The End of Big Data

Big data is about to get bigger. Deloitte predicts that by the end of 2012, more than 90% of the Fortune 500 is likely to have at least some “big data” initiatives under way.  Companies are likely to spend $1 billion to $1.5 billion to enable their organization to collect, analyze and use big data to gain a better understanding of their customers.

However, according to David “Doc” Searls, author of the new book "The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge," big data may be a waste of money.  

Searls points out in a recent article in TheWall Street Journal that as fast as companies are configuring systems to capture data at customer touchpoints, consumers are disabling data collection sites. In May, ClarityRay reported that the overall rate of ad blocking in the United States was 9.26%, and even higher on certain types of sites and browsers (download the report on ClarityRay’s website).  



Also in May, Microsoft announced that its “Do Not Track”  feature is going to be turned on by default in the next version of Internet Explorer. Add this to Dish’s ad-skipping product Hopper, and you have a consumer who is going to be increasingly less accessible.

What does this mean? Well, according to Searls, it’s leading to a point where the supply side will yield influence and ultimately power to the demand side, the consumer.   

Searls’ book explores how customers are likely to transact over the next 10 years, and the rise of Vendor Relationship Management. Think CRM built for consumers to aggregate personal information and signal their intention to vendors on their preference, terms and desired price.

As Searls points out, sites like Priceline and Travelocity have started this movement, but they are still “siloed.”  

The tipping point for the next wave is a fully empowered consumer, untethered by restrictive contracts and siloed information. In this new world, consumers have software that can integrate apps with the services offered by companies, saving time for consumers and creating commerce for companies in real time.  

Imagine a business trip in which your phone apps for travel, budgeting and mapping all work together to compare offers, make reservations and complete expense reports along the way.  

What will it take to enable this revolution? Ultimately, it comes down to the recognition that a free customer is more valuable than a captive one. Companies that thrive are the ones that identify opportunities that take advantage of a consumer’s freedom.

Such companies experience a mind shift from thinking of consumers as “targets” who live in “populations” and who need to be acquired or locked in to an empowered individual buyer who signals his or her intent to a company, as long as there is a trusted relationship.  

In this personal empowerment revolution outlined by Searls, the future of buying lies not in investing in big data systems to figure out consumers, but rather by integrating apps that enable “small data” to be used by consumers. 

Big changes for big data are looming on the horizon.



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