One of the most important trends in technology in recent years has been the rise of Big Data. Many people are not fully acquainted with this concept yet, but it is one that is set to completely revolutionise the way that marketing and business operates. In simple terms, Big Data is any form or source of information which is so large that traditional data processing methodology is unable to deal with it. Big Data has become particularly associated with cloud computing, which enables such scale and scope of information to be collected, collated and eventually analysed.
Big Data spending rise
Already there is evidence that Big Data is becoming a significant focus of marketers in Europe, particularly in Britain, Germany and France. In September 2014, the International Data Corporation (IDC) forecast that spending on Big Data technology and services in Western Europe would rise from $2.3 billion to $2.9 billion between 2013 and 2014. And overall expenditure in the region is tipped to reach $6.8 billion by 2018.
The vast growth in the production of data is very much fuelling this trend, and this is a process which is set to accelerate in the future. Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently asserted that the human race now creates more data in two days than it did between the dawn of civilisation and 2003! Quite simply, failing to pay heed to this important development will cause companies massive commercial disadvantage in the future, and may even jeopardise their very existence.
A report published by Forrester regarding Big Data and customer engagement contains many useful lessons and takeaways for digital marketers. It will be increasingly necessary for the companies of the future to effectively invest in Big Data solutions in order to efficiently manage their businesses. Big Data can be an outstanding catalyst to improve decision-making within companies of all sizes.
As Forrester documents, in the future, commerce will increasingly move away from siloed, transaction-oriented computing to more integrated, socially aware systems, which will pose big challenges related to customer data. This will necessitate businesses investing in installations in order to effectively manage the Big Data which is created.
Unstructured data critical
While the volume of structured data from traditional transactional business applications like ERP and CRM continues to grow, CIOs are facing an onslaught of unstructured data from multiple sources such as social platforms and semi-structured data from machine-to-machine (M2M) communication. As companies increasingly utilise this data in their decision-making processes, CIOs will be forced to approach Big Data technology rollouts in a more holistic fashion. The most successful CIOs will work with businesses closely to explore the data and target specific use cases.
Online platforms such as social media feeds are generating vast amounts of unstructured data, and are among the most significant sources of Big Data. Dealing with this data is extremely complicated due to its sheer scale, but successfully doing so can literally be the difference between success and failure. Ultimately this is vital customer data, and information gleaned from such important platforms as social media and mobile devices can assist organisations in better understanding their consumers. In particular, social media and mobile-generated data is particularly prolifically produced by the key millennials demographic, which is a vital customer base for many businesses.
In addition to these sources, phenomena such as RFID and sensor networks, which are typically used in B2B environments, transmit semi-structured data that firms must harness in order to make better business decisions. Already sophisticated predictive models have been developed, which are being implemented with real-time data streams to assist businesses in the ongoing process of better understanding and measuring their engagement with customers.
It is also important for businesses to remember that Big Data is a daunting prospect for the human mind. Anything of the sort of scope that Big Data represents will be intimidating for many people to even contemplate let alone comprehend, so presenting information in a digestible form must be considered essential. Thus, the use of visualisation tools can be extremely valuable in presenting data to employees.
The Internet of Things
Big Data is also playing a significant role in M2M (machine to machine) communication and the growth of the Internet of Things. The Internet of things is a technology predicted to be extremely significant in the future, which will involve everyday household items such as refrigerators, washing machines, televisions and even lightbulbs being permanently connected to the Internet, and acquiring certain apparent aspects of intelligence.
Additionally, this data revolution is enabling the development of new applications, which is playing a significant role in innovation across a raft of business sectors. In accordance with this, open-data presents an interesting trend, enabling public organisations and companies to open up their data and make it available to developers.
There is little doubt that we are currently living in an Information Age, but with the advent of Big Data it seems that this age is only just beginning. Businesses and marketers will need to keep very much on top of this developing technology if they are to remain commercially relevant in the coming years.
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