Big Data - What it Can do for You

'Big data' is one of those thing I have heard described as a 'popular term' or 'catchphrase', but someone more unsympathetic would label it a 'buzzword'. I’ll admit, there is a huge amount of buzz and hype surrounding the field, but behind this hype hides an incredibly important and valuable business resource.

In short, big data is a catch-all term for the incredible volume and variety of information that is becoming available at an ever-increasing pace, and that is too complex to be processed through traditional methods. Just think about how much data even a relatively small ecommerce site collects on a day-to-day basis (everything from basic demographics through to individual customer preferences), and then imagine how a company like Amazon copes. Clearly, your own on-site server isn’t going to cope.

So, you gather all the information that your business receives in the course of its daily dealings, but what is the point of it all? After all, you can have as much unstructured incoming data as you like, but what good is this going to do you? By embracing the power of the cloud to process, analyse and monetise this data, you can go beyond the buzz and make big data work for you. The applications are obviously unique to each and every organisation, but here are some great examples to inspire you.

Big data is cool (honestly)

Tesco may not be the flavour of the month (or year…), but the retail behemoth has turned to Big Data to make sense of its often unwieldy empire. Refrigeration temperatures may not be the sexiest topic, but hear me out. Tesco has over 3000 sites spread across the UK and Ireland, so keeping on top of the costs from all of these stores is imperative. A trial at their Irish stores found that fridges were being kept colder than necessary, and that 20% savings could be made. Hardly thrilling, but scale this up to the wider business and the savings would amount to a rather tasty €20 million. Big data allowed Tesco to analyse and react to something seemingly innocuous that actually has huge cost implications for the business. The only trouble? This small trial involved collecting over 70 million pieces of data, and Tesco told the press at the time that they had reached the limits of their on prem capacity. If only they’d used AWS....

21st century broadcasting

As an industry that relies directly on the tastes and whims of the general publishing, television has long used metrics to inform its output. However, this was traditionally based on tracking the viewing habits of a few thousand households before extrapolating that data to approximate nationwide figures. Obviously this is hardly an ideal approach, so the emergence of big data has been something of a godsend. Channel 4 was an early adopter of AWS, and recognised the benefits of gathering and processing all the data it received through its online platforms. By analysing the preferences of its on-demand viewers, C4 has been able to offer up better recommendations but also give greater value to its advertisers. Its data modelling systems are so sophisticated that they can predict the demographics (age, gender, class etc.) of anonymous viewers based on their selection of content, which can in turn be used by advertisers for improved targeting.

Predictive marketing (and when to stop)

Target is one of the US’s biggest discount retailers, second only to Wal-Mart, and therefore has access to an incredible wealth of data from its millions of regular customers. This is used in the typical ways, such as targeting mailshots of coupons at purchasers of particular products in the hope of a repeat purchase. This is specifically common in the case of products aimed at new mothers, as pregnancy and childbirth are times  at which spending habits are often formed. In order to beat its competitors, Target wished to market to expectant mothers in their second trimester, at which point there may not be any baby-specific products being bought. It turned to big data and established a list of around 25 products that mothers at this stage of pregnancy tend to buy, and thus went on to mail out relevant coupons to these customers. This move did backfire in notorious fashion, when it was reported that the father of a teenage girl realised that Target knew his daughter was pregnant before he did, but the power of big data is demonstrated well enough. With great power comes great responsibility, after all.

As you can now see, big data has had a huge and varied impact on business across the enterprise spectrum. The question is, can you see potential for growth with the help of optimising your data usage? Find out more by watching our big data webinar, hosted by one of Cloudreach’s own experts in the field!