Big Data has been a buzz word amongst marketers for the past two years. The idea that through the actions of customers, you can find out more about them and therefore target them more effectively is highly impressive and something that every marketer in the world wants.
The availability of the data has also increased and we are seeing existential growth in the platforms where data can be drawn from. Offer a competition on Facebook in exchange for a like, use sentiment analysis on Twitter or even search professional interests on Linkedin and suddenly you have more information on your customers than you ever could through focus groups.
The analysis of this data and creating smaller and smaller silos means more targeting and placing more important products in-front of key people at the right time. Therefore this use of data should increase sales whilst also allowing for in depth ROI analysis.
However, there are issue’s with this that many are currently finding. And this in the management and analysis of the data.
Following a survey by The World Federation of Advertisers, it transpires that despite 93% of respondents see big data as ‘vital’ in the next three years, 74% were currently unprepared to take full advantage of the data boom.
That close to three quarters of the respondents believed this to be the case is both testament to the skills gap and the almost inconceivable amount of data that these companies can choose from. 54% believed that the amount of data created management issues and 49% cited a difficulty in recruiting people with the correct qualifications and skills.
These two things however are not unconnected and show both the issue going forward and the potential solution at the moment.
Marketers are not data scientists and visa versa, it will always be difficult for those who are ‘uninitiated’ in the data world to get their heads around the amount of data available. The truly skilled in big data realise that the huge amount of data is not in fact the issue, but the breadth of it. The ability to create small data from big data is the basic job of any data scientist. Nobody would be able to notice patterns in a database with petabytes of information, instead it is the ability of data scientists to drill down that gives the true results.
This skills gap is something that we have been discussing since the first issue of the magazine and even though this skill gap has shrunk, in reality it is still very much there and it is holding many back from achieving their business objectives. So perhaps this question should be less about recruitment of staff with the correct skills and instead taking staff who are already employed and converting their skills to allow them to understand big data.
Another aspect of the survey that is interesting is that 70% of those asked believe that an improved understanding of ROI was the most important aspect of a big data programme. Alongside this, 64% say a deeper understanding of customers and 47% say precision marketing are important factors.
These three figures however are not mutually exclusive ideas and in the landscape of big data should perhaps be viewed as three combined factors in the same process.
Precision targeting occurs due to an increased understanding of customers which in turn provides an improved ROI. The ROI and analytics associated with it allows for an increased understanding of customers and most importantly their reaction to different marketing activities which then provides deeper insights and therefore more accurate targeting. The process here is a continuous circle that is self perpetuating and ever expanding.
And there-in lies the issue.
Those marketers who adopt this kind of process as early as possible will undoubtedly reap the benefits earlier and begin the process earlier. Therefore even though 74% believe that they have not got the skills or cannot deal with the amount of data available, the longer they go without, the further ahead the other 26% will be.
Without quick and timely investment into this area there is every chance that the gap between those with and those without will become too large to bridge.