We've all heard of the incredible potential of Big Data, whether applied to solving traffic crises or designing intelligent home automation systems. Yet, perhaps one of the most natural applications of Big Data is destined in a field that is increasingly all about data: marketing. Decades ago, marketing used to be a game in social psychology. How do you best increase the value of your company or product by influencing as large of an audience as possible?
Nowadays, despite the goal remaining more or less the same, marketing has expanded exponentially in the processes used in order to determine what is, in fact, the "best" way to achieve the desired outcome. With countless new expansions such as social media marketing and email marketing, the field itself has made tremendous progress in the available methods by which to not only contact your audience but also to identify the audience in the first place and learn how to influence it.
Expanding the Boundaries of Evaluating What's Best
At the start, whichever strategy a company focused on was just a luck of the draw depending on the savvy of their marketing department. Over the past few years, however, even the mediums that companies choose for their marketing efforts have been increasingly been put to the test, joining the ranks of all the other aspects of marketing that can now be questioned, and in doing so, be optimized.
As Big Data becomes increasingly applied to real-world fields, the entire backbone of marketing is destined to change. The introduction of Big Data as a viable tool in the decision-making process means that decisions at all levels will be able to be built on top of Big Data insights. These insights will be used not only to determine what is the best way to communicate with a company's audience, but also how to even best identify the audience, connect to it, and affect their opinions to reach the desired goals.
The Power of Insight
Insights provided by Big Data have countless applications beyond decisions of delivery platform. Not only does information gleaned from Big Data analysis allow companies to better focus their marketing efforts, they also provide unique understandings of the customer base itself that can be used in the future to further the impacts of marketing strategies.
The most obvious examples of the possibilities of this data analysis can be found in email marketing and social media analytics. Marketers managing email campaigns, for example, would be able to not just know which customers open emails, but also countless other relevant metadata, such as time of day they are most likely to respond. Information such as this would allow marketers to be able to evolve their efforts to be not only more targeted but also more interactive for customers, resulting in an improved marketing experience for all involved parties.
With people today creating more data than ever before, it will be up to marketers to decide how to best sift through data such as this to find these actionable insights. Thanks to Big Data, a marketer's job will instantly become irrevocably more simple, yet more difficult all at once. When all the answers are somewhere in front of you, it can still be a challenge to actually find them.
By breaking down marketing into its systems of engagement, the report showed how the combination of insights, data gleaned from interactions, real-time analytics, and automation of marketing would affect everything from web content management to the delivery of digital experiences. Forrester also went on to prove just how much the technological components were vital for insight and engagement systems to create meaningful insight-generating platforms on top of Big Data technologies. Logically, it makes sense to investigate what to do after you have the data, and this is exactly what Forrester did by building connections between the data-enabling technologies, the data itself, and the ultimate applications for it.
Marketing as a Science
While many marketers will be quick to describe marketing itself as an art form, based on skills and knowledge only achieved through curated experience, the inclusion of Big Data in marketing has been responsible for bringing marketing ever closer to the field of science. With all the statistical analysis that goes into processing Big Data insights, marketers are increasingly being forced to look for more than just trends in the data but use statistics and knowledge of consumer behavior to truly understand the data.
Another Forrester survey done back in 2014 explored the possible impacts of Big Data on the actual day-to-day job of being a marketer and found that while increasingly businesses promise to implement Big Data solutions, only 9% of businesses were able to follow through. The reason why was simple at its heart but involved the role change of marketing from art to science. The marketers who were unable or unwilling to follow through on implementing Big Data in their businesses saw it as just a distraction from the traditional marketing pursuits of optimizing customer insights and delivering improved customer experienced. Unwilling to partake in the new science, these marketers ended up reducing their companies chances of success in the new data-driven markets of today.
Is There a Dark Side?
Unfortunately, as with all cases when something looks like the ultimate savior, there are always possible negative impacts. While the power of Big Data in driving insights can be incredible, it does introduce fundamental questions arising from the nature of the data itself. Companies will not only have to act to ensure that their data usage addresses possible customer privacy concerns, but also follow through on keeping the data truly secure. Solutions exist in the market through a variety of Big Data tools, such as specialized databases, security software, and the like, but the burden will remain on the companies to become mindful adopters of the available technology.
If anything were to go wrong, the risk of exposing millions of possibly private customer details that could be used maliciously is enough to break even the most secure business. This means that the power of Big Data will have to always come at a cost, not only to participating customers risking their privacy but also to companies forced to secure the data and bear the burden of security risks. As incredible as the promise of Big Data is, it will still inherently bring new forms of risks that companies will have to adapt to.
Moving forward, marketing will continue to face new challenges arising from Big Data technology implementations. However, it is undoubtedly clear that the positive benefits that are to be gained from Big Data insights will prove the ultimate motivator for marketers looking to revolutionize their trade. Not only will marketing increase its ability to make meaningful connections with customers, Big Data will pave the way for a whole new brand of possible interactions. Marketing in the state prior to the advent of Big Data will never again be enough.