and executing a big data project when they could have spent two weeks meeting with the right people within their own organization who they don’t typically interact with on a daily basis. Instead of doing the same, make sure you don’t waste your time and money amassing more data than your company can digest.

Big Data image on home page via Shutterstock.

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