Jeffrey Vocell

Big data has been this year’s buzzword in numerous blog posts, news stories, and articles. Marketers are trying to figure out how to apply theoretical concepts and turn them into programs that generate real ROI.

This is one of the reasons SiteSpect attended and exhibited at the recent Digital Analytics Association (DAA) Symposium in New York where we discussed Cutting Big Data Down to Size. The day was jam-packed with real examples of practitioners, agencies, and vendors alike using big data to generate ROI and meaningful insights from their company data.

Big Data is Becoming More Practical and Actionable

To kick off the day, Blair Reeves, Product Lead at IBM Digital Analytics, spoke about how big data will survive and even thrive as information continues to grow. Reeves outlined how big data has always been around, but it wasn’t until recently we started labeling and talking about it. The U.S. Census started collecting data on citizens in 1790, which took rooms full of clerks and years to tabulate, making any results clearly invalid. A century later in 1890, the first tabulating computer was used to read the census surveys. As opposed to the significant time it took to calculate results by hand, in 1890 the tabulation computers were able to calculate population results after only six weeks.

As time has gone on, we have seen gigantic leaps in technology and the size of data. In Reeves’ own words, “40% of the world’s population is now connected to the Internet. In many places, only from smartphones.” As the size of population grows and the amount of information we collect increases, we can use this data for finding trends. For example, from all of the search data that Google generates, it has developed a way to analyze search patterns and show flu trends. In addition, Blair gave the example of IBM Watson, a Jeopardy-winning supercomputer that utilizes significant amounts of data to understand context and answer questions.

The point is that we all have more information about customers and website visitors than ever before. We have a vast amount of data to drive hypotheses that can now be tested and validated. This is the key to success in running campaigns and creating customer experiences that generate real ROI.

Social Analytics Help Present a Clear Picture

In the mid-afternoon, Richard Sussman, Co-Founder of Fractal Sciences, shared how his organization is building tools that enable companies to utilize and collaborate on social data and marketing campaigns.

This collaboration on data can result in significant time savings and business wins. For example, if your social media department is analyzing a campaign, and the team responsible for your on-site search is also analyzing social data in order to test social share buttons, there obviously should be some collaboration between them. This collaboration may mean that the team running a testing campaign on on-site search could generate a hypothesis more quickly.

As Sussman said, “You cannot optimize effectively, without talking to one another.” As with any marketing and testing efforts, communication is the one of the keys to success.

Data is So Important, It Has Its Own Celebrity

In the follow-up session to Sussman, Dan Stubbs from Condé Nast spoke about the importance of data at his company. For perspective, Condé Nast is a mass-media brand that publishes print and digital content such as Allure, Ars Technica, Glamour, GQ, The New Yorker, Wired, and more.

Nate Silver, a statistician who correctly predicted the 2008 presidential election, immediately gained recognition for his insights into data. In some rights, he has become a celebrity among digital marketers and analysts, as he now analyzes baseball activity for ESPN.

How do Condé Nast publications and Nate Silver relate? Because media brands, especially those with print and digital content, know more about their customers than most. From physical surveys to digital analytics, they can develop customer profiles and target specific digital experiences for individual customer segments.

One thing Stubbs said is, “Know your data, know your audience.” I would add: “validate your data with testing,” so you can continue to gain a deeper understanding of your customers and the experience that gets them closer to your business goals.

It’s a Wrap

The informative day concluded with trends of big data, and how this data is reshaping products and entire industries. There were a few themes that carried throughout the entire day and are important to remember when talking about big data:

  • Understanding the tools and having the right team are crucial to making the most of your big data.
  • Weave data into your overall marketing strategy, and prove to management the value of tools and technologies you are using.
  • Test any hypotheses that come out of your big data. This helps validate trend information, and provides deep customer experience information that can be used in future campaigns.
  • Distinguish the signal from the noise and ensure you validate that signal.
Tags: A/B & Multivariate Testing