In case you haven’t heard, Big Data is now going mainstream, moving from the supercomputing environment to enterprise IT applications. For digital marketers and advertisers in particular, the benefits of bringing Big Data mainstream are unmistakable: They now have access to a goldmine of untapped (unstructured) information previously unusable.
Indeed, unstructured information has sat untouched for years, mostly because we couldn’t organize it so that our systems could understand it. However, with new technology, this glut of data on customers, products and so on, flowing in from various online and offline sources, can now be translated into tangible analytics — that is, valuable information on customer preferences and behaviors — that guide how and to whom brands advertise online.
Just how much data do these marketers and advertisers have to play with? This will give you an idea: IDC estimates that by 2020, the total amount of electronically stored data will reach 35 trillion gigabytes.
A Whole New Ballgame in Digital Marketing
Big Data is changing the game for digital marketers and advertisers, who for years have tried unsuccessfully to leverage this very granular, unstructured information to gain a deeper understanding of their customers so they can develop more targeted and successful marketing and advertising efforts. “The ability to analyze a digital marketing campaign’s effectiveness is of utmost importance for any business, but it’s certainly a tedious task that requires a significant amount of time,” laments Joanne Ooi, cofounder of Plukka, an e-commerce site focused on high-end designer jewelry.
Before the Big Data revolution, the impact of online marketing campaigns was measured in click-through rates, bounce rates and page views, with campaign performance recorded in Excel. This type of information, although helpful, couldn’t provide the type of insight marketers needed to refine their campaigns to boost performance and net massive returns. And the time it took to enter it into Excel proved too time-consuming.
Meanwhile, the Internet expanded its avenues for online communication, and online marketing methods grew along with it, ranging from SEO, pay-per-click, display advertising, email marketing, etc. The large sets of digital data that resulted — Big Data — could be mined to reveal insight about the success (or lack thereof) of online marketing efforts and advertising campaigns. It now included search rankings, conversions, site visits, open and click-through rates, buying and research behaviors, surfing histories — the list goes on. (Needless to say, the onslaught of data was a bit too much for poor Excel to handle.)
Actionable Data at Your Fingertips
While this flood of data has the potential to revolutionize the industry, digital marketers and advertisers face a huge challenge: actually making sense of the data. Like anything “revolutionary,” Big Data is still a little rough around the edges. By all accounts, the technology to collect, process and analyze it is costly and inefficient. Marketers underscore this assertion, convinced they don’t have the tools to mine the information they’re presented with and bemoaning the missed opportunities in unused data. The sentiment is echoed in a recent study commissioned by DataXu, Inc. In “CMOs Believe Big Data is a Game Changer, But Acknowledge That They Are Not Yet in the Game,” DataXu reveals that 75 percent of respondents believe Big Data can dramatically improve their marketing efforts; however, 58 percent feel they are lacking in skills and technology required for data analytics.
Marketers and advertisers need only look to a select few list marketing companies like Rapleaf, Merkle, Axicom, Epsilon and Marketfish, though, to overcome this perceived challenge. Familiar with the Big Data concept for years, these companies have now harnessed it with their own advanced analytics technology tools. They are leveraging billions of pieces of information to create tangible analytics about the performance of specific campaigns. This is in sharp contrast to a few years ago, when data was easily collected but sat unused and forgotten in datamarts because it proved too difficult to access. As these companies have shown us, technology has enabled us to finally make sense of this data and use it to the advantage of today’s marketers and advertisers.
Plukka’s Ooi uses Marketfish’s technology, and has leveraged the data to not only realize how her campaigns are performing, but also run a better business. “Marketfish brings incredible value to the table by delivering the tools we need to automatically gain insight into our campaigns, which ensures we have enough time left over to focus on other initiatives equally important in running our business.”
When it’s effectively and efficiently mined by advanced data analytics tools, the true promise of Big Data is within reach for today’s digital marketers and advertisers. Campaigns are more successful, thanks to more information that reveals who, exactly should be targeted. (For example, instead of emailing everyone in a marketing drip file when a women’s clothing sale is imminent, marketers can now email just women. It enables advertisers to serve an ad for a product only to those who have been looking for it, or to people who need it but don’t know it yet. The possibilities are endless.)
Indeed, when marketers and advertisers master the ability to manage their digital marketing data and extract value from it, they will realize massive returns on their campaign efforts.