At this point, most of us are aware that the “Era of Big Data” is upon us. The phrase was coined to describe the rapidly expanding collections of data sets that are too large and complex to process with traditional data-processing applications.
As smart, digitally enabled customers leave digital data trails every time they search, transact, or interact with companies, brands, and each other, these data sets continue getting bigger, growing every minute of every day.
Today, many companies are in a race to provide solutions that help visualize the interrelationships between data sets, finding unexpected insights across sectors as varied as energy, medical, world history, climatology, and sports.
Finding Customer Insights: Starting With The End In Mind
For companies interested in learning more about their customers, the ability to dig deep to gain new insights is a godsend. While there is massive data available, the companies that are most successful at leveraging Big Data to drive value share two key traits.
First, they start with the end in mind. That is, they start by defining the questions they need answered–and work backward to figure out the best way to get to those answers.
Second, they focus on how and to whom they deliver these insights. Given the volume of information, it’s easy to get lost in the corners. But getting the right answers to the right questions into the hands of the right people–and doing so in a meaningful, consumable way–is the difference between success and failure.
To Improve Customer Experience, Hang Out At The Intersections Of Business And Customer Data
By starting with the end in mind, smart companies are embracing Big Data–leveraging both internal and external data sources–to drive significant improvements in customer experience. After all, the ability to see the differences between each customer is what gives a firm the ability to give them exactly what they want–when and where they want it.
Though there are many subsets, major data sources you’ll want to examine include:
- Internal Customer and Employee Data: Robust voice-of-the-customer (VoC) and voice voice-of-the-employee (VoE) programs help you understand what your most important audiences–your customers and employees–think, feel, and believe to be true about your company, your brand, their experiences, and your ability to give them what they want and need.
- Internal Operational and Financial Data: Financial data helps you better understand not only where you are (or aren’t) driving value, it can identify which individual segments or customers are most profitable, which have the potential to grow, and which you may want to slowly let go. Operational data–including call-center data or store-level transactional information–helps you link key performance metrics to customer and financial data.
- External Partner and Supplier Data: By connecting your operational and financial data to your suppliers’ databases, you can run multiple real-world experiments, helping to do things like automatic replenishment or ordering, real-time or demand based pricing, better control inventory and cycle times, and more.
- External Social and Competitor Data: There’s a massive wealth of unstructured social data available to any brand. What do current or former customers say about your brand? How do they feel about you versus your competition? What do they say about your competition–and where are you winning or losing? More structured data, gathered through polling of competitors’ customers, can drive insights as well, allowing you to bump right up against your own customers to see where you’re winning, and where you may need to improve.
Doing Nothing Isn’t A Viable Option
As your competitors develop Big Data strategies and embrace new insights as a result, they’ll gain the ability to see–and poach–your best customers, develop pricing and promotional strategies that will erode your market share, more intelligently invest resources in marketing and service design to meet customer needs you cannot see, and much, much more.
While the ability to intelligently use your own data is a significant and critical first step–and one you should take now if you haven’t already–the ability to leverage other publicly available information (such as unstructured sentiment data across mobile and social channels) is where you’ll find real competitive advantage.
The biggest challenge, however, is this: Given the fact that most companies already gather massive quantities of data–and don’t really leverage it to benefit themselves, much less their customers–what are the chances they’ll embrace Big Data?
If this sounds like your organization, then you’ll probably want to start by understanding the “little data” (behind your own firewall) first. Because the truth is, Big Data–any data–is useless without the ability to analyze it.