Big data has completely transformed the way businesses do business such that if it is not data-driven it is nothing else. This is one of the realities that organizations across various industries have come to terms with after the world was reduced to a global village thanks to the Wide World Web. It is the channel through which companies can understand their customers well enough to deliver exactly what they want in a more personal and special way.
However, without proper big data training, professionals can only go as far as extracting hidden patterns and establishing trends in collected data yet there is much more that can be done with big data to get the most value out of it.
Defining big data
Big data refers to the large sets of data generated from various sources that are analyzed to gain insight into business strategy and growth. It has become very useful in understanding customer behavior to improve products and services and the way they are delivered. By ‘customer’ we mean both the internal and the external customers of an organization. Because customer centrism has become a core principle in business operation, big data is helping businesses to draw customers in closer engagements to establish their preferences and deliver a personalized experience. Towards the end of 2018, 90% of businesses intended to harness the power of big data, and today, the lifeline of any business is literally pegged on how well it makes use of this resource.
Data is defined by three main Vs:
- Volume. The volumes of data being generated today from various sources are as large as has never been witnessed before. This data comes from IoT devices, business transactions, social platforms, and search engines to name but a few.
- Velocity. The speed with which data is being generated is remarkable. The challenge is now not how much data there is to deal with but how to analyze it in real-time to gain insight.
- Variety. Gone are the days when data was only in text format. Today data comes in a wide variety of formats including text messages, audios, videos, social platform activities, clickstream data, images, emails, and the like.
Top Six Big Data Applications
The availability of big data ushered in an era of data analytics which has become core to businesses across most if not all industries. Below we look at the top applications of big data in the world today.
- Digital marketing insight and strategy – Big data in digital marketing
Today, even the intuition of the most experienced marketing professionals cannot be depended upon when making marketing decisions.
Think about Marketing Evolution, the New York-based marketing agency that uses big data to create personalized marketing campaigns that target both existing and potential customers. These campaigns are created from data encompassing consumer purchasing habits, location, beliefs, interests, age, and other demographics obtained from various sources, that are relevant for creating a marketing mix that aligns with the personal preferences of the consumer.
Other than creating campaigns, big data is also useful for checking the competition, tracking customer engagement in a campaign, and measuring campaign performance, as well as gaining insight and developing strategies that will transform existing clients to loyal clients and brand ambassadors at that.
- Value provision and improved treatment – Big data in healthcare
Healthcare analytics is perhaps the biggest break that the healthcare industry has had as far as big data is concerned. Big data is not only useful in predicting daily and hourly patient attendance in the hospital to address staffing like Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris hospitals have done. Big data has been harnessed to improve healthcare delivery and identify treatment using Electronic Health Records (EHRs) that have been made available, accessible, and real-time.
Healthcare is also among the top industries to make use of IoT devices. For instance, Propeller Health uses sensored inhalers to track how and when patients use inhalers and gather data on environmental and other trigger factors to help doctors deliver the most appropriate, personalized, and emergency treatment to patients.
Finally, Big data has become useful not only in the early detection of life-threatening diseases like cancer, AIDs, and Ebola but also in forecasting disease outbreaks to facilitate proactive resolution.
- Understanding customer behavior and purchasing habits – Big data in customer services
Big data has always ever been about customer data because customers are the most important asset in the business. To meet the needs of customers, a business needs to have a 360-degree view of its customers. This is why most organizations are now integrating their CRM systems and processes with big data analytics as a way to improve customer experience, loyalty, and retention.
Netflix has for a long time maintained the lead ahead of its competition and achieved a 93% retention rate by leveraging big data to stream shows and movies that its clients enjoy. Again, customers enjoy having several channels through which they interact with their favorite brands including social media platforms, emails, phone calls, and even the latest voice assistants used by top brands like Starbucks and Southwest Airlines.
Ultimately, big data analytics and CRM integration will yield a better understanding for customers, better decisions as regards customers and the products they consume, an accurate forecast of customers’ future decisions or behaviors, and more valuable customer support.
- Dynamic pricing and product recommendation – Big data in e-commerce
E-commerce companies like Amazon, Alibaba, and Flipkart are hosts to massive customer data and they are using it to their advantage. Amazon, for instance, uses big data for dynamic pricing and product recommendations. Amazon’s products prices change up to 2.5 million times a day depending on demand, customer intent, and competitors’ prices. Ultimately, online shoppers at Amazon always have the feeling that they are getting the best bargain from their purchase. This pricing model is also used widely by airlines and airline agents when selling plane tickets.
In the same way, Amazon uses customer data to learn their preferences and then make personalized recommendations of the same or similar products in the customers’ future visits. 35% of Amazon’s annual sales can be linked to product recommendations.
- Digital payments, risk management, and regulatory compliance – Big data in finance
The financial space is broad. It includes players like mutual funds companies, insurance, wealth management, asset management, crowd-funding, online peer-to-peer lending, banking, SME financing, cryptocurrency, trading management, advisory, money transfer, mobile payment platforms, and others.
Next to money, data is the next most valuable asset for financial institutions. However, cybersecurity remains to be a big challenge for these institutions as they leverage big data. Outside nurturing customer loyalty and discovering new revenue streams, financial institutions like Standard Chartered have found additional valuable applications for big data in enhancing cybersecurity, risk analysis, and regulatory compliance. However, the most popular big data applications in the financial industry are in online payments and digital banking which have had quite a positive effect on customer experience.
- Mobile-first digital content – Big Data in Media and Entertainment
Like in the other industries, the media and entertainment sector has had to redefine its business models to accommodate a mobile-first and customer-centric approach. The entrance of smartphones has not only increased the consumption of digital content, it has also revolutionized the way this content is being delivered. Media companies are compelled to leverage the same smartphone channel together with big data analytics to engage their customers more.
Netflix and Amazon, for example, are taking advantage of big data to create targeted ads for their existing and potential subscribers, gain insight on customer behavior to deliver personalized content via the popularly used recommendation engine, subscription and unsubscription tracking, as well as predict demand and customer interest.
Many other industries like education, transport and logistics, government, telecom, and retail have harnessed big data in many ways to improve their operations, products and service delivery, and customer engagement. Many more applications of big data are emerging and the world has come to realize the transformational power and value of big data. Soon, no business will operate without data-driven insights extracted from this valuable resource.
Author | Emily Forbes
An Entrepreneur, Mother & A passionate tech writer in the technology industry!