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Big Data, Defined

In the hive of droning buzzwords that fill the air, find one buzzing louder than the rest: big data. One of those terms that gets traction before it’s even remotely understood by the folks it implicates, big data is an idea worthy of a big explanation.

ImageBig data, they say, is a gift to new business and entrepreneurship like no other. Its promises range from curing genetic disorders to powering self-driving cars. Speaking broadly, its most compelling calling card is that it’ll save your business money, make your operations more efficient and buff the precision of your marketing efforts to a sharp point. But what the hell is it?

• The billions of bits of data that are generated everyday inside the world’s great churning electronic engine have inherent value built into their bones. Each has plenty to say about individual behaviour and preferences — information that can be usefully applied to myriad business-securing purposes.

• The gist of big data is this: Culled from online and cellphone usage data, along with the sociographic information that credit cards and direct mail companies collect, there’s a whack more info floating around about us than ever. Better, it’s available for repurposing almost as soon as it’s generated. Cheaper storage, faster processing and more sophisticated algorithms mean everything — from your sudden interest in touch-up hair colour to your propensity for charity and your fondness for a certain gelato joint — can be digitized. Used cleverly, the information can be highly predictive of future behaviour, and could be used to anticipate consumer purchases, health needs and even changes in social status.

• Famously, an incident in the States last year revealed just how precise companies’ grasp of us is, when Target pitched baby products at a teen customer — based on its intelligent understanding of her recent in-store spends — whose family had yet to even learn of her pregnancy.

• Big data can help designers of consumer products develop more spot-on stuff by applying the customer preference data they’ve captured to the workshop.

• Big data can tailor marketing’s efforts minutely. InterContinental Hotels Group’s marketing department now has the slice-and-dice capacity to increase its count of seven or 15 customized marketing messages to its 71 million Priority Club rewards program members to more than 1,500, based on picayune factoids collected about them.

• In Brussels recently, a call went out for the world to be mindful of the risks implicit in the stuff, and insisted that governments develop ethical principles around how this revealing data about us and our families should be used by governments and private companies.

Keen Data Services helps organizations to transform all that big data into big insights about customer behaviour that can be meaningfully translated into tangible efficiencies.

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