As I predicted at the beginning of last year, Big Data emerged as one of the headline grabbing topics of the year. It’s a buzzword for sure, but it is also one of the most powerful secret weapons that companies can use to drive the customer experience.

By plumbing the depths of the giant treasure trove of very granular, operational data, marketers can spot customer trends that otherwise might not have been detected.

In fact, in the next year we will see Big Data move into the actionable stage. Instead of compressing and discarding that beautifully detailed data that contains amazing insights, marketers are going to put it to work for them.

2013: When Insights Drive Action

Big Data finally gives rise to actually managing the customer experience. It’s too hard for marketers to manage every customer interaction and experience -- they need automated tools that can be driven from predictive analytics. 

The term personalization is used and defined by marketers in very different ways in degrees of maturity. For example, many marketers believe personalizing an email campaign is the only way to personalize customer interactions.

An Econsultancy survey showed that 88 percent of marketers who used social graph data for personalization said it had a high impact on both ROI and engagement. However, only 6 percent of respondents used social graphs for personalization purposes.

These ways to combine data from various interaction points offer many opportunities for marketers. But we need the data to have enough detail to actually automate the customer experience.

New Tools to Meet New Marketing Demands

There are a whole host of newer technologies that have emerged to deal with these larger volumes of data. Just like it was unimaginable to be able to talk in real-time to someone on the other side of the planet 100 years ago, owning databases with this kind of volume will become commonplace.

I predict that in the coming years, this will become the strategic differentiator for most companies. Marketers will demand tools that extract the value in large sets of customer interaction data and provide the ability to build lifetime customers by knowing customers so well, and by being immediately relevant by being able to predict their needs.

Customers and prospects aren't responding to a single campaign or through one interaction point, so we have to stop thinking of web, email, social, mobile etc. as separate buckets and start thinking holistically. You can imagine the challenges involved in having all this data in siloes with no idea how to sync them together.

Better integration across marketing systems and channels isn't new -- we all know broadcast marketing doesn't work. The missing link is the ability to orchestrate campaigns and content delivery and taking that data and analyzing it through one dashboard or program.


In a 2012 Marketing Tools Study, 33 percent of U.S. marketing professionals reported using 5 to 6 different tools to manage a single campaign.

This statistic illustrates the challenges marketers face when putting data to work for them and relying on traditional analytics when managing different systems. While marketers want and need much better integration across interaction points, in most cases processes and data remain discrete and disconnected.

Furthermore, without concrete data and a unified view, marketers lack business credibility because they fail to quantify the success of their campaigns. Marketers tend to focus on “soft” metrics like brand values and brand equity, while many executives have turned more of their attention to “hard” metrics like revenue, profit and market valuation.

The Rise of Predictive Analytics

In 2013, we will witness marketing’s budget pass IT’s as the importance of driving the customer experience across the entire customer lifecycle becomes critical. There’s nothing wrong with “soft” marketing tactics. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with a well-planned social media campaign.

But if you hope to gain the trust and respect of C-suite executives in your organization, you must demonstrate the value with accurate data of your marketing efforts based on measurable increases in revenue, marketing ROI and profit -- and across all interaction points.

The reality is we are still counting huge databases of metrics. For example, clickstream metrics are just counting, or accounting. You can’t predict next month’s revenue by drawing a line through the last three month’s revenue. And I’d offer that you can’t accurately forecast customer behavior with clickstream metrics.

Predictive analytics is emerging as a game-changer for marketers. Instead of looking backward to analyze “what happened?’ predictive analytics help marketers answer what customers’ needs and wants are before an action is made.

If you are going to effectively measure your marketing strategies you must measure customer and prospect value -- where they put their trust, and what personal characteristics they reveal by their behavior. In the simplest terms, predictive analytics gives marketers actionable insight into campaign effectiveness and uses that intelligence to optimize response and drive greater campaign success.

We’re in the age of the customer. As customers drive the buying cycle and demand interactions with brands that are immediate, predictive and relevant, the pressure is on for companies to keep up.

Image courtesy of Inara Prusakova (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To read Darren's predictions for Big Data in 2012, go no further: Big Data: The Missing Link for Customer Experience Management?