After the shine of big data wears off...
August 5, 2015 at 1:23pm by Adam Spadaro
The Accelerated Age ushered in a host of capabilities that enable brands to better communicate with their consumers. Yet, out of all the new capabilities, perhaps the most overhyped is big data. Forget for a moment that the term big data has been hijacked so often that its original meaning has devolved to simply refer to data. Ironically, the most overhyped issue with big data is that it is too big. The notion that "more is better" overshadows the key benefit of data – the ability to predict consumer behaviour.
As many big data skeptics will point out, the value of data is not dependent on the quantity, but it is dependent on the data’s predictive utility. The more data there is to analyze makes it easier for human biases to creep in to the interpretation. Essentially, it is easier to find data that confirms what we set out to find in the first place - regardless of whether it is actually predictive or not (look up the “confirmatory bias” if you’re interested). Overcoming these shortcomings places more of an importance on the quality rather than the quantity of data.
Big data without the ability to make qualified predictions about consumer behaviour is useless. Yet that idea is lost in the continuous deluge of new data sources that entice brands to keep collecting more consumer data or risk falling behind. Eventually there will be a tipping point when brands will be compelled to turn all that raw data into something more valuable. Collecting all this raw data is analogous to a prospector buying up plots of land hoping to find a goldmine. The gold is there somewhere, but there are a lot more places to look and a lot more opportunities to confuse real gold with fool’s gold.
Despite the cautionary overtones in this post, this is actually an exciting time for brands and agencies to truly understand their consumers better than ever. Brands that unlocked the true potential of big data, the Amazon’s, Netflix, and Uber’s of the world, have created such a strong understanding of their consumer’s needs that those brands have developed almost an instinctual trust. They’ve fostered such an intimate relationship with their customer that they are able to predict what the customer wants before the customer even knows it. But if you’re thinking, “not every brand can be Amazon”, fear not, the ideal state of big data is already attainable for most brands. Brands already have enough data. Now, it is a matter of prioritizing how to make sense of all this data. Brands that are able to do that will turn their data into gold.