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With the rise of “Big Data” and the possibilities it presents, the days of structuring marketing strategies based on limited insights and partial statistics are over. But what exactly is big data, and does it have a place in every business?


"Big data" applies to immense amounts of information from an expansive range of sources that is frequently collected. The data comes from a multitude of sources and multiple data types, including customer data, transactional data, machine data, social data, and others. A key component of big data is the frequency in which it is accumulated. A faster connection speed means more data is amassed. Big data is often unstructured and as such it is rarely organized, which can require specialized software or a data scientist to interpret it.


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Businesses of all sizes collect (or have the ability to collect) this actionable data. Customer data, for example, can include information such as email addresses, phone numbers, zip codes, and surveys, among others. Social data can be collected from multiple sources, including social media activity and consumer behaviors. Transactional data comes from customer purchase information and the related procedures and processes. Machine data relates to the “Internet of Things,” as this information comes from Internet-connected machinery, technology, and devices.


Today's marketing strategies demand a deeper dive into customer, organizational, and social data in order to pull truly actionable insights. Accurate data allows marketers to better understand customers and meet their needs.


A report from statistics company Statista found that, as of August 2013, companies that used big data experienced growth in ROI, customer satisfaction, sales leads as well as sales, sign-ups and registrations, and insights into consumer behavior. Big data has the power to enhance businesses of all sizes, provided these businesses put the proper processes into place and set goals for the collected data. When dealing with big data, businesses need to focus on what questions they are trying to answer and what they are looking for in the data, for example defining who their most valuable customers are.


Big data allows businesses to measure information that was previously thought to be incalculable. With this data, analysts can identify new industry patterns and better understand customer motivations, interests, and dislikes. Learning more about what makes consumers tick opens many doors to new business opportunities and allows businesses to deliver products and content that audiences are interested in.


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(Image Courtesy of Shutterstock)


By leveraging insights gained from big data, businesses will be better equipped to develop new, more profitable products as well as understand any associated risks with future prospects. Companies making these changes are also better positioned to evolve with their markets and make any necessary adaptations to their business plans.


Data-driven strategies let businesses become more innovative at a lower risk, all while being more focused on the consumer. Connecting the dots that data provides makes it easy for businesses to measure impact as well as reveal potential new markets.


Companies can dig into their data to make more strategic business decisions. Businesses interested in leveraging big data should remember to zero in on relevant data that will help them improve operations, increase revenue, and improve relationships with customers. While big data may require an initial investment and goal setting, the rewards will be worth the effort.

Nick Rojas is a journalist and business consultant based in Los Angeles, CA. His work is often heavily influenced by data, a habit he picked-up in business school. He often writes about social media, content creation, and marketing. You can follow him on Twitter @NickARojas.


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