How Has Big Data Really Influenced Marketing?

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If you haven’t heard of big data before, we are – quite frankly – shocked. Where have you been? Big data is the buzz-phrase of the moment (in fact it’s been an important concept for quite some time now), for businesses large and small and across every industry imaginable. Big data is now an entire profession on its own – rather than simply something collected by businesses to better understand its processes, big data requires specialists in tune with its constant fluctuations and investment in equipment and technology able to store the information gathered from the practice.

And big data is getting bigger – the data gathered from mobile devices, social media, web services, transactional applications and other sensors are all contributing to its global dominance; research suggests that investments in big data will account for $40 billion this year, and this will grow at a CAGR of 14% to 2020. CSC predicts that within five years there will be a 4,300% increase in annual data generation – so yes, it is definitely growing.

So how does big data affect the marketing industry? This is the key question we want answered, and have been scouring the internet and scratching our heads to determine. Whilst big data has, in recent months, begun to inform the marketing profession and help to shape campaigns, some professionals are still guarded about either divulging certain pieces of data or using it all – this is a worry that needs to be quashed. Security is, undeniably, an issue that should not be ignored, but if big data is shunned because of this then it is to the detriment of the business in question and the marketing profession as a whole.

There is plenty of press available discussing the many benefits big data can bring to marketing and marketers. It’s been touted as the biggest development in the marketing world since the creation of the telephone – which is quite the claim! Big data allows for marketers to work from more than just the imagination – empirical data is now available to them so they can make informed decisions about creative output; finally the left and right hand side of the brain has been connected in the workplace.

With the use of big data, then, marketers will be able to more accurately decide how to spend their budget with the help of objective information, as well as their professional intuition. It is important that marketers do not shun big data for reasons of professional pride (as well as security worries, as mentioned above); some marketers may decide that their intuition is all that they need for marketing success – but in the 21st century, an amalgamation of brainwaves and big data is best practice.

Not only can big data be used by marketers to inform campaigns by showcasing patterns in the data that they may have missed, it can also be used to track ROI. Big data can be used to understand the input of marketers into different channels and the output they receive – e.g. time spent on social media and the number of leads or click-throughs attained – and it can help to connect two different sets of data to give a more universal appreciation of ROI – for example, connecting offline data to online (consumer information to online identities, for example).

Big data is also highly effective at helping to maintain a meaningful relationship between marketers and consumers. Not only will campaigns be more effective with the use of big data – meaning consumers are likely to stay more engaged – but it can also, as stated, track ROI and therefore provide marketers with information on what campaigns are performing well, and tweak the ones that aren’t. Not to mention that big data is also important for companies looking to retain the best marketing talent: utilising big data will show a business to be moving with the times and willing to invest in its future – both highly desirable traits.

So there we have it, three ways in which big data has influenced, and continues to influence, marketing. But whilst more accurate campaigns, better ROI and improved relationships are all positive, big data can have a negative impact on marketing: namely the confusion it can cause. A recent Customer Experience Optimisation report has shown that marketers today are becoming overwhelmed by the scale of data available to them, leading to inefficient use of the information garnered. Respondents claimed they could not extract the full value from the data, felt overwhelmed and found it hard to turn the information into actionable insights.

So whilst big data has the potential to positively affect the normal working lives of marketers and the marketing industry as a whole, businesses must also continue to provide training and guidance to professionals if it is to be effectively leveraged.