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Harnessing big data remains an elusive proposition for marketers

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Big-data-2There is a growing buzz around big data and the mine of information it provides about consumers, their buying behavior, preferences, social media presence and much more. However, Indian marketers are still grappling for a proper definition of big data, leave alone analysing and utilising it to their advantage. The data is out there – be it on the average amount a customer withdraws from the ATM or the POS data accumulated during the entire day’s transaction at a grocery store – but when it comes to how best to use this information available, marketers can be quite clueless.

As Gautam K Gandhi, Head – New Business Development, Google US/ India succinctly puts it, “I can’t see a lot of sectors using such data at all. For example, car manufacturers are not using it anywhere. The problem is we have a lot of data but don’t know what to do with it.”

A Harvard Business Review, while pointing out the voids in the entire process beginning from knowing to utilising big data, noted in an article, “The biggest reason that investment in big data fails to pay off, though, is that most companies don’t do a good job with the information they already have. They don’t know how to manage it, analyze it in ways that enhance their understanding, and then make changes in response to new insights. Companies don’t magically develop those competencies just because they’ve invested in high-end analytics tools. They first need to learn how to use the data already embedded in their core operating systems, much the way people must master arithmetic before they tackle algebra. Until a company learns how to use data and analysis to support its operating decisions, it will not be in a position to benefit from big data.”

In 2013, McAfee had released a study that revealed the helplessness of organisations around the world to harness the power of big data for security purpose. According to a report titled ‘Needle in a Datastack’, businesses are becoming vulnerable to security breaches due to their inability to properly analyse or store big data. Magnanimity of Big Data can be realised from the fact that the global output of data is about 3 Zetabytes, which is equivalent to 1 billion terabytes. Firms such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo! are among the few to lead the evaluation of big data to a recommendable level.

Gautam K Gandhi, Head - New Business  Development, Google US/ India

Gautam K Gandhi, Head – New Business Development, Google US/ India

How best to harness big data?
Marketers are aware that if they do not utilise it for their own good, competitors might use this data to their advantage. Take the case of Vodafone India, which introduced credit facility for its pre-paid customers based on the data regarding the high number of such customers running out of their phone balance. This was later adopted by all other telecom companies as well. Similarly, there are a few key areas, after working on which, companies can easily feast on the Big Data Buffet.

Small is good
Segregating big data into smaller packets is the first step towards utilising the data fruitfully. Identifying a pattern in a chunk of data coming from a localised source is how Bookmyshow.com tried to locate a constant behaviour pattern, as observed by a particular customer whenever he/ she surfed on their website. E-commerce is among the first ones to have shown some success in using this data. The Shopping Cart concept on a lot of e-commerce websites helps them understand customers’ tastes and preferences.

Bhaskar Sharma, GM, Red Bull India

Bhaskar Sharma, GM, Red Bull India

Problem of authenticity
No doubt big data can help businesses to a great extent, however, there are always concerns regarding the authenticity of the data being churned out. As shared by Bhaskar Sharma, GM, Red Bull India, “The authenticity of such data is always on stake as you never know if the data is sourced from customers or is being generated deliberately.” He, however, has a solution to this problem. According to him, “The problem of authenticity of any data on the web can be solved as soon as you have tagged someone’s identity with their action on the internet. Once a person comes on web through his real profile and identity, chances of behaving irresponsibly vanishes.”

Marketers looking forward to using big data should focus more on putting their analysts in place, who can churn the data to produce significant insights. A lot of brands have more than a million fans on Facebook, which gives them access to billions of bytes of data coming out of the conversations happening on their page. For companies that are not doing any e-commerce activities from their websites, analysing the conversations on their Facebook pages can prove to be the first step in winning over big data.

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