Size doesn’t matter – having the right data is what counts

Paul KennedyPaul Kennedy, Head of Consulting, Callcredit Marketing Solutions

There is a lot of hype in the industry at the moment about 'big data' and buzz words like multi-channel, omni-channel marketing and knowing your customer.  But what does this all mean if marketers aren't making the most of this big data to help better understand their customer? Not much is the answer!

It is all well and good having 'big data' but not so good if a marketer isn't taking advantage of the invaluable information that they have at their fingertips to better target and engage with their customers. Data without commercial context and proper application is an easy trap to fall into.

Every day, a vast amount of data is generated as consumers search for and buy the things they need from their chosen brands. There is more data now than ever before with more data being created in the last two years than existed up to that point. Whilst it's fantastic to have access to all of the 'digital exhaust' coming off the back of those activities, many marketers are now drowning.   In fact, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data [1]is generated every day.  Every minute of every day, Google gets over 2 million queries, Facebook users share 684 million pieces of content, brands receive 34k likes, about 50k apps are downloaded on iTunes and email users send over 200m messages. Now multiply those numbers by 1,440 to see what's generated in a day.

Actually, the thought that there's more data than we can process (which as probably always been true) is dressed up as the latest trend with associated technology must-haves.  It's not size that matters, but rather having the 'right' data to address the business objectives we are working to.   Instead of focusing on the concept of big data, marketers need to concentrate on the intelligence data can offer. Over the next few years we will  see the rise of componentised small data - creating and integrating small data 'packages' rather than building big data monoliths.

At present marketers are unable to see the wood for the trees and are getting too immersed in the concept of big data in its own right rather than how it can help their business or indeed their customers. Whilst all of this 'digital exhaust' presents new commercial opportunities it also presents challenges.  How should all of these consumer actions, behaviours and insights be interpreted and used to help brands engage with consumers and promote their offerings?  What customer journeys are being enacted offline, online and on premise and what actual data is needed to make thesework? 

From the consumer point of view, the lines between offline, online and on premise experience are blurring - especially when we look at retail. A recent survey found that 44% of consumers always research purchases online before actually buying in-store, while a further 52% sometimes check online before buying in-store.  But, the greatest challenge for marketing is that a customer's experience is now an aggregate of online and offline events, mobile and desktop, store and device, marketing and service - an all channel perspective.   

By collecting and building the right customer data a joined up customer lifecycle programme can be designed and implemented to engage with customers as they discover, explore, buy and revisit - whatever the touch point.  Getting to grips with the 'big data' and creating small insightful data, will prove to be invaluable in creating an individual picture of each and every consumer a marketer is targeting. 

2013 will be the year when more companies actually work out what more complex customer journeys mean for their particular business and aspirations for becoming truly 'omni-channel'.  But there is still plenty of room for improvement as anyone who's been the subject of an aggressive retargeting campaign knows. 

It is only by embracing the information that big data has to offer will the marketer be able to overcome the challenges that come with it. Nowadays big isn't always better it's what you do with that intelligence that makes it invaluable.