What is this thing called Big Data and why does it matter?

October 15, 2015

The term Big Data generates about 791,000,000 results in a Google query. That is big in itself. As a marketing analyst, I have always been around data and wanted to get a better understanding of Big Data and its implications on small-medium sized businesses.

It's very easy to get lostIt’s very easy to get lost and overwhelmed by the Terabytes, Petabytes and Exabytes of data, or to think that over 500 million Facebook users share over 30 billion pieces of content monthly, or that there were 6.8 billion mobile phones in use in 2013, or to even try to think about all of the methods and techniques for analyzing Big Data like machine learning, natural language learning, or statistical analyses.

Trying to define Big Data can make even an analytical thinker’s head spin off. I like what Gil Press says in 12 Big Data Definitions: What’s Yours?:

  • “The belief that the more data you have, the more insights and answers will rise automatically from the pool of ones and zeros” is simply not true. You have to be purposeful in the data you’re collecting. That data needs to solve real problems! A second important thought is about the need to break down data silos in organizations.
  • “A new attitude by businesses, non-profits, government agencies, and individuals that combining data from multiple sources could lead to better decisions.”


See also: Quality Data Starts With Collecting, Integrating, and Leveraging Your Customer Data

Ultimately, what is most important about Big Data is how it can bring value to your organization, lower your cost of doing business, help you measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns, develop new products or services, or help you develop better data decision models.

To take some of the mystery out of Big DataTo take some of the mystery out of Big Data, you may not realize it but many of you have actually been involved with Big Data for some time. For example, if you use Google Adwords there is a proliferation of data that helps your company reach the right customers with keywords in your PPC campaign. You may use Google Analytics to determine the quantity and quality of traffic and conversions to your website, or you may use tracking and analytical tools to measure how social media impacting your business. This is all Big Data.

For years, customer data has been used to clone the ideal prospect for companies in terms of their customers’ behavioral, demographic, geographic and financial profiles. Combining customer data with e-commerce purchases and overlaying a key events timeline of marketing and business activities with Google Analytics data now presents a more robust picture and the importance of Big Data.

See also: Successful Brands Know the Crowd

Why it matters

  • Big Data has flooded into every industry and business function, impacting all aspects of the goods and services you produce. We are either generating, aggregating, analyzing or consuming this data to add value and build our businesses.
  • Big Data adds real value. With Big Data databases, business owners have the capability to identify ideal customer prospects using over 500 variables across over 250 million customers in a matter of days, delivering target households through traditional or digital channels.
  • The use of Big Data will become a key basis of competition. It has been used for years to differentiate pay-per-click campaigns, or in driving desired traffic to websites, or segmenting customer databases for specific offers.
  • Productivity gains will be driven by Big Data. Amazon has for years made buying suggestions based on the web pages you clicked with “Frequently Bought Together”, “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought”, or “Sponsored Products Related To This Item”.
  • Big Data will help to discover new opportunities and generate significant financial value in processes and new products as new patterns emerge through the analyses of new data sets.

Big Data will continue to grow exponentially, according to The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), McKinsey & Company’s business and economics research arm, which cites, “There is a 40% projected growth in global data generated per year.

The key is to thinkThe key is to think about what problems Big Data can solve for your business. How is your industry affected? Can you use Big Data to help solve problems by using more sophisticated analytical tools? As Mark Troester, Global Product Marketing Manager, SAS, “The bottom line for organizations of all sizes: You should not be doing less sophisticated analysis just because you have more data.

What thoughts do you have about Big Data?