Big Data for dummies

  • Marketing
  • January 31, 2013
  • Darryn Melrose
Big Data for dummies
Lauren Manning via Flickr

Unless you have been living without an internet connection over summer, you would have heard of the term Big Data. But what exactly is Big Data, and why should you care?

Even if you dismiss it to be a fad, it would be hard to begrudge the attention it is starting to generate among the data and direct marketing community, who are well overdue for some marketing limelight.

What is Big Data?

Wikipedia tells us it is "…a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing application".

The internet has been described as the greatest generator ever of data about human behaviour, as over two billion people use it and most of their behavior is able to be analysed. Add to that mobile GPS data and transaction data, and you get to over 2.5 quintillion* bytes of data being created every day. So much so, that 90 percent of the data in the world today has been created in just the last two years.

So we have a lot of new data sources and exponential growth of data being generated. And by including these new data sets and taking a higher view than existing transactional and behavioural data we can spot new business trends, patterns and information.

To help explain how it can be used, take a simplified example of a bank and what happens when an angry customer closes their credit card. The existing data set may look at the customer's account and what decision the bank should take next with that customer. By taking a Big Data view, the bank could now look at that customer's social network of friends and consider what further customers may also now be ‘at risk’ of closing their account.

Pathological Excess

It is not just old folk who are at risk of becoming compulsive hoarders. There is an inherent risk with all these new data sources available that we can become too focused on the collection and storage of this data, rather than the using of it. To avoid this, make sure you have clear usable outcomes agreed before collecting any new forms of data.

Is it for you?

There is probably only a handful of companies in New Zealand that could use Big Data principles to add depth to their current strategies. They know who they are and most of them will be progressing down this path already. 

For most, I would advise that it is far better to actually use some of the data you already hold before seeking out new sources.

If you are determined to look at Big Data, I’d recommend that you involve specialist data strategists to ensure that an external view is part of the process and to act as champions against any hoarding tendencies. And remember that you don’t really want data, what you want is information.

*a quintillion helps put your ISP data cap into perspective. 

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  • Advertising
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