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Let Big Data Make You a Star, Not a Laughingstock

Big data can make you look spectacular, being the first one to announce a great deal on a sought-after new product or the hero offering the customer the trip of a lifetime. Or, big data can make you look like an idiot — the one who spilled the beans about a teen’s pregnancy or the big company that let the bad guys get hold of sensitive or embarrassing data about your customers. Here is your guide for making your data allow you to shine, not hide in shame. (We’re looking at you, Target.)

Do Use Big Data to Get to Know Your Customers


Big data can define your customers for you, especially when combined with outside data like social media.

Big data can tell you all sorts of things about your customers that helps you serve their needs better. However, don’t just depend on your in-house data on their shopping patterns to get this picture. Supplement your own data with social media data. Find out if the people who use your products also like comedians or sports figures, politics or TV dramas. Learn whether they prefer rock music or opera, what kinds of cars they drive, and how many kids the average customer has. With social data, you can get a much wider picture of your customers and use this information to tailor your messages.

Do Use Big Data to Meet Their Needs

Target did get something right — they learned to anticipate their customer’s needs. Definitely use big data and Hadoop to determine who’s preparing to go on vacation, who’s looking to buy a new vehicle, or who’s getting ready to retire. These data points can be extremely helpful in pitching the right product at the right time in the right way.

Don’t Use Big Data in Potentially Embarrassing Ways

You also have to be cognizant that not everyone wants anyone to know what’s going on in their life. For example, data might indicate a particular medical condition based on certain products they buy, but is this something the customer wants to know that you know? In a world where people fall under fire for all sorts of things (weight, religion, ethnicity, medical conditions), customers get wary of giving TMI (Too Much Information) on themselves. Set well-defined policies on where, when, and how (and if) you need to move ahead with certain marketing messages based on what you can determine about the customer based on their data.

Don’t Collect Data You Don’t Really Need


Too much unnecessary data can get you into legal trouble.

Once you have data, you are obligated to use and store it responsibly. Some data, particularly data on a person’s medical condition or history, falls under different regulations than simple consumer data. Collecting as much data as possible on everyone you can, with no set plans for how to use that data is dangerous. Be sure you have a defensible reason for collecting data, and that you are operating under any and all compliance regulations regarding the types of data you’re storing. If your database falls under attack, you don’t want to be in the position of explaining how data you shouldn’t even have was stored improperly or stolen.

Take it Easy Generating Messages

When you have a lot of information (even really good info) on customers, it’s tempting to go overboard in marketing to them. For example, sending them specials for every product they shop for on your site or simply generating messages targeted to their tastes every single day. This usually results in alienating more customers than it endears. Save generating messages for a point in the decision-making process that you’re confident they are ready to make a buying decision.

With smart planning and solid policies for collecting and using data, your data efforts will make you shine for your customers.

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