Big data is transforming marketing, allowing companies to connect to and engage with their customers like never before. And while the insights gained through big data analytics can create competitive advantage, the process of capturing, storing, and analyzing massive volumes of highly varied customer data streaming in at very high velocities can cause its share of headaches.
Fortunately for marketers, in a recent article on Advertising Age, author Owen Shapiro offers several sound solutions for the headaches that big data can bring. Here’s a brief look at the causes and cures of those headaches.
Headache #1: Keeping customer data safe
The recent security breaches of Target Corp., Home Depot, J. P. Morgan Chase---not to mention the just announced Anthem Inc. breach in which the personal information of millions of customers and employees was put at risk---serve as stark reminders of the migraine magnitude headaches that befall those entrusted with keeping vast volumes of sensitive customer data safe from hackers.
According to Shapiro, “Better security in the big data era doesn't mean a well-intentioned policy review---it means committing to a long-term investment in the infrastructure and personnel needed to safeguard what is rapidly becoming every organization's most important asset: its customer data.” He also points out that in order to gain greater credibility with people trusting their personal information with them, “companies need to be worthy of that trust.”
Headache #2: Drowning in data
Today’s companies are being deluged---information pouring in at volumes and speeds that they have never seen before. This presents real headaches for marketers trying to avoid drowning in oceans of irrelevant data that take up valuable time and resources to wade through and yet yield no worthwhile insights. As Shapiro sees it, the challenge for organizations with big data is “extracting the data you need from the data you don’t.”
To keep from drowning in data, Shapiro suggests that marketers need to narrow their focus and get as specific as they can about the kinds of data that could hold the valuable insights they are looking for. “And don't forget to ask the obvious questions”, says Shapiro, such as: If you could communicate with a customer, in real time, at the moment they are deciding between your brand and someone else's, what would you say to them, and how?”
Headache #3: Being outsmarted by the competition
As important as big data is in helping businesses gain a competitive edge, competitors can create headaches by using big data to discover and exploit another company’s weaknesses. “Anyone who tries can be a potential threat,” Shapiro warns, “if not an existing one.”
Regardless of the size of an organization, Shapiro says that an important component in the solution for headaches caused by competitors is “to keep at least part of the organization operating as if it were a small, hungry start-up.”
He also advises that in this era of swift and constant change that companies need to put more energy into market research, competitive intelligence and “ear-to-ear-internet scouting” in order to thwart competitive threats that “can come out of nowhere, in no time, and do a great deal of damage.”
Headache #4: Minding the store
Shapiro cautions that going forward, companies will be faced with the headache of dealing with ever-growing amounts of internally generated data. These large data volumes will present an even greater challenge for companies that still “silo” their data in different departments, as this practice prevents the departments from sharing useful information with each other.
To improve interdepartmental communications, companies will need to invest in experienced and qualified personnel to better manage their data, says Shapiro. “Superior education and training of data-management personnel will pay huge dividends down the road,” he explains, “even if it seems like an unnecessary expense now.”
Headache #5: Dealing with data-directed change
For companies that make big data analytics a more important part of the business process, there will be headaches when the data suggests that big changes need to be made. While the tendency might be not to listen to what the data is saying, Shapiro warns businesses that “the decision might be important and the machine might be right.”
Marketers need to listen to what the data is telling them and then try to use it as intelligently as possible. “Don’t abandon your instincts or intuition,” says Shapiro, “but do use all the information available to inform your gut decision. Otherwise, your gut might betray you.”
Headache #6: Handling customer complaints
Social platforms give angry customers the upper hand by allowing them to vent their frustrations potentially to the entire world. And as Shapiro points out, “one angry customer can cause a lot of damage.” Not to mention a lot of headaches for marketers.
While it may be tempting to ignore or put off responding to a customer complaint, Shapiro advises that in an instantly connected world the best way to deal with this type of headache is to respond to it quickly, the more instantaneous the better. After all, as Shapiro reminds marketers, “every disgruntled customer can, with the right response, be converted into a brand champion.”