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The importance of big data in digital age

The importance of big data in digital age.
Big data is ultimately as important as the purposes and strategies that surround it. It’s only really as good as what the output is. I think a lot of the time it can be easy for companies just to say “we need data” and just get all this stuff in, and feel like they’ve accomplished something.
But actually, even before you get to that stage you need to be asking yourself: how is it going to impact my business, and the decisions that we are wanting to make? Is this data right for us? Is this going to help us achieve our goals? What will it empower us to do? Is it in the right format to work with our systems and other tools that we use? With machine learning and AI it can be hugely powerful when used correctly, but at the same time, it can be a big investment that can be a bit of a waste if you don’t. There’s lots of evidence that our clients are attempting to bring together disparate
data sets. So a huge amount of first-party data - that could be streaming data, social media, that kind of thing - and data out there in the public domain. So although we don’t do it as a business, we’re starting to see the effects of that. So clients increasingly engaging external data experts to help them collate and analyse, and report on big data for future planning. It works better for, sometimes, big companies, I think small companies may not necessarily need big data. People that are operating on a local level may not need that scale, it’s not something that’s important to everyone.
All marketing data is created by an action. This can be a click, a view, a buy, spend, impressions, shares, likes, comments, all these different things create data. And big data ultimately amalgamates these individual actions, and allows you to translate them into behaviours. How long are people spending on my site? What percentage of people are checking out that actually added to basket? What sort of content are people interacting with? Do people like my brand or not?
And so all of this gives you inferences and things to help understand your consumers better, and this is where big data can enable this at scale, with stronger, faster, more solid learnings than perhaps smaller data where, when you only have a small sample size, making big decisions can be harmful to your business. When we, as an agency, are asked to interrogate data, we typically use a piece of software called Tableau. What we do is we take various quite intricate data sets, and overlay that into their web analytics, and the marketing data that we’ve already got, so you’ve got a real strong custom set before you make decisions about where to market.
So that system helps us transform data into actual actionable insights for clients, so that’s quite important, and that’s typically what they want. You can help them visualise the data, which is quite often difficult to do, and difficult for people to get. We’ve talked about explaining things to people in layman’s terms and there being a lot more stakeholders within businesses who need to understand what that data is telling them, so visualisation is hugely important.
We can, through that, build custom dashboards, perform ad-hoc analyses, and that’s just in a few clicks so it’s a great way to have that conversation with a client, start pulling in other data sources which aren’t necessarily marketing related, and then share that work around and try and explain the impact to a client on their future planning and campaigns. The tricky thing is having access to that data. Not all companies are huge multinational organisations.
And smaller companies, they may not have big data themselves, but it might be around formulating partnerships, so using people like Facebook and Instagram, or LinkedIn, or Google and people like that that do have that, and you can actually leverage for fees or costs or subscriptions, and sometimes for free as well. So some of this is around companies using their own data, and actually that’s something that, as we progress to a more cookieless world, having first-party data will become more important. But also then leveraging the big data of others, and actually having that relationship between your data and other data, and understanding how that relationship between the two works, for helping make the right decisions for your business.
Big data can give you a more confident view of reality. It can tell you more clearly what is happening, both with consumers, with trends, within your business, and actually how all those different relationships interconnect. It can help build these insights to help really inform that decision process. For example, think around the automotive sector - we’re now seeing a wave of electric cars come onto the market - but the reality is electric mobility has now been looked at for a while, because it was identified as a trend and something that was going to be important and big years ago. And that’s come through data and through using big data and looking at macro-level things. It hasn’t
come from any one person saying: “Ooh, my sales have dropped off, I expect that’s because in four years’ time people might want a hybrid.” It’s come from bigger things. I read a white paper recently for Tableau, because we use this software a lot and we have used it for many years, and it was sort of describing big data as almost like a man-made reservoir. So, first of all you dig the reservoir, then you dam it, so you build your cluster, then you fill it up with water so essentially, your water is your data. And then once you’ve established that lake you start using the water in different ways, so you use that data for various purposes.
So that might be predictive analysis, all the way through to things like cyber security, it could have huge implications for your business. So the first iteration of big data was around looking at single causes and stuff like that, and it seems to me now, the way the marketplace has changed, that organisations now demand repeated and agile use of that data source for quick answers so they can make decisions on the fly about their business, and save themselves money, drive efficiencies, that kind of thing.
On top of data, there is still very much a human element, and you do still have to have that human aspect in being able to understand and manipulate, and work with big data to help make the right decisions for your company.

In today’s increasingly digitalised world, vast information is easily accessible by more and more people. This is known as big data. Watch the video in which Tom Dyer and Owen Lee draw out the importance of big data.

Big data refers to the large volumes of data generated and accessible online. The sources of big data include online daily transactions or social media posts. Big data is one of the most significant technological disruptions to business in recent years.

Companies can use big data and business analytics to gain a competitive advantage in the market, challenging existing business modes (Pappa, et al., 2018). There is a need to better understand how big data and business analytics drive decision-making in businesses and how organisations can give purpose to the data that will lead to a performance increase.

Watch the following video in which Tom Dyer and Owen Lee discuss how the process of decision-making has been reshaped and challenged in the digital world, how the marketer’s approach to identifying opportunities has changed, and how decision-making around strategic target market identification is evolving.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Your task

How can big data impact the organisation’s decision-making process?


Pappas, I. O., Mikalef, P., Giannakos, M. N., Krogstie, J., & Lekakos, G. (2018). Big data and business analytics ecosystems: Paving the way towards digital transformation and sustainable societies. Information Systems and E-Business Management, 16(3), 479-491. DOI: 10.1007/s10257-018-0377-z Locate link (available to fee-paying students)

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