What is “big data” and why should it matter to marketers?
I recently posited the question, “Do marketers know what ‘big data’ is?” at a networking event for marketers, and the response I got was unexpected: “Do they really need to?”
I was taken aback, likening the response to questioning whether or not we should include social media strategies in marketing campaigns today. Marketers today, whether they are aware of it or not, constantly work with data so of course they should know what “big data” is and how it differs from “small data.”
Then I realized that, until recently, there was no WAY for marketers to understand big data. The shift of data availability beyond statisticians and IT managers is a recent development.
The surge in conversation about “big data” is the result of a sequence of events so let’s talk about how “big data” came about.
Up until the invention of the PC, data was a cruel mistress, demanding hand-written calculations, myriad sheets of paper, and a lot of patience to analyze.
The rise of the PC was a critical first step in giving data a home and a way to sort through thousands of items. Users can now access vast amounts of data easily (via cloud computing, computational capabilities, etc.).
As a result of the ability to compute large quantities of information and display the output graphically, the number of channels we use to market our products and services has grown causing an increase in the amount of data we can collect.
Finally, based on availability and technological capability to manipulate and illustrate our data, the business intelligence community has risen along with products to make it easier.
So why does any of this matter to marketers? Data today refers to a set of three characteristics: condition, location, and population.