The small steps to tackle big data

To paraphrase an old advertising adage, marketers could be forgiven for thinking, “I know up to 95% of data is of little value to me; I just don’t know how to find the most valuable 5%.”
Data has been getting exponentially bigger for many years, but “big data” has emerged as an industry catchphrase relatively recently. It’s no longer the domain of the geeks and techies in the IT department.
The fact is the explosion of data has been caused by changes in consumer behaviour and consumption; the way we shop, work and relax. The growth in numbers and kinds of channels, devices such as smartphones and all the realtime data they provide through apps and social networking has led to big data. Consumers have created it, and marketers must care about it – this is their space.
Marketers are indeed recognising they have a chance to make the most of the opportunities for growth that big data represents. But, let’s face it, the volume and complexity of the task at hand will have some people quaking in their boots. So what’s the best way of dealing with it?
To borrow another catchphrase: don’t panic! To make brands more successful by better understanding, targeting, engaging and serving consumers using big data, marketers should consider this analogy of human vision which features both ‘focused’ and ‘peripheral’ abilities.
We walk down the forest track looking at the path ahead, not seeing every leaf around us, but when we sense movement our eyes immediately swivel to the source and respond to the threat or opportunity. Marketers need to create the ability to manage signals but continuously be aware of new ones within the noise and react appropriately.
The starting point isn’t always clear but I believe a five-step plan can generate quick wins:
• Put the consumer first: as a business, agree the consumer-related problems you’re trying to address with big data
• Define the starting line: audit the data you have and identify the data you need
• Create ‘Plan A’ – a proportionate response: plan to test and invest, proportional to the strength of your analysis and findings
• Test big data: deploy a proof of concept to test and learn
• Emulate focused and peripheral human vision: create a roadmap to implement proven approaches, and identify and test new ones.
Given consumers create big data and brands need to engage, serve and delight them to be successful, it follows that marketers are best-placed to plot the course towards finding that golden 5% of your big data, ensuring it delivers benefits to both the consumers and the brand.
Big data has been evolving and growing in the background for some time. Now it’s here, can you afford not to take it on?

Matt Hollingsworth is managing account director at Acxiom. To download Acxiom’s white paper, “big data big deal” click here.

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