Saturday, November 24, 2012

What does Predictive Analytics mean for marketers?

If you are a marketer in the current day and age, then your world has never been more interesting. As a student of Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University, I understand that predictive analytics is not just changing the game, but redefining the spaces around us. We have come a long way from a time when early man tried sacrificing goats to please the rain gods to looking at the weather app to see if we need to carry an umbrella.

With the market place evolving at the speed of sound it is becoming more and more difficult to determine what the next minute is going to look like, and that just means one thing- marketing needs to evolve from backward looking to forward looking. It is not enough that we know what trends have looked like in the past, it is important that analytics is used to understand what is happening NOW, and how that affects what tomorrow would look like.

Mobile phones are the single biggest driving force of this change. Never before have consumers carried a device where you can constantly reach them at any given time. And while most marketers haven’t really figured out how to monetize this trend, mobile is big and is here to stay. Digital, is how the world communicates, and with that comes the opportunity for marketers to look at Big Data.

“Every day, more people are using mobile devices. And a larger number are relying on digital communications to carry out their daily lives. To help organizations leverage this Big Data to perform better and improve services to customers, technology innovators have developed a new generation of software analytics. These advanced analytics solutions provide leaders with the insight to gauge the patterns driving business success.” 

The answer lies not in just Data, but Big data:

‘In running advanced analytics software, organizations can see more than a simple trend analysis. They are looking beyond the structured data stored in relational and SQL databases. And they are tapping into open source-and-NoSQL data (aka Big Data) to mine exabytes of real-time tweets, status updates and blog posts. It’s from this unstructured data that decision makers can distill the current and evolving patterns of thought and behavior affecting their customers, stakeholders, suppliers, partners, employees, and competitors.’

Marketers, suit up!

So what happens when you understand Big Data? Your favorite online dress store always manages to carry what you love, because it is tracking style trends everywhere. Your corner coffee store has come up with the yummiest new flavors for the season cause it understands what it is that would make them click with their consumers. Using a combination of data on market trends, current news and other factors, retailers can now figure out where the world is heading, as opposed to where the world was. All you have to do is listen to your consumers with their most advanced analytics tools.

So what should you do?

1. Respond to changes: It is important marketers understand that it is as important to respond to these changes in pattern as it is to understand them. A late response to a tweet could mean an angry customer venting out his frustration to 500 other people; an immediate response could mean him praising you to the same 500 people.

2. Look for patters: You will be amazed at the kind of insight that can be gained from looking at the data. The trick is to look for patterns and identify gaps, trends and opportunities.

3. Look at the bigger picture: Decision makers need to look at the bigger picture, to be able to use information proactively. Only then can they turn data patterns into actionable information, and actionable information into strategies, tactics, and processes that lead to disruptive innovation.

You see what is happening here? This new digital space has redefined how the world lives. Twitter and Facebook are the new ‘feedback forms’- and so much more effective than the suggestion box at your counter could ever be. Your customers are talking everywhere- all you have to do is listen.

Anchit Dhawan is a student of Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University. Her concentrations include Direct and Interactive Marketing and Marketing Analytics. She is passionate about brands, ideas, start-ups and the world of technology. You can reach her with questions or comments on Twitter @anchitdhawan

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