Who Needs Big Data?

The term “big data” seems ubiquitous these days. It’s a big topic of discussion at most conferences, and it strikes me that for all our talk about it, many questions remain. Who needs big data? The short answer is: we all do. But if you find yourself unsure of what it is and how to use it, I have some ideas for you. Think of data as a raw material. Like any other raw material, it needs to be refined, processed, and managed. Just as crude oil doesn’t power our cars, raw, unanalyzed data won’t propel our businesses forward.

My advice to marketers and publishers: pick your data partners wisely and, to start, be sure to gain a full understanding in these three key areas:

  1. Demographics. This information is now more critical than ever as audience buying becomes the norm and we witness the convergence of TV media buying with digital. Demographics focus mainly on the information surrounding age, gender, and income. In order to tailor products and services to a particular group – thereby maximizing value – it’s important to understand the size and activities of each demographic combination.
  2. Actions. The data surrounding consumer actions can vary greatly from client to client. The idea is to identify the steps a consumer takes in completing a specific task. For example, the clickstream to purchase (purchase path) will tell you a lot about what the most important triggers are for purchase, which will help you design the optimal media campaign and messaging. Grocery stores spend millions of dollars per year understanding traffic flow through the store to maximize purchase of goods. The Internet is just one giant grocery store, so get your wallet out. This is going to get expensive.
  3. Creative engagement. Data about how consumers engage with advertising creative on a particular website, or across a demographic category, can tell you a lot about what is and isn’t working. A/B copy testing, which is used very successfully to improve efficacy in TV advertising, is just starting to be used in digital. The good news here is that social media and other relatively inexpensive media make this kind of testing simple and quick, which means a campaign can be optimized on the fly.

Of course, there are many more data sets to keep in mind, but focusing on these key areas to start should take some of the mystery out of “big data” and help you refine it to the point that it propels your business to new heights. Be specific about the information you will need to make your campaign or project more effective and focus only on the data points that will get you there.

Big Data image on home page via Shutterstock.

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