A few years ago, it was completely acceptable for a retailer to know if a customer was walking around in its store. Today, big data is changing everything: Retailers can know not only that customers are in their stores, but also who they are, what their shopping patterns are, what they’re looking for and how you can give them personalized offers and experiences.
In a CIO roundtable panel at ITEXPO Miami, Tery Howard, senior VP and CTO of the Miami Dolphins, Naresh Adurty, architect at Teradata, and Herman Nell, CIO at Rent-A-Center, came together for a session, “Rationalizing the Dataverse – How Big Data is Changing Everything,” to discuss how big data is impacting their businesses and what steps organizations need to take to use big data to improve their strategies and customer service.
The first step is making the business case for big data. The number of data points organizations can use for information on customers is growing exponentially – Nell noted that 80 percent of all the data in the world was created in the last two years. All three panelists agree that big data provides value for getting to know customers better and therefore being able to serve them in more personalized, innovative ways, but there are some things to consider when getting started.
A company’s approach to using big data can make or break its success in finding valuable data. There’s a difference between digging through data to see what problems you can solve versus knowing what problem you have and then looking for the data to solve it.
Many organizations, including the panelists, use big data as a means to improve the customer experience. The benefit of collecting so much customer data is understanding who they are, what they like, what they’re looking for and how you can cater to their needs. The key, however, to delivering these personalized experiences is doing it in a timely manner. Companies also have to maintain integrity behind their big data uses – customers are selecting to share their data to receive value, so companies need to make sure they are not only delivering that value, but keeping that data secure.
Adurty emphasizes the need for a consensus on defining big data. It is volume? Is it value? If you ask 10 different people to define big data, you will receive 10 different answers, he says. The second step is making a business case for big data and determining what data is valuable to your business – what he refers to as a “golden nugget.” Then it’s about taking those golden nuggets and integrating them with traditional databases to take the data to the next step.
“The data points are there – it’s about, ‘Now, what do we do with them? How do we react in a timely fashion? That’s where big data comes in,’” Howard said.
Nell explained that retailers don’t have the resources to go and analyze all of this data they are pulling in. He predicts a shift into a new industry he likes to refer to as “Data as a Service” to help companies identify the valuable pieces of data for a given customers. As the volume of data increases with every connected product, staying ahead of the curve becomes a challenge for small companies – they’ll rely on experts to stand up and provide help.
The panel agreed, saying that big data technology is very new, and there are not that many people out there who can find the golden nuggets. IT people may look at a golden nugget and think nothing gof it, and business executives are looking at technology so complex they don’t even know where to start – the evolution in big data is bridging that gap.
Just like social media revolutionized the way business engage with customers and manage their reputation, big data will transform the way businesses understand their customer base and serve more personalized experiences that cater to specific needs. There is a lot of responsibility that comes with big data – like legal components and keeping customer data secure – but the benefits outweigh the challenges and it will continue to be a trend transforming the way business and customers interact.