Friday, October 25, 2013

Feeling empowered by Big Data

In today’s economy, business leaders and marketing executives must understand customers’ needs and behaviors to strengthen their competitive advantage. These valuable insights can be discovered by sifting through Big Data and identifying patterns. I’ve focused on analytics and behavioral marketing as a graduate student at Northwestern’s Medill IMC program to strengthen the skills that lead to such valuable discoveries. 
"Big Data: Cutting through the Noise"

In a recent article on the Discovery Channel’s News website, Big Data collected through self-tracking methods was predicted to become more prevalent with every advancement in data processing speeds. Experts in economics, psychology and health care expect “that personal monitoring devices will become so cheap and unobtrusive [in a few years]...that they'll be ubiquitous.”

Nick Barthram of Indicia offers several suggestions on how to more accurately identify true insights from Big Data rather than allowing “confirmation bias” (among other evolutionary traits in humans) to lead us to spurious correlations in an article he wrote for WARC’s AdMap: September 2013.

So don’t get overwhelmed with the thought of having to find (and of course validate through testing) an insight from massive data sets. Just follow three actionable steps:
    1) Embrace: As time passes, only more data is collected so avoiding it or ignoring
              what the data might be telling you is not an option if you want your
        company to be successful
    2) Challenge: Don’t blindly trust what the correlations an algorithm have formed from
         the data; as Barthram says, “Use testing to repeat the situation and
         check that it still stacks.”
    3) Stay Patient: It’s easy to rush to a conclusion and implement the information into a
business plan but time is for once on your side. The longer data spans,
the more likely it will show certain correlations as opposed to influences from external forces.

It’s time to take control of Big Data and make it work in your favor. That doesn’t mean drawing faulty conclusions to support a hypothesis, though. Stick to your clearly defined business objectives that support your strategy. Big Data is only going to grow so feel empowered by the opportunity to discover valuable information from it. The old adage of “knowledge is power” has never been more true than it is today.


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