Big Data, Huge Opportunities
UPS is one of the most popular delivery services in operation worldwide, and part of their more recent success can be attributed to the company’s mining of big data. Through the analysis of data generated by their services, UPS have managed to save nearly 150 million litres of fuel and reduced travel distcace by 586 million unnecessary kilometres. The company attributes this efficiency and success to data analysis, and in fact are currently implementing new data-capturing technologies which will take analysis to the next level.
Most of us have heard or seen the term big data in online articles, magazines or in our social media feeds, but what does this term actually refer to? Everything each and every one of us does, especially our actions online leaves a digital trace which is being recorded somewhere. Our searches on search engines, activity on social media sites like Facebook, and even our credit card transactions generate data.
Moreover, big data does not only refer to online activity but even our behaviours offline are constantly being recorded due to the increased use of CCTV, sensors and our reliance on credit cards. Even our smartphones, which we carry around everywhere with us, are a source of data as they send GPS locations and record our behaviours. The existence of these large volumes of data which can be used for different applications, provides those willing to data mine and analyse with several opportunities.
In recent years, due to technological advancements, big data has become something of a game changer in most industries, however, having large amounts of data by itself is useless unless it is captured accurately and in a structured fashion, cleansed, tested, mined and analysed by competent people. Only then does that data create value. Transforming data into intelligence has to be done by professionals who are capable of looking at data in a novel and more meaningful way.
The strategic importance and best value which can be derived from big data is the ability for companies to gather insights and predictions which might ultimately lead to making better decisions and strategic business moves. Big data analysis is not only applicable to large corporations, as in today’s world even medium and small businesses are generating large amounts of data which is many a time left untapped.
Most businesses have their own website, some form of social media presence and almost every company accepts payments via credit card. This means that even a micro company collects data on its customers, user experience, web traffic, and social media interaction. Analysing this data properly can lead to business operation optimisation, predictions about which products will sell, forecasts of customer turnover rate, as well as upcoming trends related to the particular industry. Analysis of such data can give the company a competitive advantage, or at the very least, it will ensure that the company is not left behind to catch up with its competition.
Big data can also be the base for several uses beyond commercial application such as: optimising traffic flow in cities, the prediction of infectious disease propagation, finding relationships between lifestyle aspects and certain illnesses and in some cases, it can even predict the results of elections.
However, whilst big data has its merits and can provide us with a great deal of information about what people do, it does not tell us much about why people do what they do, or about the meanings that people attach to objects and actions. This is a limitation that one has to keep in mind. In order to delve deeper into the more nuanced dimensions of human behavioural patterns, different methodological tools such as participant observation and similar ethnographic methods should be employed to substantiate big data analysis.
At Marketing Advisory Services and Redorange we have always believed in using business data whenever available to base decisions upon, rather than working simply with gut, myth or just hearsay. So whatever data you have, remember that some of us out there can turn it into gold.