What Do Marketers Want from Big Data Anyway?

It is big and it is daunting. As we discussed at OMMA DDM in New York -- and will again soon at the Brand Marketers Summit in Kohler WI. -- data is as hot a topic among marketers now as it is mirage-like and overwhelming. Companies are talking the talk long before they walk the walk.

According to a new survey by IDG sponsored by Kapow Software, most business leaders are daunted by what they perceive to be the high cost and overwhelming complexity that engaging in serious data projects requires. On average they told researchers that they believe big data requires expensive infrastructure and an equally expensive in-house team of data geeks to make sense of it all. On average they believe that big data projects are also far from real time, generally taking 18 months or more to complete. And sthese projects almost always require some sort of outside third party consultancy help.



43% of respondents said that one of their chief problems is simply accessing and integrating the right data. Much of it is scattered across an organization, in some combination of internal and external data sources, and often unstructured. One of the biggest problems with data within the modern corporation is that much of the responsibility rests with IT, so that individuals from different parts of the company do not have direct access to the data or the tools necessary to do what they need to do with it in a timely way. The problem is that big data becomes an IT project rather than a tool that is driven by other priorities like business goals for marketing.

So what do business leaders want from big data in the end? According to the survey, 80% said that they wanted data that enabled more informed business decisions. 71% said they wanted it to increase their competitive advantage and to stay ahead of market trends. And for all the talk about how big data translates into better user experiences, it is interesting that the goal of improving customer satisfaction is only the third-most-cited goal for big data at 68%. Increasing end-user productivity or enabling self-service access to business information on the part of employees was cited by 62%, and improving information security or compliance was cited by 60%. Creating compelling new products and services was deemed an important goal of big data by only 55% of business leaders, while many fewer (33%) thought that it was a tool for monitoring and responding to social media in real time.

It may be significant that so few of the big-data priorities cited by executives in the survey were customer-focused. Most of the top priorities seem to be actually executive-focused, aimed at management simply doing its traditional job better. Which may be fine and understandable. But the point of big data is not just that it is big and predictive but that it is gathered from consumer behavior at a much more granular and detailed level than ever before available. The data should be bringing marketers in closer contact with the user's experience with the brand and the path to purchase.

Perhaps big data would be less daunting to some of these executives if they started with the question of how they could focus the data on improving customer experiences rather than personal job performance.

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