Is big data the Emperor's new clothes? - Business Works
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Is big data the Emperor's new clothes?

James Southgate, Director, bss digital Love it or hate it, technology is full of buzzwords and one of the latest is big data. According to IBM, 90% of data that exists today has been created in the past two years. From social media to digital videos and from internet connected TVs to online credit card transactions, the amount of data being generated each day is mind blowing - 2.5 quintillion bytes (and that's 25 followed by 17 zeros!) of data to be precise. All that information is described as big data.

Think of big data as the desk research we had to rely on prior to the advent of the connected world. In todays digitised world, companies have access to information like never before. Finding out what customers think about a brand, identifying consumer behaviour or predicting market trends is only a few clicks away. But is big data only for companies with big budgets?

No, but up until recently data analysis was expensive mainly because of the sheer size of the data available. Thankfully organisations with limited resources can now not only buy data from a host of companies including Google and Facebook, open source software is also available to help companies analyse a mountain of information.

A single customer view

Big data is a term used to define the many different channels an organisation has in their relationship with their customer, which can include Social Media, demographics, transactions, payment history, complaints, accounts, browsing habits and e-mail.

big data

From a business and marketing view, its the propensity to achieve a joined-up view of their customers to provide better customer insight and behaviour, to help with targeted marketing, segmentation, regulation and customer relationship management.

Big data is nothing new. It just means in todays world we have more data from multiple sources than weve ever had before. The challenge and reward is learning and understanding the value of that data and how you can use it.

For example, in financial services, they are trying to identify life events such as marriage, children etc, and are trying to identify where their customers were in their lifecycle to drive relevant products and future demand. This has been best demonstrated by retail in the early years with loyalty card programmes and targeted marketing based on customers purchase habits.

In its simplest form, businesses can even examine the chatter taking place on Twitter or Facebook. In fact charities who have very limited resources have successfully monitored sentiment on Twitter using software and have intervened to help people. Similarly businesses can monitor sentiment to identify what consumers may say about a brand or a service.

Big data may sound like emperors new clothes but you cannot ignore the fact that it does offer businesses large and small - tremendous opportunities. With new buzz words, it is easy to feel intimated and dismiss it as nothing more than hot air. It is not. Big data is certainly not rocket science and as the starting point every business should ask itself: what information do we need? It sounds clichd but - seek and you shall find.

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