Posted November 21, 2012 8:20 am by with 0 comments

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Big data is a term you hear bandied about a lot these days, but what exactly does it mean?

Big data refers to any collection of information that is so large, you can’t use normal means to process it. For example, I can list all of the kids in the local elementary school on a spreadsheet then use conventional sort methods to find out how many are girls, how many are born in December, how many have siblings in the same school. Easy.

Now, suppose I want to mine that same information, but with all the kids in every elementary school in the US. That would require a very, very large spreadsheet and better tools for sorting and quantifying.

In online marketing, we’re looking a big data sets connected to internet usage. We begin with a simple slice from Monetate’s new Infographic “The Retailer’s Guide to Big Data.”

Then we add in other types of data collected by retailers on the internet. Names, addresses, birth dates, phone numbers, email. Then we move beyond personal identifiers into personal preferences; what did a person buy, how often did they buy, did they buy the blue one more often than the red one. From there we expand to product reviews, and Likes and Pins on Pinterest, shared links, photos and blog posts. Each of these items tells us something about the person who interacted with each of these experiences.

As of now, 90% of the world’s online data was created in the past two years. As we spend more time using our computers and mobile devices, the data sets will continue to grow exponentially until this happens.

Talk about BIG data. Just imagine what you, the marketer, could do with all this data if you had the means to sort it, refine it and use it to present the right product to the right person at the right time.

When asked what the biggest obstacle was to using this data, the major of people (51%) said lack of sharing was making it hard to calculate ROI. Really? So, basically, they want more data?

45% said they aren’t using the data effectively to personalize marketing efforts and that’s a catch all for a lot of problems.That also goes along with the third highest response, “not able to link the data together at the individual customer level.”

What both of those buckets are saying is that we know the data is out there, we know it’s useful, but we don’t know how to make it so.

Monetate has a five step plan for putting big data to work. Honestly, their five steps are as intimidating to me as the concept itself. There is one step that I can relate to:


Don’t let the “bigness” crush you. By picking one area, you’re able to segment the data into a smaller, manageable chunk.

Some examples:

Look only at the customers who have shopped more than six times in a year to determine a pattern. What can you do to anticipate their need? Instead of buying 12 cases of widgets every six months, auto ship two cases every month to avoid the panic and keep their supply chain running smoothly.

Have a large number of sales coming from one part of the country? Maybe it would pay to have a distribution center in the area to cut down on shipping time and costs.

Big or small, collecting information is only worth the effort if you use it to improve your business. Don’t fear the data buckets, make them work for you by dealing with one bucket at a time.

Want to see the full infographic? Just click here.