Big data might seem like a big buzzword, but there’s no denying that it’s a hot topic in the industry.
In fact, big data has quickly gone from being the domain of tech geeks and data analysts to being a tool for social good that has the potential to save lives by crunching numbers and providing actionable insights that support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
But despite that, many marketers are struggling to take advantage of big data. That’s not surprising when you consider Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s famous statement that we create as much data every two days as we did from the dawn of time since 2003. We’re overwhelmed by it.
Chillingly, Schmidt also believes that “Big data is so powerful that nation-states will fight” over it. But we’ll leave that to the politicians. Instead, let’s take a look at what Big Data means for marketers.
Trend #1: Increased Focus on Security
If the recent high-profile attacks on the NHS taught us anything, it’s the importance of up-to-date security. And while it might seem as though cybersecurity has little to do with big data, we’re entering an era in which the data that companies hold can be worth more than their tangible assets. Social networking sites are a great example of this – companies like Facebook and Twitter make money by aggregating their users’ data and allowing advertisers to pay to reach specific subsections of society.
Cybersecurity, then, will take on increasing importance for businesses of all shapes and sizes, regardless of how much big data the businesses are processing. But it’s certainly true that those with large, proprietary datasets will invest more time and resources to reduce the odds of their data being compromised and to fight the $100 billion that cybercrime costs the global economy every year.
Trend #2: More Dark Data
Dark data is a term that’s used to refer to owned information that’s yet to be digitized. For example, many older companies have years of personnel data and sales information from the pre-computer era, living a separate, dark existence in some storage room.
But the rise of big data is reminding business owners of the importance of historical records, and it’s increasingly being digitized and put to use by finance departments, HR departments and even marketing departments. Instead of leaving it to rot in a filing cabinet, it can be put to use to identify recurring trends and product cycles that you can use to plan for the future.
Trend #3: Real-Time Analytics
We live in a culture that wants everything now, but many big data platforms are slow and cumbersome, taking their time to process the huge datasets that they have to handle. That’s set to change as providers face increasing pressure from marketers and senior executives to provide real-time analytics so that they can take immediate action.
This is likely to require a significant rethink on the part of providers. They’ll need to change the way that their software works, incurring additional costs for greater processing power and passing those costs on to users. But it’ll be worth it for accurate, up-to-date data, and it’s a premium that more and more brands will be happy to pay.
Trend #4: Talent Shortages
As big data becomes more and more mainstream, the demand for skilled professionals is set to increase, particularly amongst marketers who are looking to get a leg up on the competition. That’s likely to lead to a disparity between supply and demand until the next generation of marketers catches up and big data analytical skills become as commonplace as a basic understanding of SEO and email marketing.
In the meantime, big data is crying out for thought-leaders and influencers who can take the field further into the new millennium. The people who rise to the challenge will be able to command huge salaries from the bigger companies, while smaller companies will struggle to understand the trend and stay relevant.
This is likely to lead to a simultaneous increase in the number of companies that specialize in big data analytics. Agencies can gather expertise in a single place and rent out employees to the highest bidders, catering to the increasing demand while creating hotspots for talent development and innovation.
Trend #5: Privacy Concerns
Privacy concerns are a hot topic at the moment. Politicians are passing legislation, law enforcement agencies are lobbying for custom-built backdoors and more and more marketing departments are storing large amounts of data on their customers.
Because of this, consumers are becoming more educated when it comes to privacy law and their statutory rights. It’s impossible to tell exactly what the future will hold, but it’s likely that new laws will be passed over time to give customers greater control over what their data is used for, which could have a knock-on effect for analytical tools and marketing campaigns.
Without a crystal ball, the best thing to do is to focus on developing relationships with customers while offering them full control over how you contact them. Use double opt-ins where possible and make sure that you never betray their trust by compromising the data. This won’t stop legislation from being passed, but it will increase your odds of being fully compliant when it eventually, inevitably happens.
Big data is an emerging frontier for both marketers and for businesses in general. And, with the number of internet connected devices predicted to reach 38 billion by 2020, the amount of data that we have is set to increase exponentially.
With a bit of luck, Eric Schmidt will be proved wrong and nation-states won’t fight over it. Marketers, on the other hand…