Big data – a marketer’s dream or dilemma?

Marketing | Sectors   |   
Published October 7, 2013   |   
Tim Anderson

Everyone is talking about “big data”, especially in marketing where it promises to enable a new era of perfectly targeted messaging for the modern, connected consumer – or is that just hype, soon to evaporate among privacy fears, confusion, and the technical difficulty of getting marketing value from a mountain of data, sometimes from disparate sources?

This was the subject of debate at a recent seminar hosted in association with digital marketing solutions provider Adobe. A panel of experts was joined by members of the Guardian Media Network, a community for professionals working in media and technology, for an open debate.

Big data in this context is the mass of transactional and behavioural data that each of us creates as we use the internet, travel with location-aware mobile devices, make purchases with payment cards and loyalty cards online, and communicate our activities, goals and preferences through social media.

According to a recent survey carried out by German market research institute GfK for the Guardian, 86% of marketers consider that big data will change the function of marketing, and a further 62% say that it has already fundamentally changed their role.

“We see it as a contract with our customer. The more data that we can get on them, the better experience we can provide,” said Brian Streich, marketing director at the online ticket site StubHub. The starting point is relevancy, showing customers recommendations that make sense for them, but it goes beyond that. “Engagement is something that we look at, an experience that makes them want to browse more, want to interact with us more,” he said. The passion in sports and entertainment means it is critical to make correct use of the data. “In the US, if you look at a Dodgers fan and then you give them a Giants email, you could lose them.”

Ajaz Ahmed, CEO of the digital agency AKQA, spoke of how data can enhance day-to-day living, starting with better e-commerce. “When someone gets their products and services delivered to them in less than an hour, that creates delight and emotional resonance – and loyalty. When people have the right kind of recommendations made – that makes people go ‘Wow’ – that creates emotional resonance as well.”

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