Who’s turning big data into smart data well?

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Insurance companies, banks, airlines and some retailers are turning big data into smart data well, Datamine consultant Tony Mitchell told Research Association New Zealand members last night.

These organisations are using smart data to address customer churn and acquisition, to upsell and target offers as well as for customer and market insights.

Mitchell said that by comparison many FMCG suppliers were struggling to use big data and were missing a huge opportunity to engage in a direct relationship with their consumers.

He said big data in the research, sales and marketing world meant extremely large data sets that may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends and associations relating to human behaviour and interactions. Big data sources include weather services, Statistics New Zealand, electronic sales, share market data and, increasingly, the Internet of Things (IoT), as well as a company’s own internal data.

The difference between big data and smart data is the sophistication of data use. Big data is used to answer questions like: How many did we sell? How many will we sell? What do they think about us? Big Data becomes smart data when it goes to the next level to help answer: Who will buy what at a certain time and place? What else might they like? How do we influence what happens?


“An example is combining data that tracks a customer’s interaction with a company’s web site, adding sales transaction data, adding customer loyalty data, and using it to send an advertisement or communication at a specific time about a specific offer that is relevant to that specific customer,” Mitchell told the RANZ meeting in Auckland.


“Companies know a lot about their products, services, distribution channels and stores but there is still a gap in knowledge about consumers,” he said. “Smart data helps close this gap.”

“Smart data enables businesses to make more effective decisions, have better engagement with their target market and achieve a competitive advantage.”

Mitchell said some of the biggest challenges for companies wanting to turn big data into smart data were:

  • Getting access to the data
  • Sharing and visualisation (you need a “black belt” expert on your team)
  • Approval to work outside strict IT rules
  • Fear it will be the right thing to do
  • Too much data and data quality

He said Research Association members – market researchers and insights professionals – needed to ensure they kept up with rapid developments in data use. He advised:

  • Don’t stop learning
  • Get your head around data strategy
  • Understand where you fit with outside data strategy agencies
  • Research Association chief executive Rob Bree said organisations can massively improve their decisions and results by drawing insights from both real time research and recent customer behavioural data.

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