Big Data and How to use it Effectively
We are definitely in the data and information age, and vast amounts of revenue is being generated by those businesses, organizations and countries that are able to effectively and efficiently make use of the data at their disposal. This article will explain the basics of big data and how your business can join the bandwagon using big data for big business.
What is Big Data
It’s become somewhat of a buzz term and big data means so many things to the numerous users and industries making use of it. However, simply put, big data is the amalgamation of massive data sets and their analysis to reveal patterns that are useful to make business decisions. It is all about the volume of data, the variety and velocity. Many argue that this data has always been there, but that the introduction of widespread tech such as social media, web logs, sensors, the internet of things devices in the home, and cloud computing has meant that we are now all able to make use of and access this so called ‘big data’ faster and more seamlessly than ever before in human history.
Big data can either be structured or unstructured and takes as many forms as there are data sets. From structured tables, semi-structured XML files to the plethora of unstructured videos, clips, photographs and audio that exists, all of it can be stored, sorted, analyzed and used to improve the business in some way.
Some of the fastest and most detailed forms of data are now gathered on social media. It’s not just on the big social media platforms either, but any social connection will do, from the one off WhatsApp that the customer has replied with, to the ongoing and continuous presence in a product or brand chatroom and your daily dose of Facebook and Tik Tok. With the average global internet user spending at least 2hrs a day on social media and the increase in mobile users, it is a space where users feel free to share about themselves and their likes. All of this is information that is valuable and required for the modern business to execute a cogent and successful marketing plan.
Social media is the data collection point for most of the customer and client data that businesses now use to market and drive revenue.
For businesses this has seen a change in priorities to some extent and big data has become some of the most sought-after business resources of our time. This, however, is not only in understanding what big data is, but how best to effectively use it for your business.
How to use big data
The beginning of the process is the collection of such data, be it customer demographic data, transactional data, buying and shopping preferences are all extremely useful information.
The analysis of big data, although based on the work of the great statisticians, may not require you to be as highly trained as there are those who specialize in this process or applications/software that can be used. Data analysts are a trending job sector and for good reason, as all the data in the world will mean nothing unless you are able to analyze it and determine what it means to your business.
The most critical element of this process is thus the ability to create meaning from the copious amount of data that has been gathered and why this is important. Furthermore, ensure that your business understands what data is available for collection, how it will be stored and then what it is you expect to get from this data and how to use it.
To increase customer retention and acquisition
Big data is able to uncover and clarify what the current customer trends are, what the customers want, and the patterns associated with a specific group of your clients or customers. This allows for a more targeted approach to revenue generation, as it should be on exactly what the customer wants and when they are most likely to want the product or service.
Build a customer relationship
Being able to analyze a customer’s historical buying habits and predict future needs is the greatest way to create a customer relationship. Being able to communicate and enquire as to their previous purchase and knowing a little about the customer provides the ‘in’ and is always the first step in creating a customer relationship. This is all possible using the relevant data and then being able to mine it for the specifics about your clientele that will make yours more than a buying decision but also build long-lasting brand loyalty.
A whole new level of market insights
Marketing and sales are predominantly about pitching the right product to the right person at the right time and the access to information on your target audience may seem basic, but it is the only way to start. Names, addresses, buying history and searches are just the beginning and will set the tone for further interaction and engagement.
It’s not just the customer and client information and data that is paramount for success, it is also the long-term market data you gain that allows you to plan slightly ahead of the competition and increase your competitiveness.
Bespoke personalized marketing
The new normal in marketing circles is the ability to write and design material specifically for high value individuals and customers or those with whom you have established brand building relationships. It may not yet be the mainstream marketing norm, but by using the incredibly detailed long-term data that you have on individual customers and clients and then mining this to determine exact needs and perceived wants allows for a specifically individualized marketing campaign to sell specific products or services.
The risks of big data
Just as big data can lead to significant business growth and development, it can also be the source of some for the biggest thefts and criminal attacks on businesses. It is thus imperative to ensure that the data your business relies on is well protected and therefore cyber security has gained prominence in line with the growth of big data.
Everything can be tracked and analyzed
As the information that your business uses for customer and client interaction can all be tracked and recorded, it is thus imperative to keep this interaction as professional as possible. There are several ethical dilemmas related to the use and access to big data, for instance financial and loan companies are now able to do ever more invasive financial profiling based on the vast amount of historical data that is now available.
The Chinese have started a new social credit system whereby people are rewarded for their contributions to society, all in an attempt to promote good citizen behavior. So those giving to charity, volunteering or paying their bills on time will be rewarded. Big data allows big Brother to not only watch, but to have a historical permanent record of each person.
If your data is all in one place and as well organized as can be, it presents the perfect opportunity for the packaged all in one crime. If data is the new gold, then, the cloud as the information highway presents an opportunity for robbers and criminals. Phishing, bank fraud and insurance swindles are but a few of the more popular online criminal undertakings that are being popularized and even trained on the dark net. This requires improved security and stricter access controls.
Integration and communication
With all the data being collected throughout the customer journey, and every contact point used to add to this data, it is becoming apparent that one of the biggest risks of big data is its size and the fact that everyone wants to play a part. Unless the collection of information is planned and coordinated it can and does lead to customer contact fatigue which can affect data quality. Customers become annoyed with the constant attempt to gather more information. Use the existing platforms where these customers already share, or provide a good reason for them to share. Information gathering and the resultant data needs to be integrated throughout the business and improved communication as to what is collected, when and why is now an additional requirement for the modern data savvy businesses out there. The risk is also that a lot of time and money will be spent communicating and integrating, before the business has even had a chance to analyze and use the data.
Big data is definitely one of the defining features of modern life and it can indeed be used to create more insightful analysis and improve the way our world works. However, using big data is not as simple as some have made out. There are several issues or challenges that your business needs to have thought through, such as improved technical/analysis know-how and heightened security. This article has provided some of the basics in terms of big data use for safe revenue generation and customer development. Keep in mind that this is a process, a journey rather than a destination.