The path to Big Data: Challenges and Opportunities

Big dataThe New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Online MBA program sent me this infographic entitled “Data Mining and Decision Support Systems“, in which the university describes big data and data mining as the new way of carrying out market research. As a matter of fact, data mining isn’t new – I first heard about it in the 1990s when it started to become fashionable, namely in the Banking industry – and it is not directed at “new  data” but “existing data” as is described in the infographic.

If data mining (or even Big data for that matter) per se isn’t innovative, massive open databases, and unstructured data like those gathered by Facebook and Google actually are the new kids on the block. NJIT even heralds these new giants as the future major players of the data mining industry. To an extent they already are.

And true enough, data mining is bound to become, at last, a major player in the Marketing field for the years to come: when it comes to clients … and prospective customers alike (that’s the real novel aspect of it, we can now gather information about clients to be).

Challenges related to big data implementation

Yet, many challenges will have to be overcome by businesses which want to benefit from this new wave of market research brought by the big data era : improving data quality is one (this is why the retail industry is ahead of the game: check-out data is massive and squeakily clean), allowing time and resources is another, not to mention knowledge and training and, last but not least, internal limitations as to how data can be shared across departments. No wonder that 1% only (according to Information builders) of company information is used at the moment.

Now here’s the challenge, and only those who are able to overcome it will be able to reap the benefits from these new marketing opportunities.

Big data

NJIT New Jersey Institute of Technology – Online MBA

Big Data: Back to Basics

Today’s selection is…

eye-largeBelgian expert Pierre Nicolas Schwab’s piece on Big Data based on his past assignments with companies trying to launch such initiatives.  When I discovered Pierre Nicolas’s prose,  I must admit that I felt better for discovering that the issue of “small data” is ubiquitous. According to him there are 3 common mistakes companies make when launching their big data initiatives:

  1. They don’t know where the data is (actually; I would add that sometimes they do but they are not allowed to use it. Very often a specific department owns the data and prevents anyone else from using it. This is mostly true of customer data, and I even witnessed that in small and medium firms, it’s not just a big logo issue),
  2. They don’t know what to do with their data: this too may seem ludicrous, but it’s true that big data requires both business/marketing and technical acumen, and it’s pretty easy for many to get drowned in data without knowing what to do with them,
  3. They’ve been told that IT is magical and you don’t need to do anything for systems will do it for you. Well, this is not true, massaging data requires a lot of work and dedication, trial and error, and also the fine tuning of data. In some cases (retail for instance), it is true though that a lot of data comes straight from check-out systems and not much needs to be done… except master data mining and very complex analytics, which often only data scientists can manage.

One last point I would add is often the poor quality of the data itself, mostly when it has been entered manually and rarely, if not never, updated properly. I have known someone who spent his entire company life updating customer databases for a large IT company, this is a never ending job… even though large databases exist, if you own the data, you need to keep it clean and up to date; this is a hug task.

How and why data analysis can help increase your profitability and fuel your growth – Marketing, customer satisfaction and loyalty

We are currently doing several big data-based assignments for very various clients and we’d like to share with you common mistakes that are often made by companies when considering analyzing their data.

Mistake #1: where is my data?

First of all what we see is that most companies have a HUGE problem finding their data. Either they don’t have collected data at all (which often is the case in retail environments and we know brands with a serious number of stores which, after having opened several sales points, realize they know nothing about their customers, the origin of their revenues, etc … they have no chance to monitor anything. Yet they don’t realize the opportunities they are missing and don’t take action.

via How and why data analysis can help increase your profitability and fuel your growth – Marketing, customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Google Plus Engagement Leaves Big Data Experts Nonplussed

Today’s selection …

Is this piece in Adweek about Gigya’s insights regarding Google+ and the fact that, although it is said to be the second biggest social network in terms of users, engagement on Google’s social platform is still low and even at its lowest. I have been very critical of Google’s efforts to mimic Facebook over the years and even though some of these efforts haven’t paid off I, as an amateur photographer, am beginning to witness changes in engagement in G+ as I am shoving more and more of my pictures into “communities”. And bingo! it works. It’s true that engagement is low in profile pages and posts, but communities, and mostly photographers’ communities like “landscape photography” or “street photographers” is now clinching it. It has taken its time but maybe Google+ has found its niche… Yet, those guys from Gigya are less than extactic:

image

depending on what pictures I choose, I can get up to 30 or more +’s and a few shares on individual photos; not bad for an individual I’d say and better than most platforms (including Facebook)

Google Plus Shares Least Among Social Networks | Adweek

It’s the second most popular social network by some measures, but when it comes to sharing, Google+ has the least reach compared to its rivals, according to the latest data from the social media tech firm Gigya.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn all incite more sharing on their networks than Google+, per Gigya, which claims to measure how 1.5 billion Web users share content each month.

In fact, Gigya manages the sharing functionality for more than 700 partners online. According to its data, just 3 percent of all social sharing went to Google+ from July to September.

By comparison, 41 percent of users shared content on Facebook; 20 percent shared on Twitter; 20 percent posted to Pinterest; and 4 percent to LinkedIn. Google+ counts more users than all of these platforms except Facebook because any user of Google services has a corresponding Plus account.

via Google Plus Shares Least Among Social Networks | Adweek.

Retail: Marketforce Set to Improve European Shopping Experience … Beyond Big Data Dashboards

ideoshoppingcartMystery shoppers aren’t anything new; this marketing technique dates back from the 1940s. It was then used even before the term “marketing” had been coined. Yet, MarketForce, a US company with offices in Britain, and more recently in France and Spain, have begun to revolutionise the way mystery shopping surveys are carried out, thanks to crowdsourcing techniques and the extensive use of digital marketing.

MarketForce offers a piece of software in a software as a service model on which customers can actually build and look at their marketing data in real time. That in itself is very much in sync with what we can be seen with other companies doing big data and is not extremely innovative. But there is one area in which MarketForce is certainly going further than all the companies trying to improve big data usage, it is the way that they collect the data itself. As a matter of fact, much of the quality of the output of big data boils down to the way the information is collected originally. As the old IT adage points out: “garbage in, garbage out”.

Besides, There is something a little bit naive in all the big data craze at the moment, in believing that software alone could actually solve all the marketing issues that companies have regarding mostly CRM, and other subjects, just by the touch of a button. First and foremost, data quality and a clear objective are required. This is definitely what Marketforce have done by integrating the whole chain from data collection to data delivery. As a matter of fact, Marketforce is as much a research company a market research company as it is a big data company, and that is what makes it standout from the crowd in what can almost be described as a blue Ocean strategy.

Janet Eden Harris and Simon Boydell who answered our questions in Paris

Above all, they are using extensively digital marketing techniques (marketing automation, affiliates marketing, etc) to recruit genuine customers who help them carry out the research. As they set up shop in France and in the rest of Europe, where customer service is traditionally bad not to say appalling, MarketForce have provided a business case about French petrol stations (check 2013_Petro Findings France_SB_Final_Clean)  which shows the level of satisfaction even for such a straightforward kind of service. As they say, “okay is just not enough” and hopefully, this piece of research, and the service that MarketForce provides is a great assets for European companies to change their ways about how they keep customers satisfied which, in turn, will help them get through the crisis that we’re experiencing at the moment.

Let us develop this story, with Simon Boydell and Janet Eden Harris from MarketForce, whom I was able to interview in Paris a few weeks ago*.

mysteryshopper copy

cartoon by antimuseum.com

with Janet Eden Harris, CMO & SVP Strategy at Market Force Information  and Simon Boydell, Global Marketing Manager at Market Force Information

What is market force about?

Janet: we have a solution which provides the ability for big retailers to improve their business by focusing on customer satisfaction and the experience they have when they walk in the store.

Simon: we focus on retailers, leisure and hospitality providers, any business that has B2C contact with customers and that can be across all channels, so it’s not just in-store, it could be online, using the call centres, we will be collecting customer experience feedback across all those different channels.

A SaaS model: the knowledge force platform

Simon: our customer intelligence platform knowledge force is the central point for all clients. After login each client has individual tailored user access to the site so that they can access their results live and in real time so they can see exactly how the customers are feeling about the business. It does look like it’s built like a SaaS model but itis something which is very different from the other sorts of CRM systems that are out there. All information is produced and made available across all different devices; you can login and you see those dashboards, it’s not just a predetermined set of dashboards, we also have a series of reports that users can go in and use and create their own individual reports, so they can cut and analyse the data in their own way and at their own leisure.

Data collection: from mystery visits to social media

Simon: we have 600,000 genuine customers now, while going out and completing mystery visits for us and providing feedback on experiences they receive, we also operate customer satisfaction surveys which go out to any customer that the business has and it can feed the information straight back into our system and our customers get to see the results as they are happening, so they can always keep their finger on the pulse of the customer.

Janets: we can also pull out things such as social media data and we can tie in this data potentially with other data that is collected from other vendors and even our customers’ own financial data so that they can match them all together.

Ensuring consistency

Janet: how we do it boils down to the location level so that if I am a manager of that location I can look at the customer satisfaction data for that particular location as well as my mystery shoppers and any social media commentary so that I can take action. I can understand where we’re doing well, and I can also understand where we have to improve.

Recruiting genuine consumers

Simon: there are challenges, but a lot of it comes from the way we optimise our website for search in search engines; we have a variety of initiatives in a number of websites so get a lot of people involved too, looking to experience new and different things so that these people want to get paid to get to the places they enjoy going to already.

It’s a very small amount that there own but they do get reimbursed towards any products that their purchase, so you could say that this is almost a free night out, like going out for a meal out at a restaurant.

UK, France and Spain

Simon: we’ve have been based in the UK since 2003 and we have opened an office in Paris, and we also have one in Madrid and the decision has come by opportunity. We think we have to support businesses in France to get a better understanding of their customers, because in today’s economic climate, customer loyalty is of absolute importance, and we feel the insight we can provide and the data we can collect will really help businesses understand how they can drive that loyalty and where they should look to improve specifically in the business, that will drive future sales.

Business case on French petrol stations : “okay is not good enough!” (check 2013_Petro Findings France_SB_Final_Clean)

Simon: we have recently run a piece of research on a panel to get feedback on people’s experience of petrol stations in France and we are sharing this on the web right now. This highlights which stations people find to be the favourites, not only that, but also the reasons which drive them into these petrol stations, and what are the decisions they are making in those stations and what the opportunities for those retailers to understand whether the service is okay or not. The research highlights that “okay is not good enough!”. 3

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Customer experience in Europe? In the words of my old maths teacher … “could do better!” (excerpt from the Petrol Station research)

This piece of research was carried out with 1,500 consumers across France, evenly spread across ages, sex and the geography; yet our programs will vary depending on the sector.

What insights

Simon: the impact satisfaction can have on consumers on the likelihood to recommend is one of the areas of importance: if you score something like a 4/5, there is a big difference, the research highlights, with 5/5 satisfaction.

Customer experience

Price and convenience are always going to be important, that’s fairly natural but, it’s also about the service they receive in the stations, friendly and efficient service will always go along way in; whilst people might not especially expect it, when they receive it, it will make a very big difference to the customer’s experience.

About the company: a blue Ocean strategy

Our ambition is to help French businesses improve the service they give to their customers. We certainly intend to grow the business; we think we have a very exciting offer for the retailers, leisure and hospitality businesses, they are going to find that very exciting.

In terms of our competitors, we don’t have one single direct competitor, we have several competitors across the various disciplines and methodologies that we use.

We certainly intend to grow and invest into the business here in France, we intend to grow our team rapidly here and I think we’ll see a continuation of the success we’ve had in other countries, here.

Marketforce has 450 employees worldwide. In Europe, we have 156, is growing rapidly.

Janet: our revenues are about $60 million right now.

*note: this interview survived the theft all my belongings in July 2, including my notebook with all his notes. I reconstructed this interview from memory and using the sound bite which I recorded on condition

free whitepaper: beyond big data, a business perspective

a bird's eye view of number crunching by Lee Schlenker and the chair of emerging technologies (photo Yann Gourvennec htt://bit.ly/picasayann)

By Professor Lee Schlenker

The emerging technologies and methodologies outlined in this paper can increase our abilities to use data to put our business into perspective. The figures are a good place to start in understanding what they reveal about our work and our work place. Frames, which shape implicit convictions about what work is all about, condition how we capture and interpret the data at our disposal. The business horizon separates the realities we see in the market today from the trends that may well define what opportunities the future holds. The case testimony using Big Data, the Cognitive Sciences, Crowdsourcing, and Social Network Analysis suggest that we can gain considerable insight in understanding how decision makers interpret the data. If work is not about doing things but getting things done, how are you using the data to incite managerial action? We know how to work cheaper and faster, but do we know that we are working on things that matter?

Download the free whitepaper entitled Looking beyond the horizon

 
@ 2011 EMLYON Business School/LHST sarl

The Chair of Emerging Economies and Technologies, established at the EMLYON Business School, coordinates applied research and pedagogy on the potential synergies between emerging forms of organization and disruptive technologies. Under the responsibility of Prof. Lee SCHLENKER, current research of this multi-sponsored Chair includes different applications of Cloud Computing, Management 2.0, Mobile computing, and the evolution of IT partner channels. EMLYON is ranked by the Financial Times as one of the top 10 European Business Schools. Devoted to lifelong learning for entrepreneurial and international management, its distinctive quality is founded on teaching innovation and an entrepreneurial approach to management education. The school offers a full range of graduate programmes in stimulating the social responsibility and the entrepreneurial approach to management of its participants.