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Enterprises today are grappling with the challenge of how to manage and leverage vast amounts of data from an ever-expanding array of sources, including mobile customers, sensors, social media, and cloud services. Gleaning insights from big data is essential for marketing and sales organizations that want to explore new business opportunities.
But what are the best ways to sift through terabytes (or more) of raw information, all to find a few kernels of wisdom? And how can businesses monetize big data?
"This vast amount of data often leaves marketing organizations paralyzed over how to appropriately analyze the information and attain action-oriented customer insights," writes Gartner marketing analyst Kim Collins in a new report titled "Big Data Yields Big Results Through Sales & Pricing Effectiveness."
[ For more insights on big data, see 10 Big Predictions About Big Data. ]
The report, a collaborative effort of 10 Gartner analysts, is featured in a newsletter from Pros Holdings, maker of pricing and revenue management software.
Here's a brief synopsis of the report, including five ways that big data can enhance your company's customer relationship management (CRM) strategy.
1. Don't ignore big data.
"Organizations that do not include big data analyses as part of their sales strategies will miss opportunities to recognize demand early and shape it," writes Gartner e-commerce analyst Gene Alvarez. You must access and analyze new sources of data, including mobile customers' activities and social graphs, to spot trends, predict demand, and provide an appealing customer experience.
2. Offer value for the loss of privacy.
Big data delivers information that's both highly granular and very timely, thereby enabling advanced processing and analysis of massive volumes of factoids. But consumers, particularly those who frequent social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, may balk at the idea that their every move is recorded and studied. A successful business strategy must deliver "commensurate value to the customer for the loss of privacy inherent in this data capture," writes Gartner analyst Gareth Herschel. He calls this effort "the real challenge of big data.
3. Be organized.
Creating a process and strategy ensures you'll collect the right data and make analyses relevant to your goals, which may include customer acquisition and/or retention, upselling or cross-selling, increasing customer loyalty, and boosting the bottom line.
"Marketing organizations must first determine and prioritize appropriate marketing use cases for big data, then they can determine which of it is relevant to support their strategies and to take customer action," Collins writes.
4. Get IT involved.
When devising a big data strategy, utilize the technical skills of your IT folks. "IT will need to determine the most appropriate data architecture and analytical models/techniques to extract key customers insights at an individual level and an aggregate level," writes Gartner research director Jim Davies. Technical prowess is key to capturing the "voice of the consumer" via a variety of unstructured data sources, including social media posts and survey results.
5. Make big data action-oriented.
Once you've collected all that data, what to do with it? "Big data will not be an exercise in merely collecting massive amounts of this data; rather it will be about making the right information accessible and action-oriented for both the company and the customer for core CRM," writes Adam Sarner, Gartner's big data and CRM analyst.
But beware: While analytics are great, they're no replacement for a human touch. You'll still need to interact with current and potential customers, whether in person, over the phone, or via some other one-on-one connection.
Gartner sales performance analyst Patrick Stakenas: "Relying too much on big data analytics risks losing the personal approach to selling."
Big data places heavy demands on storage infrastructure. In the new, all-digital Big Storage issue of InformationWeek Government, find out how federal agencies must adapt their architectures and policies to optimize it all. Also, we explain why tape storage continues to survive and thrive.