Big Data is a term coined to describe the data deluge we are currently experiencing. It’s no secret that we are living in a technology driven society that generates an ever increasing amount of data as we go about our daily lives. “Always on” is a term that is often heard and more often then not, when we are “on” we are creating data about ourselves, our likes and our dislikes, our network of friends both professional and social, and even our travel habits. At the same time, businesses must also retain more and more information to manage themselves more efficiently across the board. In tough economic times there is an ever increasing recognition that organisations must use every single resource at their disposal to get ahead. This results in information and data that once might have been given little attention is now seen as worth its weight in gold if any perceived value can be derived from it.
Looking at the sources of this data, to start with there is of course the sales, operational and customer data that the business collects. On top of this there’s social media data from the likes of Facebook and Twitter including information around friend groups, likes/dislikes and sentiment analysis. There’s web search data, with transactional information or online customer reviews. There’s also data generated by location-based services and data from sensors, moniters and GPS embedded in a growing array of products from vehicles to appliances. I believe if we as advertisors can offer solutions to our clients of how we can process and utilise the growing amount of data available to help inform creative business solutions we could offer real value. To quote a recent Financial Times article
“The challenges are two-fold: First, to recognize the value of big data in mining customer needs and desires, and second, to devise a data management strategy that integrates big data into the front end of the innovation pipeline.”
So how do businesses harness all the data that is being created and use it to inform their strategy and decision making? The challenge here is being able to process large amounts of data at speeds that make it useful. It’s very difficult to really make use of data in business decisions on an ongoing basis when it takes weeks to gather and process. Large software powerhouses such as SAP & Oracle have been bringing new tools to market for businesses to help solve this problem. In memory computing software is designed so organisations can analyse vast quantities of data in near real time across many sources. Essentially in-memory computing takes advantage of a better understanding of how data is formed and housed and the ever decreasing price of memory (discussed in my Technology vs Advertising post). Instead of housing data on a hard drive, data is stored in a computers memory. Therefore, when it needs to be analysed it is available in near real time. This increased power and speed also means that the computers can handle more unstructured data, important when data can come from so many different sources. On the back of this there would need to be a process for managing and delivering the data in an efficient manner and most importantly, in a way that is easy to understand and glean insights from.
Whilst I think caution must be taken not to let our ability to measure granular details bog down the creative process, at the end of the day, the more you know about your customers and can integrate those insights into your business strategies the more likely they are to improve revenue, margins and market share. Who wouldn’t want that leg up over the competition?