Putting Big Data Into Context

Posted by Taylor Haney on Tue, Aug 26, 2014

Bringing you another insightful blog for our data & analytics theme this month. Rusty Warner, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research discusses how to look at big data in the context of your company and individual strategy.

Rusty WarnerRusty Warner is a Principal Analyst at Forrester Research serving Customer Insights Professionals. Learn more about his research here, and find him on Twitter @RustyWarner.

If you want to understand the challenges that big data poses to marketers, use yourself as a benchmark. How many times have you interacted – or transacted – digitally in the last 24 hours? How many emails have you sent or received, personally or professionally? How many web searches have you executed? How many websites or social media sites have you visited? Have you made a purchase, reserved a table or made travel plans on-line? Assuming you did at least some of these things, how many different devices did you use in the course of your day? Did you embody multiple personas as you transitioned from task to task?

Now think about the brands with which you engaged and how you expected them to recognize and treat you as a unique individual…and then multiply your expectations by the millions of other people who expect their own relevant and engaging experiences. A pretty daunting task, wouldn’t you say? Yet all of us demand increasingly more from our brands of choice. And why not? Success in the age of the customer hinges on a brand’s ability to understand and address the expectations of the empowered consumer.

Enter big data. Forrester defines big data as the practices and technologies that close the gap between the data available and the ability to turn that data into business insight. In the not-so-distant future, we will understand the world based on a complete picture using all available information. Data will be plentiful, cheap, nearly infinite in format and structure, and will be impossible to “manage” with current technologies. In the meantime, brands are learning to think differently. Those who engage with customers via mutually beneficial relationships based on deep, individual understanding will thrive; those who get it wrong will simply not survive in a highly competitive, global market.

Getting it right will mean building a contextual marketing engine that leverages big data (along with traditional customer data) to bridge the gap between marketing and customer experience. Big data and analytics will enable customer-managed relationships – think CRM, but turned outside in – whereby customers control the interactions they have with brands. Each individual will follow a unique journey throughout his or her customer life cycle. For the brand, the role of marketing will change dramatically. Instead of targeting customers based on segments via campaigns designed to drive transactions, the contextual marketer will engage with customers based on recognition via interactions centered on a value exchange. Instead of media schedules, GRPs and CPMs, the focus will be on customer moments and minutes of engagement.

Forrester Blog

All of that likely sounds more daunting than when you imagined your own daily digital output multiplied by millions of consumers. However, embracing big data is not just something brands should do; it’s something they must do to survive.  It’s time to develop a marketing strategy that leverages big data to unleash customer-driven interactions.  Start by defining your brand’s North Star - a guiding principle that shapes the brand’s external identity in people’s lives. Then build your marketing strategy around that North Star, utilizing big data to fuel mutually beneficial interaction cycles.