The Oxford Dictionary recently listed ‘Selfie’ as its Word of the Year. If a similar list were to exist for the most overused corporate buzzwords of 2013, then ‘big data’ would have definitely clinched the title. The volume, variety and velocity of data accumulated in integrated networks is continuing to reach unprecedented levels. Marketers are best positioned to utilise and analyse this data not only to decipher the information that counts, but also delve into the possibilities of what can be achieved using results of big data analysis.
The use of big data will become a key basis of competition and growth for brands. In most industries, established brands and new entrants alike will leverage data-driven strategies to innovate, compete, and capture value from deep and real-time information. As per research conducted by McKinsey, close to 90 per cent data available in integrated networks, has been collected in only the past two years. This enormous amount of data tends to flabbergast marketers who are constantly looking at ways and means to harness it. Everyone agrees that it is important to understand big data, but fail to utilise it. Here are three approaches in which companies can simplify big data and put it good use.
#1: Target the ‘what’ of consumer behaviour, not the ‘why’
Traditional approach to marketing has always relied on understanding the psyche of consumers and then predicting consumer behaviour. While this is still a strong approach, the availability of big data makes things even simpler. Market research is rapidly changing from asking questions, to simply observing the trends of the sample set. “With big data at hand, one need not delve much deeper into consumer behaviour. Looking at the pattern of, say, purchases, a lot of relevant information can be garnered which can further be used to drive targeted communication to those customers, and thereby increase sales,” said Vikas Ahuja, Chief Marketing Officer, Myntra.com, a fashion e-retail company in India.
He cited an example where Myntra.com harnessed big data. “We studied the purchasing behaviour of the sample set of males aged 18-22. We noticed that this range of online shoppers bought footwear on the first three purchases and then shifted to apparel. This noticeable trend made us communicate to this shopper on his third footwear purchase, about deals and offers in apparel. Similarly, we saw a gap of an average of 20 days between the first and the next online purchase by women. Hence, we started targeting marketing communication to this group from the 15th day of her first purchase. This brought us incremental results,” he said.
Action-based learning and rapid experimentation with data will lead one step forward towards realising the potential of big data.
#2: Extending math to creative agencies
With creative agencies leading the frontline of marketing communication, they form an integral part of rationalising big data. “The application of math in media is turning out to be humongous. There lies a big opportunity in front of creative agencies to understand mass market psyche ready at hand with big data analysis, and formulate communication accordingly. However, it is very important to keep monetisation in sync with the analytics and not lose track of the bigger picture,” added Sam Balsara, Chairman and Managing Director, Madison World that has operations in India and South Asia.
As per a McKinsey research, there will be a shortage of talent necessary for organisations to take advantage of big data. By 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 1,40,000 to 1,90,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.
There will come a shift in the measurement methods by media agencies and brands alike where no longer will the number of ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ determine engagement rates. Marketers will ask for incremental sales figures linked with campaign data. The sooner the agencies begin working towards this trend, the smoother will be the adoption across the industry.
3#: Motivating the frontliners
However under-rated, the most important facet towards utilising big data will lie in the extent of motivation of the frontliners i.e. customer-facing personnel. “The frontliners are the ones who will ultimately put forward the recommendations obtained by the results of Big Data. They will now have a much direct, targeted approach towards customer management once they realise the importance of collecting and interpreting Big Data,” stated Nimal Manuel, Partner, McKinsey & Company, Kuala Lumpur.