Everywhere you look, there’s a story about big data’s impact on something. For example, on Monday, I received an email newsletter from CMO.com touting the top 10 articles of the first quarter, and more than half were either squarely focused on big data analytics or featured big data prominently.
But to paraphrase Google chairman Eric Schmidt: Big Data is not overhyped; it’s underhyped.
In an earlier life, I heard Schmidt (then chief scientist at Sun Microsystems, I believe) say the equivalent to a conference audience about the Internet, which at the time was being hyped “to change everything.” The audience laughed, but I was already a disciple. Fast-forward about 15 years, and it doesn’t sound strange or funny.
But it turns out that that Internet was just a kind of stage-setting--a prerequisite, if you will, for the high-speed mobile networks to which we’re all now connected, and the emerging-but-still-embryonic era of big data analytics. Without embracing the first Internet, marketers could never make sense of big data.
Initially, marketers were flummoxed (and aroused and entranced) by all of the data-oriented possibilities of digital advertising in that first Internet. While some are flummoxed still, others have already mastered the measurement of everything and the application of that measurement to the optimization of media buys, content, and creative. Those Zen Masters of Measurement raise the bar (or the floor), so eventually everyone will catch up.
As marketing platforms proliferate, though, they accrue more and more data! Think about all of the customer touch points from which you have to collect data in order to stay competitive a mere “20 minutes into the future.” (Max Headroom, anyone? No? Sad.) As one of those top 10 Q1 articles puts it, these include “Web clickstream data, social media, mobile, video, customer relationship management, call centers, point of sale, and third-party marketing systems, such as email or ad serving.” And let’s not forget location data; smartphones turn the data growth rates from exponential to logarithmic. (Yeah, that’s a lot bigger than exponential!)
In fact, mobile devices throw off so much data that it’s enough to feed the insatiable thirst of predictive analytics algorithms. You see, all of the metrics you’re measuring today are trailing indicators, right? You’re measuring history. But if you get enough of it to create critical mass, and you have powerful-enough computers and smart-enough software, then you can very accurately predict customer behavior.
Soon, thanks to ever-cheaper processing and storage, software in the cloud to do the heavy-lifting, and the above-mentioned data tsunami, every marketer will have enough customer interaction data to predict customer behavior and the computing horsepower to do so. You won’t have to be Amazon.com, anymore.
Of course, just because the tools are available doesn’t mean you’ll know how to use them. You’ll also need the strategic big data thinking to translate business goals into logic and rules, as well as the technology teams to make it so.
So if you’re struggling with today’s data scramble, what are you going to do 20 minutes into the future when the competition goes to those who can leverage all of this data and technology to predict when Sally is going to decide she needs that new dress, or that Jose is about to realize he’s hungry--and know, before he does, whether he’ll opt for Chinese or Mexican? (Did you catch the real-time implication?) This isn’t sci-fi, folks. Not anymore.
I highly recommend that you jump on the big data bandwagon if you haven’t already. Those top 10 Q1 CMO.com articles are actually a good place to start. In case you’ve misplaced or already deleted Monday’s email, here’s a list of the articles from it that either focused on big data or had a notable big data angle:
- 13 Major Marketing Trends For 2013 (Big data is No. 2, but all 13 are worth the read.)
- Predictive Analytics: The Power Behind Next-Gen Marketing
- Making It Relevant: Optimizing The Digital Marketing Experience (the one I quoted from above)
- Connecting The Multichannel Marketing Dots
- 3 Ways To Rally Your Marketing Team Around Big Data
- Customer Lifetime Value As Marketing's Organizing Principle
Also, be sure to read today's lead story on CMO.com: Predictive Analytics Provides Way To 'Proactively Pounce.'
Lead the change, people!