Overcoming Your Big Data Fears

If you're like many business leaders, you freeze like a deer in headlights when someone mentions big data. Although collecting, analyzing, and leveraging customer data is a concern for 72 percent of business and IT leaders, just 44 percent have taken action to address it, according to PwC's Sixth Annual Digital IQ Survey. To bridge this gap, marketers need to communicate to the C-suite how customer insights gleaned from big data can be used to increase sales, drive strategic decision-making across departments, and help businesses gain a competitive advantage.

Why are so many businesses hesitating? With a massive amount of customer data coming from many sources, including Web sites, email, social media, mobile, customer service, data warehouses, and more, collecting and using this data can seem daunting. In addition, there's an overwhelming surge of unstructured data—not just from social media but also the growing volume of audio and hardcopy text that's being digitized at an unprecedented pace, adding to the challenge of determining how to organize data so that it's usable. Not to mention figuring out how to incorporate data from different channels, including mobile, to get a 360-degree customer view.

Collecting, analyzing and using customer data intelligently is definitely a challenge. No one has it totally figured out, and there's no easy one-size-fits-all solution. However, it's critical for marketers to get in the game now or risk falling way behind their competitors in terms of being able to offer customers personalized omnichannel experiences.

Why marketers need to leverage data effectively

There are several important reasons marketers need to get on the customer data bandwagon. Data management and analytics enable marketers to do the following:

Navigate increasing complexity, including the proliferation of channels and touchpoints, the shift to a nonlinear purchase cycle, and the demands of serving customers 24/7.

Apply advanced marketing capabilities, including real-time personalization and marketing automation.

Speak the C-suite's language, using data to support strategy and planning as well as demonstrate quantifiable results. According to a Harvard Business Review article that cites a 2012 CEB study, marketers still rely too much on intuition, leveraging data for just 11 percent of customer-related decisions.

Gain competitive advantage by driving strategic decisions with customer insights. According to PwC, 65 percent of business leaders believe big data will give them an edge.

More accurately understand the return on investment for the full suite of marketing tactics and optimize the mix with marketing and media mix modeling.

Overcome your big data fears

The good news is marketers don't have to be overwhelmed by big data. It's possible to take incremental steps to becoming more data 

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