Make your marketing work smarter with big data

While big data analytics are increasingly being adopted across all parts of the enterprise, one area where the technology is already maturing at a rapid rate is when it comes to improving firms' marketing.

This is often one of the first targets for businesses that are just starting out in the world of big data – and with good reason. In many cases, a lot of the data that firms need to make the most of this will already exist, gathered from years worth of customer records and transactions, so it may well be a case of ensuring the right technologies are in place to utilise this.

Some examples of what can be achieved when it comes to marketing are already well-known, such as the ability to make messaging and offers more personal. Writing for Smart Data Collective, consultant Anand Srinivasan observed that in today's environment, this is often the key to a successful campaign.

Examples where personalisation has helped firms abound, from supermarket loyalty cards that can provide users offers based on what they commonly buy to car rental companies using customer profiling to deliver more relevant marketing in a sector where differentiation is tricky.

But learning more about customer demographics and preferences is far from the only way in which big data analytics can help firms boost their marketing.

For instance, Mr Srinivasan said analytics can be used to drill deep into the performance of marketing channels to determine what is working best.

"When you have data, any and every challenge can be tackled through the use of data. It's not just an online thing," he said. "When every single miniscule difference between two scenarios can be compared, it helps to drastically improve the efficiency of your systems and helps optimising your marketing dollars better."

This may include identifying if a conference booth gets better results if it's staffed with two people rather than three, or if engagement is increased at an event by the use of a mobile conference app. Famously, Google trialled 41 different shades of blue when deciding on the colour scheme of its sites, using big data to spot the tiniest differences in user responses.

Another key way in which big data can help boost marketing is by enabling companies to proactively predict user behaviour, rather than reacting to it after the fact. Effective use of predictive analytics can give a business advance warning of new trends before they become obvious to everyone, or highlight correlations in spending patterns that firms can take advantage of with new offers and promotions.

Mr Srinivasan said: "From the outset, it may appear that there is nothing common between a pair of glasses and a computer. But if your big data analytics shows that people who buy a new computer also purchase a new pair of glasses around the same time, you could offer an attractive combo deal."

While this may not be a real-world example, businesses may often be surprised at the relationship between certain items that might not be immediately obvious without the use of analytics tools. But by identifying these relationships early, buyers can be offered the exact deals they want, meaning they are happier consumers and the business gains not only another sale, but hopefully, a loyal customer for the long term.