‘Big data’ is way bigger than CRM

Remember the Nineties, when CRM was becoming a major topic of investment for companies? It was a time when marketers were rallying around retaining the right customers, increased customer service, and leveraging technology to increase companies’ customer centric strategies.
With all of the buzz around CRM, the acronym began to take on many meanings: ask 10 people what CRM was and you would have had 10 different answers. To some it was a strategy, to others a technology, and to a few it was no more than fancy email campaigns and telemarketing scripts. The ‘big data’ revolution is in a similar place in its growth.
In its simplest definition, big data is the ability to store and process massive amounts of data (over a terabyte), very frequently, to enable better analysis, decisions and efficient process. This sounds rather mundane, and geeky, but its implications are as big as its name implies.
The reason the implications are so large is that companies can now have a complete and detailed picture of their company’s performance without the bias, inaccuracies, silos and the slow pace of many current state analytics.
Big data benefits the entire organisation, but is particularly well suited to marketing. Why? Well, our data is big. Seriously, big. Why? Because it is data from your website (eg Omniture), from your digital ad server (eg DoubleClick, Atlas, etc), from your research companies, from your internal data warehouse, from your agency partners…well, you get the picture.
A recent IBM study interviewed 1,734 CMOs spanning 19 industries in 64 countries and concluded that: “Marketers’ success will be increasingly judged on their ability to deliver tangible financial return, clear marketing ROI, predictive performance models and improved spend allocation and strategy.” In a Forrester report, half (51%) of marketers say marketing is holding itself more accountable to value, with consumer marketers feeling the most pressure.
In order to achieve and articulate success, CMOs will have to develop more sophisticated measurement and modelling – big data capabilities will be an integral part of this effort.
Big data, when done right, allows marketers to use all of the data from digital sources, not samples, as well as all of the data from channel partners, traditional media, internal transactional and customer data, research data, etc. All of it can be viewed and analysed holistically to achieve a detailed and accurate view of marketing’s contributions to company performance.
As data becomes available at greater levels of detail and frequency, a picture of a company’s performance across all channels, paid, owned and earned media, products, regions and customers become clearer. And marketers can communicate their success in a transparent and accountable way.
So, when someone asks you what is big data, you can tell them it is data technology, it is advanced analytics, it is process, but what big data is really about is change. It is about better decisions, effectively managing risk, accurate and holistic analytics, and increased levels of collaboration between marketing, finance and IT. In short, it makes your company more competitive and more efficient. And that’s pretty big.

Heath Podvesker is executive vice president of MarketShare

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