How Big Data Can Improve Marketing and Customer Service

Big data is poised to help marketers reach and engage customers and prospects in ways that businesses are only now starting to understand. Enterprises that don't embrace analytics may soon see embattled customers voting with their wallets.

By Allen Bernard
Mon, May 13, 2013

CIO — Spend any time in IT and you're bound to hear the expression, "You can't manage what you can't measure." Metrics is the mantra of many data center managers or network architects. How else do you know who consumes what resource how often and how that affects things such as WAN performance?

For chief marketing officers (CMO), however, useful metrics are hard to come by. Yes, like most executives, the CMO is buried in statistics: Same-store sales, inventory data, production data, CRM data, transaction data, sales and promotions data and so on. There's lots of data, but little of it will tell you what your customer will do next or why they did what they did, like abandon an online shopping cart.

Transaction data doesn't improve the customer experience unless you combine it with some other data to learn something new and useful. The same is true if customer data is collected at multiple touch points—Web, brick and mortar, mobile—but isn't tied together on the back end or accessible to call center reps in real time.

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Take everything you know about your customers and prospects, though, and combine that with new data sources ranging from social media to location and weather data, and you enter the world of big data. What matters in this world isn't so much the individual data points, but where they intersect. It's the mashup that will give you the insights you need to improve your next-best offer or understand why customers do what they do.

Use Big Data, Gain Competitive Advantage

"The ability to collect vast amounts of data on individual consumers—their consumption habits, their preferences, their interactions with the company—and then analyze those data sets for predictive behavior and proactively apply those insights both to your existing customers and to customers coming into your call center or your website or your agents office, [that's] the basis of competitive advantage in the future for the CMO because you can provide a better experience," says Matt Jauchius, CMO of Nationwide Insurance.

While this is happening at a certain percentage of companies, most aren't embracing big data or spending the dollars required to achieve the state of the art.

A recent, frustrating encounter with a new cell phone provider proves this to be true, even for multibillion dollar players in tech-centric industries rife with data that should make the customer experience memorable for all the right reasons.

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