How companies are beginning to utilise big data like never before

Posted: 19th July 2016 14:36

It’s said that knowledge is power. This is very much the philosophy that lies behind the increasing reliance of all kinds of companies on the use of big data. It may be a phrase you’ve seen used increasingly over the last couple of years but what exactly is it, and how can it be such a powerful business tool?
In a nutshell, big data is the rich seam of information that has suddenly become available thanks to the ever-increasing connectivity of the world. Every time we browse the web or make an online purchase we are generating information that can be captured and analysed by the site’s owner. Other sources of big data are also social media as well as information that a company’s partners agree to share – always, of course, with the customer’s consent.
And it’s not just people who can generate big data. Many kinds of machinery and equipment can too from aircraft whose many on-board sensors can give precise operational information to the airline and even the smart electricity meters that are being installed in many homes.
The data that is received can then prove to be invaluable in helping with decision making for organisations, so much so that for many it is the very first information that they turn to.
So who does use big data, and what exactly can it contribute?
Perhaps most importantly, big data is transforming the way that businesses are advertising themselves to their customers. Given that the aim of all advertising is to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time it stands to reason that the clearer the profile of the potential customer, the easier this will be.
So, at its most basic level, if you’ve been looking for wall tiles online and the next day many pop-up ads for a tile retailer appear on your screen this is an example of big data use. On a more sophisticated level, complex analysis of past behaviour can be used to predict a person’s propensity to act in a certain way in the future, thus indicating who will be most responsive to particular products or offers.
In addition, big data has a key role to play in the field of customer relationship management. By using knowledge of how a person behaves and their particular triggers brands can deepen and enrich their relationship. Amazon are particularly good at using this information and there are many other examples including 888 Poker who have started to offer online poker players a personalised video using the data they’ve gathered about their successes.
On a broader scale, companies can use big data to make key operational decisions to help them do anything from increasing the efficiency of their logistics to deciding where to locate new stores for maximum profitability.
But while big data is certainly the hot topic of the moment there may also be a question mark over just how accurate a picture it can create of an individual – as well as whether there may be an element of “Big Brother is watching you” that could well alienate customers just as much as the personalised approach could attract them.
Having said this, it’s a bold company that chooses to ignore the use of big data, not to mention one that runs the very real risk of being left well behind its competitors too.