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The Big Data Buzz
Posted by
Louise Mac Robert at 11:00

It seems that everywhere you turn there's talk of Big Data, but what exactly is it? Webopedia defines Big Data as "a buzzword or catch-phrase, used to describe a massive volume of both structured and unstructured data that is so large that it's difficult to process using traditional database and software techniques."

It's a buzzword in marketing because we are now able to capture more consumer information than ever before. From individual purchase decisions and behaviour as captured through loyalty programmes to online search history, almost every consumer move now generates a trail of data that leaves marketers salivating. It should empower marketers with detailed information that enables them to create more relevant and tailored marketing. But are marketers getting the value they need from it, or just feeling overwhelmed by a barrage of information that they don't know what to do with? Is big data really working for marketers?

Having more data and more advanced tools to analyse and utilise this data means that we have to change how we work. What can we do with all of this information? Should we collect new information or get better at analysing what we already have? And what does it actually tell us? There is no use having more information if that information doesn't give insight into customers' needs and motivations, and if it can't inform strategy.

Big Data vs. Puny Data

More data often means more confusion - which data is correct?  Which data can be trusted? Corporate decision-makers might be better served if they rely on tried and tested tools and systems of "puny data".  Sampling theory teaches us that one can measure the behaviour or mood of the whole by talking to very few people.  A sample of 2 000 is sufficient to predict who will win in the next elections.  A random sample of 200 users can test a new flavoured syrup at home for a week, and from that it can be precisely determined whether the product is optimal and what the market share will be once it is launched. 

Despite the buzz around Big Data, Puny Data often provides a more useable basis for sound corporate strategic decisions.

Marketers would do well to focus on what it is that they need to know about their customers, rather than getting caught up in the buzz of Big Data for data's sake. Understand what data your organisation has at its disposal internally, and how this can be utilised more effectively to improve consumer experiences - and, ultimately, consumer loyalty.  Often the solutions to marketing and business problems, as well as the identification of strategic opportunities, come from the less-sexy world of Puny Data. 

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