What's It Going To Be: Big Data or Small Data?

According to a paper by Erik Matlick, CEO, Madison Logic Data, digital marketers in both the B2B and B2C spaces have been scrambling for years to get access to more and more data (Big Data) about their customers and prospects, yet many are ill-equipped to make use of that data to the extent of its capabilities.

Big Data is actionable data from multiple data signals (articles, search, downloads, video, social) and data types (online and offline) that can offer predictive insight into customer behaviors. Big Data can reveal information to provide insights that were previously only available through human interaction.

Silicon Valley data strategist Edd Dumbill defines Big Data as “…data that exceeds the processing capacity of conventional database systems. The data is too big, moves too fast, or doesn’t fit the strictures of [a company’s] database architectures…”

Most B2B and B2C companies don’t have enough data on their own customers to qualify as “Big Data,” says the paper. Unless you are as large as organizations like Wal-Mart or Amazon, whose sites are less like commerce sites and more like customer-centric marketplaces, you just won’t have that kind of scale and activity within your own customer base.

The “Big” part of “Big Data” is not just figurative language denoting its importance; it is also a literal description of the vastness of the data universe. Big Data is a high-volume, high-velocity and high-variety information asset that usually falls outside a single B2B marketer’s typical system parameters.

Big Data has been a driving force in the B2C world for the past eight or so years. But, consider the fact that 90% of data that has been created through smart devices, computers, social media, etc. has been generated in the past two years, says the paper. And, B2B organizations are realizing that technology such as Netflix’s and Amazon’s customer retargeting and predictive algorithms, could be applied to their business models to deliver valuable insight into their customers’ needs.

Individual organizations and marketers of every size now have the ability to access this information on a level and at a scale never before possible. 54% of marketers are currently investing in Big Data and another 30% are planning to invest in Big Data in the future.

The paper opines that 2015 will be the year businesses take actionable second and third party data sources and apply them to the marketing ecosystems that they have been assembling. With the necessary infrastructures finally in place and third party data sources widely available and actionable, medium size businesses will be able to compete with the largest organizations in the usage of Big Data.

Coincident with the publication of the Eric Matlick paper is a survey by Constant Contact from a research panel of US small businesses recruited from the Constant Contact customer base. This survey is part of an ongoing series about the state of small businesses and the ways they connect with, and grow, their audiences. Results include responses from respondents across a range of business-to-business and business-to-consumer industries, including the question:

What is Big Data? Here’s what some small businesses had to say.

  • “Big picture analytics”
  • “Data too big for us”
  • “What I need”
  • “A buzz word”
  • “No clue”
  • “A term applied to massive data sets”
  • “The push to fully leverage all the data currently available”
  • “No idea”
  • “An accumulation of databases”
  • “The push to fully leverage all the data currently available”
  • “I don’t know”
  • “All consumer data that an organization holds”
  • “More than I can comprehend” “Only for the enterprise not SMB”
  • “Too much data to deal with!”
  • “Huge sets of data”

The responses revealed that, while only 60% of small businesses use any type of Big Data tools, they are actively using what’s called “Small Data”: activity oriented data which is locally-sourced, easily accessible, and used to deliver immediate results, such as email marketing reports.

Among the 79% of small businesses using Small Data for marketing, these are the most popular sources:

  • 83% use email marketing reports
  • 64% use website analytics
  • 52% use social media analytics
  • 48% use sales trends (timing, location, etc.)

And, the SMBs say that data found through (% of Respondents):

  • Sales receipts            (43%)
  • POS records            (33%)
  • Sales trends            (48%)
  • Inventoring tracking            (33%)
  • Email marketing reports            (83%)
  • Current customer data            (44%)
  • Prospective customer data            (22%)
  • Social media analytics            (52%)
  • Website analytics            (64%)
  • Industry surveys            (20%)
  • Media coverage of trends            (34%)
  • Third party data            (8%)

Will help them grow business by (% of Respondents):

  • Finding new customers                        73%
  • Retaining existing customers            67%
  • Segmenting marketing lists            44%
  • Finding new demographic markets            28%
  • Developing new products            32%
  • Improving customer experience            65%

For additional information from Constant Contact, please visit here; and the complete paper from the report by Eric Matlic may be accessed here.




2 comments about "What's It Going To Be: Big Data or Small Data?".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, December 2, 2014 at 7:28 a.m.

  2. Gerard Broussard from Pre-Meditated Media, LLC, December 8, 2014 at 7:04 a.m.

    It seems that half the challenge for Big Data deployment is defining what it is and how organizations can implement a Big Data strategy. You can find a primer for the Marketing/Advertising industry here:
    Best to all,

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