The amount of structured (demographic, contact information) and unstructured data (transactional, website, mobile traffic) is growing on a daily basis as demographic information, calls, Tweets, website traffic, social media usage, payment transactions, location based services and more are gathered and stored. But, if the last 10 years has been the decade of data gathering; the next 10 years needs to be about making this wealth of information useful to the marketer.

I recently attended a presentation by Mastercard where they cited that 90% of the world’s data has been generated in just the last two years and the forecast is that by 2020, the amount of data in the world will double annually! That is scary.

In the age of ever increasing competition and the demand for higher returns, companies are constantly looking for points of differentiation and Big Data is seen as one of the tools that will help businesses drive customer loyalty and engagement.

But what can Big Data do for your customer communications?

We shouldn’t forget that at the heart of marketing and communications is the customer and the analysis and interpretation of Big Data is only relevant if it helps to deliver what the customer wants.

The key to making Big Data ‘work’, is using it to provide insight into what customers are doing, where they are doing it, why they are doing it and then extrapolating how best to communicate with them. Today’s customers have high demands. They shop around before they buy, talk to their social network about their purchase decisions, demand to be treated as unique and want to be rewarded/recognised for buying your products.

Big Data allows you to profile these increasingly savvy and somewhat fickle customers, so that you can engage in an almost one-on-one, real-time conversation with them. The reality is that if you are not doing this, they will leave you in a heart beat.

Applying Big Data to the Art and Science of Digital Marketing

Most organisations are applying a basic level of customer segmentation in their customer communications management (CCM) strategy. At the very least, businesses should be talking differently to their most important and profitable customers.

Take a leap to the other side of the spectrum, where businesses such as Google and Amazon have integrated Big Data into their communications processes to such an extent that it feels like they know us better than we know ourselves. Using all of the information they process – they are able to achieve the holy grail of 1 to 1 conversation with their customers.

Most businesses will fit somewhere in between. They have historical customer segments and are starting to record and interrogate the structured and unstructured data to refine their communication messages.

How to take the next step

If you’re still on the starting blocks, don’t view Big Data as an unachievable goal. Start small with something as simple as asking your customer what their communication preferences are. For example:

  • What products are they specifically interested in?
  • Through which channel would they like to receive your communication?
  • How often would they like to hear from you?

Use this information to send customers the right message through the right medium at the right time.