The nature of ‘digital’ is that every action, decision, comment, gesture and click leaves a data trail. An increasing amount of conversations are now taking place on social platforms. Smart phones are becoming our main communication tool and information hub, with built in cameras and videos capturing many aspects of life. Meanwhile the web is our main research tool. The data that exists, because of all this activity, is simply astounding. Today, every individual is leaving a data trail much of which is publicly available for any business to access.
In the meantime, companies have their own enquiry records, ‘customer relationship management’ systems, order histories, accounting information and a vast amount of other data on individual customers, being generated internally.
‘Big Data’ is a term that has grown out of the Web enabled digital world we now inhabit. It does not merely refer to the volume of data with which companies have to grapple, but also the unstructured complexity of all the data being created.
Utilising both the publicly available data, and combining it with a company’s own proprietary information, provides businesses with an opportunity to have an unprecedented understanding of their prospects and customers. Storing this information, making it searchable and usable, sharing it across an organisation and being able to analyse it, is a fundamental challenge being faced by all businesses today.
However, if businesses want to be able to compete in the digital age, it is something with which all companies will have to come to terms. The organisations that utilise this data most effectively will be the winners in the digital age. No matter what your size of business, this is an area which needs to be addressed. There are an increasing amount of tools and products to enable businesses to capture, analyse and make sense of all the information available. The insight which can be gained is simply astounding. For example, Google flu trends uses search terms to be able to predict the spread of flu throughout the world.
It is the ‘insight’ this data can provide that will enable an organisation to create real competitive advantage. The understanding that a world of ‘big data’ affords, allows companies to segment customers into much smaller groups than ever before. This, in turn, gives companies the opportunity to personalise every interaction it has with each individual prospect and customer. Whether it is the information a business presents on its website, or the range of choices it gives customers, all aspects of an offering can be relevant and tailored to an individual.
People no longer buy products and services, but ‘experiences’. In a world with a ubiquity of choice, most products and services are the same. Differentiation is no longer in the product or service itself, but in the experience created around the offering. The term ‘mass personalisation’ has been used for some time. By utilising the data available, businesses today have the ability to personalise the experience they provide for every individual. It is this individual experience that will attract and retain customers as well as create advocates for a business.
From product development to service delivery, the data available to all businesses will allow them to improve performance and decision making, develop better products and services and deliver unbeatable personal experiences. The companies that learn to analyse and utilise data effectively will be able to create unprecedented opportunities to thrive, while becoming increasingly relevant in their customers’ lives. The businesses that fail to do this will simply become irrelevant and disappear.