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Big Data: What Is It Good For?

May 27, 2014 By Thorin McGee
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Big Data has had its turn in the spotlight as the hot, shiny new marketing technology toy. The question it's left for many marketers is, "Yeah, but what's it good for?" Data for data's sake doesn't get any company closer to its goals (except maybe Facebook and Google). So how can you actually use data to close the gap with your customers and get closer to those goals?

We asked William Rand, assistant professor and director of the Center for Complexity in Business at the University of Maryland, about his take on this problem. Rand is speaking on the webinar "Bridging the Gap with Customers Using Big Data" later this week, and had these tips to offer on how marketers can get the most out of Big Data.

Target Marketing: What is the "gap" between customers and marketers, and how does Big Data analytics help bridge it?
William Rand:
"Every customer desires to be treated as a firm's most important client, and every firm would like to treat customers in the best possible way to make sure that the customers stay loyal. The gap exists because every customer has their own personal needs, desires and wants, and, traditionally, it was very difficult for the firm to tailor marketing and customer service strategies that could address every customer in the best possible way. Big Data analytics helps to bridge this gap by ensuring that all of the possible interactions that a firm has with a customer, and as much data as possible, is used to make decisions that tailor firm actions directly to the desires of the customer. In the end, the goal is to provide the representative of the firm—whether it be a customer service leader, a marketing manager, or a front-line agent—with exactly the right information to make the optimal decision about the consumer at exactly the right time."

TM: What structures and capabilities does a marketer have in place to do that?
WR:
"There are three major steps to making use of Big Data: 1. track, 2. analyze and 3. optimize. Marketers must first identify what data they can track about the consumer, making sure to respect privacy concerns. Moreover, they must have that information stored in a way that is easily accessible. The second step is to analyze the data the marketer already has, and look to see how consumer and firm decisions interact. Based on this, it is possible to start to think of better marketing strategies to employ. These strategies can then be tested and the results recorded. This brings us to the third step, which is to optimize the marketing actions on the basis of the new information.

 

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