big data analytics, digital marketingCompared to other professions, marketing has been something of a laggard in terms of adopting analytics technology that relies on big data.

There have been a host of recent studies, including a July 2013 report from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, that have essentially said the same thing about the relationship between marketing and big data analytics: while there’s a definite consensus among marketers that big data analytics is a practice which they should -- and largely plan to -- adopt, there are still relatively few marketing teams that have a big data analytics process in place.

The Potential of Big Data Analytics is Clear

As a chief marketing officer myself, I certainly echo the general sentiment of my marketing peers in terms of the potential big data analytics possesses for improving organizational insight, gauging the success of campaigns, and so on. And, as an employee of a company that offers an analytics tool, I've been able to gain a unique insight into how a wide range of different professions are applying analytics gleaned from large and complex data sets.

While I certainly agree that marketing teams are not using analytics as widely as other disciplines as of yet, there’s been a definite uptick in usage over even the past 12 months. The proliferation of marketing channels, digital and traditional, poses a twofold challenge for marketers: how to integrate and effectively apply vast amounts of customer data coming through multiple channels, and how to engage customers profitably across those channels.

Key Use Case: Customer Analytics

With that in mind, customer analytics is definitely one of the most prominent use cases from the marketing field. Organizations have used analytics to improve multi-channel marketing campaigns in an attempt to better engage customers profitably across a given channel. With big data analytics, you can more effectively target individual customers based on their interactions, needs and preferences -- which results in marketers being able to better focus their budgets on initiatives with a higher probability of success.

Perhaps one of the more compelling cases to really demonstrate this phenomenon is Walmart. The retail giant has been using predictive analytics to gain a competitive marketing advantage longer than most, and well before its much-publicized June 2013 acquisition of Inikru, a predictive analytics startup.

Walmart was one of the first companies to recognize the potential in harnessing the vast quantity of customer data they possessed, and using it to better tailor its stock orders and organize the timing of sales for a given store location. This approach resulted in significant savings on the bottom line, and enabled the company to separate itself from competitors like Kmart and Target.

The Walmart example is beginning to manifest across the marketing profession, with marketers increasingly cognizant of the potential competitive advantage that can come with using unique organizational data to drive more informed business decisions -- and the associated cost savings that comes with it!

Opportunities to Leverage Big Data for Success

While there’s certainly no catch-all analytics solution for marketing (or any profession, for that matter), it’s absolutely worth exploring a given organizational challenge, identifying a series of basic goals or outcomes and slowly but surely ramping up an analytics-based approach to achieving them.

Image Courtesy of Sergey Nivens (Shutterstock)