Courtesy of btob
For marketers, Big Data is front and center today. It's seen as
essential in getting the most out of direct marketing programs, and
those unable to extract the right information from these massive
databases may be at a competitive disadvantage.
"In the past, it's been prohibitively expensive to actually make
sense of [so much data], to infer opportunities," said David
Cummings, CEO of marketing automation company Pardot. "Now, tools
exist to see, for example, website traffic patterns hour by hour,
minute by minute or Tuesday at 2 p.m."
While that may be possible, marketers continue to feel
overwhelmed, as reflected in IBM Corp.'s "Global Chief Marketing
Officer Study" released last fall.
Based on interviews with 1,734 CMOs from 64 countries in 2011,
the study identified Big Data as the greatest marketing challenge
of all, cited by 71% of respondents. Also, 79% believed the level
of data complexity will be high or very high over the next five
years; but almost as many said they felt unprepared to handle
The difficulty in coping with Big Data is felt even among those
companies IBM characterized as "outperforming organizations." Here,
65% reported being unprepared to cope with the explosion of data,
compared with 77% of "underperforming organizations."
"You can use some tools to get some basic intuition about data;
but, once you start collecting enough data, the problem lies in
interpreting it," said Ezra Fishman, director-marketing with video
hosting and analytics company Wistia Inc. "It becomes exponentially
harder, because each part of the data tells its own story; how it
combines tells a story that makes sense to me."
Fishman said every touch on the Wistia website and inquiries
about its products are being captured by Pardot technology,
augmented by advanced reporting and data warehousing from GoodData
Corp. That is followed by analyses that attempt to connect the
But he acknowledged that ever-growing data sets can be "a
"We have at our fingertips all this data, and in that mess there
are answers to such issues as setting up our website optimally, how
best to offer free software trials, the optimal pricing for our
plan and so forth," he said. "The answers are hidden but are there.
We are confident it's just about interpreting the data."
Big Data, and the technology necessary to parse it, is already
making for inroads in operational efficiencies. Last month,
LexisNexis Risk Solutions began migrating its insurance-support
products to an in-house Big Data processing platform to help
insurers assign premiums more accurately, as well as better
understand their customers and risk throughout the policy life
cycle and drive better profitability.
In March, the federal government launched the "Big Data Research
and Development Initiative," a $200 million research project to
better understand science research opportunities, national defense,
energy efficiency, healthcare and education.
Vendors are responding to the Big Data conundrum. Next month,
Yahoo Inc. will roll out Genome, a solution to manage Big Data for
advertisers, building on data from Yahoo's Interclick behavior
identification and targeting service combined with data gleaned
from its multiple Yahoo sites and third-party data compilers. The
goal is to mine these data with predictive modeling to determine
And last month, database marketing company Infogroup announced
plans to use a data-integration platform from Talend to integrate
client data with "a single universal identifier." Also this spring,
Lyris Inc. began using Talend solutions to streamline data
management for online marketing campaigns.
One missing element, however, is adequate staff to make sense of
all this, said Phil Fernandez, CEO of marketing automation company
"The talent shortage is especially acute in the marketing
department," Fernandez wrote on the Marketo blog. "The practice of
marketing is now becoming more and more data-driven; but there are
still not enough marketing executives who are truly experienced, or
even comfortable, with making sense of the data and actually
putting it to work to drive revenue growth."