Digital Trends 2013: The Potential of Big Data

Data has undoubtedly been a marketing buzzword now for a number of years. On the marketing conference circuit in 2012, no agenda was complete without an array of presentations warning us to ‘watch out’ and telling us to ‘get ready’ for the Big Data explosion.

But throughout the many presentations I sat through in 2012 – many of which were very good – there always seemed to be a bit too much theory and not enough practical application. So as the year draws to a close, I thought it was time to get practical. So here are my thoughts on where and how data will make a difference and the trends to watch out for in the coming years.

Big Data – how does it make a difference?

Let us start by briefly considering exactly how and why Big Data is so important to marketers. It covers four key areas:

  • Knowledge is power:
    The quality and type of data that can be linked to consumer attitudes and behaviours is growing and becoming increasingly accessible. It stands to reason that the more accurate information we have about our targets, the better marketing decisions we can make.
  • Speed is everything:
    “Knowing something is good, but knowing more about something is better”. This is usually the case, but the ability to know something AND have enough time to do something about it moves the needle on further still. And if that knowledge allows you to influence the decision making process of a consumer, then you are starting to bring science into the marketing discipline.
  • Executable insight:
    Another transformational element of Big Data is that it creates executable insight. The link that enables you to access the data generated by Big Data will also act as a delivery mechanism back to the consumer.
  • Channel choice:
    We are coming to an age when the information and insight you have about a customer or prospect can be used to communicate with them across any channel at any time. It is Big Data that makes this possible.

Big Data is important and can help marketers to do their job more effectively. If that is not big and indeed clever then what is?

New data from new places

2012 saw mobile network operators (MNOs) make strides in the use of their location based data, and this will continue into 2013. Think about the ability to identify the position of a mobile device to within a five metre space at any time and you have got a good idea of what the MNOs are getting excited about. The ability to accurately monitor footfall in and around stores, to help prevent fraud and to engage with consumers when you know they are in store are all functionalities that are heading our way.

Of course, the consumer (and ultimately their privacy) are of central importance here. Consumers must be educated about how their data is being used, and be given the opportunity to easily opt out if they wish. But this type of data and its appropriate and sensible use should not be seen as “Big Brother” accessing Big Data. It promises to generate better customer services and offers and even protect the consumer – and that is a good thing for everyone.

The potential of social for advertiser

Some say that social is not the right channel for advertising; that people are not receptive to commercial messages when poking their friends, perusing a colleague’s holiday photos or setting up weekend plans. But we believe they are wrong.

We believe that social as a channel will make significant steps forward in 2013 thanks to the ability of social to target messages to audiences with such precision. In 2012, Facebook launched its Custom Audiences offering, which was the first step to making the channel a genuinely effective targeting tool. Custom Audiences allows marketers to target their own customers via Facebook by uploading their database of customer email addresses, which enables Facebook to find their target customers online and serve Facebook ads only to the people they are trying to reach. It might sound simple, but for the first time it gives marketers full control over the audience that they are reaching through Facebook.

What’s on the telly?

When the majority of the marketing conversation is focused on data and tailoring messages to your audiences, you might think that TV and its mass broadcast approach would not be a channel to consider. But we believe that 2013 will be the year when we see the first examples of targeted advertising within the TV environment. It is likely to start with the ‘on demand’ services and then progress onto linear broadcasting further down the line, but the day when you and your neighbour are watching the same episode of Come Dine With me but you see the credit card ad and they see the ad for cruises is fast approaching. This in turn has the potential to revolutionise TV advertising, how it is bought, how it is sold and how it is measured.

What will make this happen?

It is easy to get excited about all this data, these new models of targeting and how they will drive improved marketing performance and enhance the consumer experience. But what enables all this?

There’s no that doubt that technical infrastructure is the combustion engine in our new marketing vehicle. But the fuel is not just data – it is linked data.

The ability to make sense of the multiple disparate data sets that sit across organisations rests very much on digital linkage keys – such as email addresses, mobile numbers, cookies, and device IDs. These keys enable the data to be linked and will enable Big Data to work for you to improve marketing effectiveness and engagement. The imperative for any business that wishes to embrace the potential of Big Data is to build the links within its data and their history with you, regardless of channel.

It’s an exciting time to be a marketer!

Don’t miss our next Digital Trends 2013 blog post: Digital Living.


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