Harnessing Big Data For Big Returns

In case you haven't heard, Big Data is now going mainstream, moving from the supercomputing environment to enterprise IT applications. For digital marketers and advertisers in particular, the benefits of bringing Big Data mainstream are unmistakable: Now, the glut of unstructured and structured data on customers and products, flowing in from various online and offline sources, can be translated into tangible analytics that guide how -- and to whom -- brands advertise online.

Just how much data do these marketers and advertisers have to play with? This will give you an idea: IDC estimates that by 2020, the total amount of electronically stored data will reach 35 trillion gigabytes. These results are from an article in Computerworld titled "Big Data Goes Mainstream."

Game-changer in digital marketing

Indeed, Big Data is changing the game for digital marketers and advertisers, who for years have tried unsuccessfully to leverage very granular, unstructured information to gain a deeper understanding of their customers so they can develop more targeted and successful marketing and advertising efforts.



Before the Big Data revolution, for example, the impact of online marketing campaigns was measured in click-through rates, bounce rates and page views, with campaign performance recorded in Excel. This type of information, although helpful, could not provide the type of insight marketers needed to refine their campaigns to boost performance and net massive returns. 

Meanwhile, the Internet expanded its avenues for online communication, and online marketing methods grew along with it, ranging from SEO, pay-per-click and display advertising to email marketing. The large sets of digital data that resulted -- Big Data -- could be mined to reveal insight about the success (or lack thereof) of online marketing efforts and advertising campaigns. It now included search rankings, conversions, site visits and more. The onslaught of data was a bit too much for poor Excel to handle. 

Actionable intelligence within reach

While this flood of data has the potential to revolutionize the industry, digital marketers and advertisers face a huge challenge: actually making sense of the data. Like anything "revolutionary," Big Data is still a little rough around the edges. By all accounts, the technology to collect, process and analyze it is costly and inefficient. Marketers underscore this assertion, convinced they don't have the tools to mine the information they are presented with and bemoaning the missed opportunities in unused data.

This sentiment is echoed in a recent study commissioned by DataXu, Inc. titled "CMOs Believe Big Data is a Game Changer, But Acknowledge That They Are Not Yet in the Game." The study found that 75 percent of respondents believe that Big Data can dramatically improve their marketing efforts; however, 58 percent feel they are lacking in the skills and technology required for data analytics.

Marketers and advertisers need only look to a select few list of marketing companies to overcome this perceived challenge. Familiar with the Big Data concept for years, these companies have harnessed it with their own advanced analytics technology tools, leveraging billions of pieces of information to create tangible analytics about the performance of specific campaigns.

When it's effectively and efficiently mined by advanced data analytics tools, the true promise of Big Data is within reach for today's digital marketers and advertisers. And when they master the ability to manage their digital marketing data and extract value from it, they will realize massive returns on their campaign efforts.

2 comments about "Harnessing Big Data For Big Returns ".
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  1. Shelly Lucas from Dun & Bradstreet, June 22, 2012 at 5:35 p.m.

    Big Data does indeed place big returns within marketers’ reach, but as your post notes, many feel they’re lacking the tools, technology, and/or skills to unlock the insights within this data. While this is undoubtedly true, I’m wondering if we’re overlooking other—equally important—Big Data challenge for marketers. What else could be behind marketers’ failure to turn data into action? I think this question is worth exploring.

    Even when data is in hand, many marketers still aren’t taking action. A new IBM study found that while 65% of digital marketers do analyze and report on online visitor metrics, only 1/3 use this data to target one-to-one offers or messages in digital channels (20% use this online data to make personalized offers in traditional channels). Why this inertia?

    Possible reasons include:

    • Marketers’ focus is on the answers, not the questions (a la Ray Wang). Are we mechanically crunching data to report on vanity metrics (vs. actionable metrics designed to answer business questions/solve business problems)? Do we have enough business acumen to determine which data is worth pursuing and which is not? As consultant Paul Magone observes, sometimes it’s best to use Big Data to narrow down a decision set, not to find an answer.
    • Marketers are waiting for the right technology to produce detailed reports, analyzing as much data as possible. More is not necessarily better, especially when it comes to data and metrics. Do we really need minutely detailed reports for anything besides diagnosing a problem? Are we measuring what matters? Can we really afford to wait, when we need to stay synchronized with a changing market segment? (One caveat to that: speed does not trump data quality.)
    • Marketers are holding on to bias, despite what the data is telling them. This is particularly true when customer data is stored in silos; because the data has been scattered throughout an organization, confidence in its accuracy/usefulness is lacking.

    What are your thoughts, Dave?

    Shelly Lucas
    Senior Marketing Manager
    Dun & Bradstreet

  2. H M from LexisNexis, June 23, 2012 at 9:39 a.m.

    Nice article Dave. An enterprise-ready solution worth looking at is HPCC Systems which provides a single platform that is easy to install, manage and code too. Their built-in analytic libraries for Machine Learning and BI make it easy for companies to easily analyze and manage their digital marketing data, allowing marketers to extract the value and take action on real-time insights. For more info visit:

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