Big data is one of those big business buzzwords that has become popularized without a clear understanding of what it is, and what it can do. In some quarters, it is being treated like a gold rush. Big data is magical information for the taking, ready to serve the purposes of whoever is in the best position to exploit it.
Here is why it is such a tantalizing prospect for even small organizations.
Big Data Can Highlight Consumer Trends
As valuable as it is to know what the consumer is doing right now, it is even more valuable to know what the consumer will be doing next. With the appropriate application of data, those future trends become apparent. It is not exactly a crystal ball. But it is as close as we can come right now to achieving real prescience.
Even as companies are selling you the widget du jour, they are doing their best to figure out what you will want next. This is especially true for design-centric companies. Fashion if fleeting. Good design depends on a lot of variables that are moving targets. Design all your assets for the flash-laden, desktop web, and you will be blindsided when non-flash playing smartphone browsers take over the world. Big data is the key to staying one step ahead of the consumer.
Big Data Can Help You Stand Out from the Competition
As important as it is to know what the consumer is going to do next, it may be even more important to know where the competition is heading. If you know what the consumer is doing next, very likely, so does the competition. What you really need to know is how to stand out from the crowd, and make the consumer choose you.
This does not require corporate espionage. You can gain insight into competitive advantages just by processing the information about what consumers buy when they are not buying your products and service. Understanding why they choose a competitor can give you the edge the next time the consumer makes a purchasing decision.
The downside to collecting personal data for big data processing is that you are now liable for all the data that goes through your systems. If you are collecting addresses so you can see where customers are driving from to get to your store, and perhaps, economic demographics based on neighborhood, you are responsible for keeping that data secure.
Collecting personal data without some type of virtualization security platform is irresponsible. According to Trend Micro, an IT security company, such a platform delivers:
Reduced cost and complexity with a single platform for management of security controls and policies across multiple environments: physical, virtual, cloud, and hybrid.
Because big data crunching requires resources that live in the cloud, Virtual security measures that can span multiple platforms is indicated.
Data as Currency
Responsible use of data requires a change in perspective when it comes to data. We have to start treating user data like currency. Customer data belongs to them and not to you. Their personal data is like money in their wallet. Taking more of it than they offer is theft. It is premature to talk about responsible usage and storage of personal data if there is no concept of responsible data acquisition.
It is silly to talk about the responsible use of stolen goods. Taking data that the customer has not agreed to give you is like pick-pocketing the customer every time they walk into your retail location. Ad trackers are a good example of this. Log into any Google service, and Google has access to your data. That is not the worst of it.
What consumers may not know is that they continue to be tracked by Google and their partners on every site they visit. This happens behind the scenes. It is very likely most people don’t know they are being tracked. Personal information is currency. Just because a customer pays you some small amount of it up front, you do not have the right to clean out their account behind their back.
Big data can help you get in front of consumer trends and help you stand out from the competition as long as you stay on top of your data liability, and never forget that data is currency. Acquire it, store it, and spend it wisely and responsibly.
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