What Is Big Data? How Is It Used in Marketing?


Big data comes with even bigger opportunities to increase your brand’s reach!

In a world where every single product segment is over-saturated, brands have to try extremely hard to make themselves stand out. And yet, some brands are really, really good at it. If you have ever felt that a brand just gets you, like they know all your choices before you even know them yourself, chances are that they actually do. 

It would come as no surprise to any of us that the places where we shop collect our personal details, such as contact numbers, email addresses, purchase history, among a range of other information. Brands tend to collect this data either by directly asking their customers (either when they make a purchase or through loyalty programs) or by tracking their activity online through cookies and even social media. Sometimes, brands even purchase this data from third-party data companies. They use this data to curate their brand image to fit the needs of their customers. 

A collection of this data in massive quantities (think every customer ever!) is what we call big data. As of 2020, 94% of all businesses believe that big data is essential to business success and yet 63% of companies cannot make sense of this data. Let’s take a look at big data in detail and how you can use it to effectively market your business.

Understanding big data

There are three main types of big data:

Structured data

This is data that has been categorized according to various criteria. The easiest way to understand this would be to imagine a spreadsheet where different rows and columns have been created based on categories, like age, contact information etc. This kind of data is the easiest to work with because it comes pre-divided into categories, so you don’t have to make much effort to interpret it. 

Unstructured data

This consists of data sets that cannot be neatly categorized. Think of your social media activities, like the posts you share, the audio/video you record or the tweets you post—these would all come under this category. To be clear, some social media activities, like follower counts and friends might come under structured data. In comparison to structured data, unstructured data is harder to sift through and process, as you can’t just put them in different boxes. However, they can still give you rich insights into your customers if properly analyzed. 

Semi-structured data

This consists of data that is teetering on the edge between structured and unstructured categories. Most often, it is unstructured data with metadata (like time or location) attached to it. Let’s say you took a picture—the picture itself would be a piece of unstructured data. However, information, like the location and timestamp of the picture and its file size would fall under the category of structured data.  

How to market your company with big data?

Now that we know the different kinds of data, it is crucial to learn how it can be leveraged to market your business. 

Improve customer relationship 

Marketers can use the information revealed by big data to bring in new customers and even strengthen existing customer relationships. For instance, the UK-based grocery chain Tesco used big data to analyze the needs of their customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learning that the elderly/physically vulnerable as well as the frontline workers were at major risk of being affected by the virus, the brand created exclusive slots for them to purchase groceries both online and in stores. Upon putting these slots in place, the company saw a 4.5% increase in customer satisfaction. 

Optimize product prices

Big data can also be used to come up with an optimal pricing strategy for your products. Analyzing big data can help you understand closely the factors impacting customers’ buying behaviors, such as the economic situation of your customers, prices of competitors’ products and inflation rates over the years. While the marketing team might not get a say on prices, data can help them justify the company’s pricing decisions when preparing the marketing strategy. For example, Amazon uses a dynamic pricing strategy where it changes prices 2.5 million times a day from analyzing various factors, like how much inventory they have of the product and how much the competitors are pricing the products for. 

Create personalized shopping experiences

Finally, you can use big data to personalize your marketing efforts to the specific tastes of your customers. Marketers can analyze the time a user spends on a specific page of the company’s website and recommend the right products to them. This is what food retailer Krogers has been doing. The company sends out personalized coupons to its customers on a quarterly basis. The company designs these coupons based on what the customer has continued to like over the years and also as an experiment to promote relevant items (such as recommending diapers to those who shop for baby food). 

To use customer data the same way these big brands do, you can partner with data analytics firms to help you find meaningful patterns in the data that you have collected. You can then use these patterns to make predictions about how customers might behave in the future. 

The data available to marketers continues to grow year-on-year. It is expected that by 2025, 181 zettabytes (a trillion GB) of data will be created. As the amount of data grows, so will the avenues of how the data can be used to enhance a company’s image. It is, therefore, crucial to invest in big data analytics to gain an edge over competitors. 

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Header image courtesy of Freepik


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