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Boiling the Ocean vs. Catching the Fish You Want

I like big data as much as any analyst; it’s fun to poke around in a giant pool of information and identify trends.

Yet, to coin a new acronym, “BIG” data can be: Burdensome, Indistinct and General.

It is the fishing net that drags the sea floor and brings up everything, forcing deck hands to find value in the catch.

If a business is tracking every aspect of all customer activities — timestamps of visits, time on pages, device ID, IP address, profile creation date and the hundreds of other data points provided by analytics engines and data management platforms — then the resulting data set will likely be too large to be useful.

I prefer actionable data – like a fishing rod with the right lure – that helps marketers understand the journey of their customers and respond with timely and relevant information that fosters positive relationships.

Actionable data delivers details about a user that anyone can read and understand without computer interpretation.  For example, if a customer indicates preferences for recipes — beef, BBQ or a stir fry — marketers can use that information to customize that user’s experience.

This focused data guides marketers in identifying campaign opportunities and personalization strategies because it pivots on how each customer interacts with content.

Here are three easy steps to get there:

  • Provide a value exchange that will entice users to connect with your business;
  • Identify what you want to know about your users; and
  • Build a strategy around collecting this data to ensure the most useful possible data set.

Complete these three simple steps and you will be able to make decisions informed by data your customers have willingly provided.

You also can create attractive subset topics that encourage customers to share more content and help you learn more about them. For example, you might create a BBQ topic that allows customers to add recipes or debate Carolina, Memphis or Texas sauces. This, in turn, further refines that focus over time.

How do you obtain this actionable data?

You can do it with your internal team, although it might be costly.  Or you can look to third-parties — customer identity and access management (CIAM) providers tied to marketing automation solutions, for example. In most cases, this will be more cost-effective.

The point is, it’s now possible to gather and manage actionable data and watch your customer base come into focus in real time, without relying on  engineers spending hours to digest complex data sets and then generate pivot tables and behavioral patterns.

Actionable data helps you identify which customers prefer back ribs over steaks, or vinegar over brown sugar sauce.

Now, go ahead and break down this audience by gender, age groups and locations. You’ll see the whole picture and discover that big data is no longer unwieldy but full of value for your business and your customers.

By Craig Ferrara

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