Don't let big data overwhelm you

(Photo courtesy Chris McClanahan via Flickr)
(Photo courtesy Chris McClanahan via Flickr)

When it comes to data, the bigger the better. But Michael Kustreba of Espilon suggests starting small can yield better results

When thinking about data, is bigger always better? In my experience, yes, that’s true. There is no doubt that more data gives more insight, which drives relevancy and opportunity. But many companies struggle to do what's necessary to capture and use large amounts of data. 

Wikipedia defines big data as "the term for a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications". When you reach the point where your data overwhelms you, it is the first major hurdle.

So is it worth it? Absolutely. Every day at work we help companies to leverage data and develop data strategies, and we see these companies hit the utopia of one to one marketing, predicting consumer behaviours and needs, and driving more sales. To us, data is like a limitless sea of stars: it is unrealized potential that opens up a universe of marketing possibilities. Data is the enabler for companies to form connections, which bond people to their brand. Big data can equate to big opportunities.

If it is so good, why isn’t everyone doing it? There are two answers to this question. 

The first is fear. How much should you invest, and will it pay for itself?

Secondly, marketers do not know where to start. Do I have enough data? How do I get more? How can I use my data?

We believe that from simplicity comes the greatest of discoveries. This means you don’t necessarily need to start big, complicated and expensive. Instead, you can start small and think big. At the end of the day, you would still want your sea of data stars. But you can start realizing your data potential with a simple data strategy and some good technology. More than likely, you already have enough data in your existing environment. The best place to start is not a campaign, but a data audit.

A data audit will draw insights and help you identify business opportunities. It will help you align your objectives and ensure that you have good data to add value to your business. In many cases, you already have the data to drive more relevancy and sales opportunities: transactional or cart abandonment data, browsing behaviour and past campaign performance.

Or you may have "in-the-moment" response data that you can leverage, such as the day of the week when consumers open emails, the time of day when they log on your website or the device they use when they browse. All of these data points can be better utilized to target and predict.

And third-party data is available for you to enrich and fill data gaps or otherwise empower your campaigns. Examples include local weather data, social media postings and even TV program guides.

To help you get the thoughts flowing, one of the simplest and most effective data applications that has been around for a long time is a basic cart-abandonment campaign. Re-connect with your prospects who got close to finishing an order but didn’t. Sure, some of these people have gone elsewhere or changed their mind, but others could have been distracted and need prompting. Cart-abandonment campaigns typically drive very high response rates.

Or perhaps you have a web analytics solution that is tracking browsing and search behavior. Imagine an e-commerce email that can drive relevant offers based on your customers’ recent searches on your website. One of my clients did this and saw a 660 percent increase in revenue.

Finally, imagine engaging with your customers using sentiment derived from social listening. If someone is sad, happy, tired, stressed or watching football at the moment, you can leverage this data and trigger a one-off communication that really connects.

The key to start doing more with data is to not let your data, big or small, overwhelm you. Get some help to understand what you have today and draw out a couple of small initiatives. Understand what technology and services you need. Before you know it, you will be ahead of your competition and will have have justified the build of a proper big-data solution. You can connect with your customers in the moments that matter, engage them with your brand and produce more value.

It’s not the size of the data that matters, it’s how you put it to use.

Michael Kustreba is Asia-Pacific managing director with Espilon.

This article first appeared on

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