These days, to say that any kind of marketing discipline is “all about the data,” might be met with a resounding “duh!,” but in reality, we’re still getting our arms around what we can actually do with all the data that exists about our customers. Digital marketers in both the B2B and B2C spaces have been scrambling for years to get access to more and more data about their customers and prospects, yet many are ill-equipped to make use of that data to the extent of its capabilities.
The term “Big Data” has been in casual use for years now, and most assume that it simply means customer data. They’re technically right, but the difference is that Big Data is actionable data from multiple data signals (articles, search, downloads, video, social) and data types (online and offline) that can offer predictive insight into customer behaviors in order to better understand their purchase cycle, and why they buy when and what they do. Big Data can reveal information to provide insights that were previously only available through human interaction, such as between a customer and a sales rep.
Silicon Valley data strategist Edd Dumbill defined Big Data as “data that exceeds the processing capacity of conventional database systems. The data is too big, moves too fast, or doesn’t fit the strictures of [a company’s] database architectures.” The “Big” part of “Big Data” is not just figurative language denoting its importance; it is also a literal description of the vastness of the data universe. Big Data is a high-volume, high-velocity and high-variety information asset; however, it is something that usually falls outside a single B2B marketer’s typical system parameters. It is an asset that demands cost-effective and innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision-making.
Big Data has been a driving force in the B2C world for the past eight or so years. With the huge success of programs such as Netflix’s and Amazon’s customer retargeting and predictive algorithms, B2B organizations are realizing that this technology could be applied to their business models to deliver valuable insight into their customers’ needs.
Most B2B and B2C companies don’t have enough data on their own customers to qualify as “Big Data.” That is because, unless you are as large as organizations like Wal-Mart or Amazon, whose sites are less like commerce sites and more like customer-centric marketplaces, you just won’t have that kind of scale and activity within your own customer base. Most of your customers’ activity is happening outside of your own ecosystem, and that is the where the real insight, and the real B2B marketing success, lies.
B2B marketers have spent the last several years developing and implementing their marketing machines—buying platforms like exchanges and DMPs, analytics technologies to measure performance, sales and CRM integrations, etc. Companies have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the infrastructure to handle Big Data, and now that those investments have been made and executed upon, marketers are ready to apply additional data sources outside of their own 1st party data. This is what is going to make Big Data a reality for the majority of companies.
2015 will be the year businesses take actionable second and third party data sources and apply them to the marketing ecosystems that they have been assembling. 2015 will be the year that, with the necessary infrastructures finally in place and third party data sources widely available and actionable, medium size businesses will be able to compete with the largest organizations in the usage of Big Data.
Consider the fact that 90 percent of data that has been created through smart devices, computers, social media, etc. has been generated in the past two years. This is that vital consumer insight that can tell a marketer not just who their prospective customers are and what they are interested in, but how and when to engage with those customer’s and close the deal. This is Big Data.
Since consumer targeting reached mainstream marketing, mostly via the B2C world, it has only been the 800 lb. gorillas like Amazon, who house their own ecosystem of customer information and interactions, who could take advantage of all that Big Data has to offer. Individual organizations and marketers of every size now have the ability to access this information on a level and at a scale never before possible. 54 percent of marketers are currently investing in Big Data and another 30 percent are planning to invest in Big Data in the future.
Even with the technology in place, and the marketing machine humming, it doesn’t always mean that the data will follow. We saw that 2013/2014 were about building the infrastructure, but 2015 will be the year people start gathering usable data and truly making it actionable. Are you ready?