Marketing gurus the world over love to christen every New Year the ‘Year of [This Awesome Thing]’, and ten to one, it’s something related to mobile. While there are many worthwhile trends and niche tools out there, there’s one rather important field that covers virtually all digital marketing endeavours and often gets abused or misunderstood. It’s called big data.
What Is Big Data (And How Big Is It Really)?
Big data is a term used for large databases...really large ones. Databases so massive they are considered ‘awkward’ to manage (even with computer-based tools) and difficult to store (because they are so, well, big). These databases can contain anything from user data to web analytics records to computer-generated logs. According to the Twitter account of DevOpsBorat, 'Big Data is any thing which is crash Excel.'
The Google search engine is an excellent example of indexed big data – it has over 13 billion web pages on file, all ready to be searched at a moment’s notice. And consider how much interaction data is generated by Facebook’s 1 billion users every day. Now that’s big data.
Why Should I Care?
If you can figure out the process of collating, managing and analysing big data sets, you can gain incredible amounts of insight into your marketing activities – on such a massive scale, averages and trends become incredibly meaningful.
Big data can be used, for example, to:
- Predict and counteract disease outbreaks by collating massive amounts of data on medicine sales, hospital visits and reported cases of illness
- Calculate the biological workings of genes, bacteria and DNA to better understand the living world
- Understand human behaviour patterns by looking at people travelling in, out of and around cities – and then maximise the way space is used to make everyone’s life better
- Analyse and predict the way people react to marketing messages, and get a much deeper understanding of what triggers and activities lead to which behaviours – from the optimal price to charge for a specific item to the way your customers behave on social media at a specific point in the buying process
Where Is It Used?
Big data can be used anywhere that data is gathered. For example:
- Web analytics thrives off of structured big data. Tools like Google Analytics allows marketers to process massive volumes of customer actions and behaviours, and then make decisions based on the trends and insights that emerge. This bleeds over into virtually all areas of digital marketing, from paid placements to social media.
- Big data is essential in email marketing, which relies (for both marketing and legal reasons) on large, accurate and well-structured databases of customer information. The more information is gathered, the better tailored marketing communications can become – improving conversion rates and giving customers more of what they want.
- Mobile marketing is another field that relies on both using and collecting large databases of content. Aside from the permission marketing angle of storing user contact details, mobile marketing also often focuses on gathering replies (via SMS or USSD) – and this info needs to be stored in a usable, useful way.
How Do I Get My Own Big Data?
As we all know, the digital age has allowed us to produce, gather and access an unprecedented amount of data on practically anything. The problem is making this useful.
Organising and curating vast database information into a usable form is a powerful activity that can lead to brand-new insights, deeper understanding and accurate predictions of future behaviour. Getting these amazing results requires three steps:
- The first step is gathering the data you need – whether that’s anonymous web analytics tracking data, personal information from customers, or some other source.
- Then you need to curate it – this means organising, filtering and managing this information so that you always know your database is current, accurate and easy to use.
- Now you should analyse it – what trends, habits, flows, patterns or anomalies does it show you?
We didn’t say those would be three easy steps. However, if you think that data could improve your business (it can!) and make your customers happy (it does!) and cut marketing costs while improving conversions (it will!), take the time and invest in some proper big data systems.
Are you using big data? Tell us how you gather, curate and analyse yours, in the 'Make a comment' block below?
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