What is this “Big Data” Craze About?

A few years back I led a customer segmentation project for a Business Unit of a technology company that determined the company’s profitability from each of its customers.  The methodology basically provided a profit and loss statement for each of my client’s customers and the insights from this project led to activities that touched marketing, sales, and customer care so the right products and the right services could be provided to meet the customer needs.  In creating this Customer Profitability framework, millions Big Dataand millions of data records were processed through SAS programs and statistical models.

Surely projects such as the one described above and others executed by many other companies have used large amounts of information which an Excel spreadsheet would not be able to handle and which we would categorize as BIG DATA. So what is this BIG DATA craze all about that is becoming so popular?

Recently the AMA had a Virtual Conference where four presentations addressed “Big Data in Action”.

  • Elana Anderson, Vice President, IBM Enterprise Marketing Management
  • Chris Wareham, Director of Product Management Platform and Development
  • Tom McConnon, Senior Director of Product Marketing, Domo & Chris Wintermeyer, Chief Advocate, Domo
  • David Matathia, Director, Marketing Communications, Hyundai Motor America

The presenters mentioned that it’s no longer just the 3 Vs (Volume, Velocity, and Variety) of Big Data that are important.  This perspective is more of an IT perspective and the presenters argue that Big Data is being able to use and analyze in real time the large of amounts of data available and provide powerful customer experience at the very moment of purchase.

IBM’s Elana Anderson highlighted three imperatives of the profession of marketing beingIBM impacted by Big Data.  She maintains that long standing marketing responsibilities of understanding the customer needs, defining what and how to market, and protecting the brand promise have not changed.  What is changing is:

  1. Marketing needs to treat and understand each customer as an individual
  2. Corporations need to create systems of engagement that maximizes value creation at each point
  3. Companies need to create a culture and brand so they are authentically oneAdobe

Customers are now more demanding and more knowledgeable and are using more technology providing companies richer customer information.  Adobe’s Chris Wareham coined this our “Digital Self” where in today’s technology age:

  • We, as consumers, use email, social media, blogs and even our own web pages to stay connected with family, friends, colleagues and anyone else we want to reach.
  • We use search engines and other websites to stay informed (Google, NPR, NY Times, etc.), manage our own travel plans, pay our bills and plan our retirement online, and use diverse sources of entertainment.
  • We interact with companies through different channels – Online, email, mobile, call centers, social, Kiosks, point of sale, postal mail

Given that this information is available to companies the brands that will outperform others are those able to go beyond the typical predictive modeling of demographic, behavioral, transactional and interaction data, and move into being able to “sense the next best offer, action or need “and integrating all these sources of information – making the customer experience a more personalized and relevant one.  Instead of treating the customer as a member of a segment or group the customer is provided a more “hyper personalized” interaction.

The challenge that businesses face is being able to obtain and analyze the data beyond the enterprise and integrate all that information to “create a full system of engagement that maximizes value creation at every touch” point.  How a company does this was not fully detailed or outlined but examples of companies working towards this goal were offered.

Besides the technological issues the biggest barrier according to Elana is the internal organization structure and the ability of different departments to come together in achieving this common goal.  And the “simpler” organizations are the ones having more success.  The thinking is that the CMO and CIO need to work together to make this happen marrying the creative aspect of marketing with the analytical and scientific capabilities to provide an offer in real time.

Chris Wareham reinforced Elana’s views by providing an example of how American Express fulfilled his colleague’s need at point of purchase.  His friend travelled to Italy on vacation but having not notified AmEx of his travel plans, his credit card purchase was denied.  As he considered what to do next his phone rang.  AmEx was contacting him to see if he was actually making a purchase in a different country.  After the proper verification, Chirs’ colleague was able to make that purchase right there and then.  American Express was able to engage on real time with its customer and fulfill a need maximizing that value creation.Hyundai

Hyundai’s David Matathia explained how he uses Big Data which are summarized into data reports he accesses at the start of his work day to monitor business performance.  He touched on Oreo’s success with “You can still dunk in the dark” during this year’s Super Bowl black out as another example of real time marketing being made possible by the nimbleness of social media and having the brand team, executives and lawyers all n the same room during the Super Bowl just in case something unexpectedly happened.Domo

Tom McConnon and Chris Wintermeyer from Domo, a Software as a Service (SaaS) provider, shared four recommended steps on how to create an effective marketing dashboard:

Step 1.   Know what you want to Measure

Step 2.   Make sure you are collecting the Right Data

Step 3.   Choose the right Dashboard Technology

Step 4.   Share the Love through Data Democracy

Both David and the Domo speakers emphasized the importance of internal organizations being able to work together and willing to share the information as alluded to earlier by the IBM speaker.

My introductory consulting example would be considered a Big Data project a few years ago especially since it crosses several internal organizations and the intent was to provide a better customer experience.  However, what is different is the greater amount of data, the speed at which it is available, and the many different sources and types of data.  What the speakers highlighted in these four presentations is that the challenge is being able to aggregate and analyze all this information to provide in REAL TIME a great individual customer experience.

These presentations will be available for viewing until July 4th, 2013 at the AMA website: Bautista, AMA | Rochester,  VP Membership


Author: Javier Bautista  is an independent consultant who brings the Voice of the Customer into the product life cycle by incorporating marketing research and statistical methodologies in his technology and healthcare consulting practice.   He also serves on the AMA | Rochester board as VP of Membership.