No, Big Data Isn’t Going to Revolutionise Marketing – The Revolution Has Already Happened
A recent post by Tom Fisburne (the Marketoonist) got me thinking about big data and its role within marketing. In his post, his caricatures say:
‘And after big data solves all our problems, we’ll ride away on magic flying unicorns’.
It’s the viewpoint of several marketers I’ve spoken to and they seem to think big data is either going to make their jobs easier or make them redundant.
I’m here to say: No, it’s not. In fact, it’s probably going to the opposite.
The Big Scary Big Data
For some reason, ‘big data’ is a terrifying word for people. The public seems to have no idea what big data is, whether through confusion or connotations. This is signified when Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s statement on the 4th industrial revolution was turned into a meme of techno jibber-jabber.
Big data simply means identifying trends and patterns in sets of data that have been collected in vast amounts that cannot be analysed by traditional methods, usually qualitative information. Most companies use big data in some form or another: your Nectar card analyses what you buy and give you vouchers based on those purchases, Facebook analyses your personal details, where/what you click to curate adverts for you based upon your interaction with the platform. It’s nothing new, except that the amount of data available and must be crunched by analytical software.
So, How Are Marketers Using Big Data
Most consumers are now always connected, but are distracted and rarely engaged. That means marketers are having an increasingly difficult time getting their message across to their customers.
Enter data analytics. This data available to marketers through digitisation has been a godsend. It allows marketers able to make strategic decisions based upon their customers’ profile and align their services better to target the ‘needs’ of their customers. Whether this is using Twitter Analytics to find out your best posts and adapt your social strategy accordingly or using A/B testing on your website.
But that’s small data. Big data removes your ‘target market’ and, with the wealth of information being collected, finds your ‘target person’. With computing power available, you can start to add data that you would never think to add: things they’ve considered buying (through browser tracking), what apps do they have on their phones, who do they follow on social media, where they’ve been, what songs they like, what car they have etc.
By analysing the big data’s qualitative result, you will find that you start to ask more questions than you did at the beginning. ‘Why do (x) people all follow (x) person’ or ‘Why do our customers mostly use Android phones’ etc.
This big data can help personalise services, shape marketing campaigns, which products to stock/get rid of, where to place a store or which mobile platforms to optimise your website for etc.
Therein Lies a Problem…
While some data will be useful, this is mixed with the irrelevant data and the amount of data they receive to the point where a marketing department drowns in the data flood – sometimes to the point they ignore its insight.
As more consumers demand a personalised service, this ignorance will damage companies. It’s simply not enough to collect the data – you need to know what you are doing with it. With the scale of data, this is an incredibly daunting prospect for any marketer. This will change between companies and industries.
This can be alleviated by your company setting out clear goals, problems it is wanting to solve and how you are going to use big data to help you achieve that. Without this, you will simply amass information that will weigh you down and, potentially, do more harm to your business than good.
And because of that simple reason, big data isn’t going to revolutionise marketing – it’s already happened (albeit on a smaller scale) and will still require marketers to decipher the insights created into action.
Alongside that, big data requires vast channels of information to get the data needed for such vast analysing and computing hardware/software and education to do this. This means that the big data is only valuable to those who can ensure profit from such an investment – which is only a fraction of agencies/in-house marketing departments that can currently afford to do.
However, big data software is becoming cheaper. So, we will likely see an uptake in smaller agencies and brands investing their money into big data and more marketers adapting their skills to accommodate this change. However, that does beg the question, will the smaller agencies/brands be consumed by big data or will they be able to tame the beast?