(You may now change the world)
For any laggards out there, big data is the (too large for traditional processing) collection of consumer data relating to our behaviours and attitudes – all captured through our online activity. Companies harness this info to target their desired audience(s). Big data erupted over the last decade and consumer research has never been more effective.
Three of the companies heavily connected to this are Google, Facebook, and Amazon; all using big data and market research in their strategic decision-making – for better or for worse.
Despite concerns over privacy issues, I’m okay with this. With summer officially gone, I was in the market for a new winter jacket. After a simple Google search and visit to a few online retailers, I transferred my focus to social media where I was suddenly bombarded with adverts of furry parkas as I scrolled through various platforms. I’m now £49.99 out of pocket but am also guaranteed warmth against the chilling winds that will surround me in the coming months.
All it takes is a few searches showing interest in a set of new salt and pepper shakers to impress Grandma with my cooking skills (mainly to add some much-needed excitement to the flavourless chicken I’ve just popped in the oven), and I’m suddenly being targeted with ads for new bowls, cutlery sets, and a new blender. Some may find this annoying but, for me, it makes shopping easier and more enticing than ever. My wallet’s been dented but at least I get to make a delicious smoothie whenever I want.
Unsurprisingly, there’s been a tidal wave of conversation around big data; you have the clear benefits to business strategy and consumer needs on one side – and the societal implications of living in a big data environment on the other.
In a highly hedonistic and post-modern market environment, I say ‘hell yeah!’ to big data.
Unlike during the 60’s, when my Grandad was told that Brylcreem was the only way to get the Elvis shine and hold, consumers now give the directions. It’s us in the driving seat and brands are our passengers. We’re creating demand like never before. Having our behaviours and attitudes mined and analysed means our needs and demands are met instantly through segmented targeting.
When I need something, I want it now (I am a millennial after all). So, it’s good to know that my data’s been collected and my needs are being catered to. (And I will get it delivered tomorrow afternoon thank you very much.)
Naturally, this phenomenon raises considerable ethical issues – particularly when companies transfer any consumer data they’re holding to external companies without prior consent. The Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal is a high-profile example. In spite of this, the collection and transfer of data across multiple industries continues and competition has never been so fierce.
Big data has transformed the quality of secondary data sources because they tell the researcher the ‘whats’ and allows them to tailor their methods to discover the ‘whys’ and the ‘hows’.
Despite experts claiming big data could replace market research, it’s clear that a long and happy civil partnership between both will serve consumers far more effectively; not to mention, giving brands a competitive advantage.
I’ve got to go now. Instagram’s just shown me the perfect panini grill I’ve been searching for.