The Key Difference Between Big Data and Market Research

Lindsay Medeiros
Digital TransformationCustomer ExperienceMarketing

There’s no question that Big Data has been gaining a lot of hype recently even though the term has actually been around for awhile. The value of information from data has always been apparent, the terminology has just changed. The amount of data we have been dealing with has actually evolved over time once digital data storage was created in the 1960’s. Because of this evolution process of how we learn new insights, companies have entered into the market by pushing their ideas of what Big Data means and how much you need it.  However, what you do with your data is more important than how much you have.

It used to be that consumer data was captured by survey takers, expensive software that required training or held in isolated silos. Today, however, Big Data is captured in the hands of many people because of the proliferation of smartphones and our behaviours online. Our mobile phones are constantly streaming records of our personal activity. Big Data comes from text, audio, images, and richly tagged combinations of content that are stored. Social Media and the behaviour in which we share and reshare content has contributed to the evolution of Big Data.

Big Data can tell what has happened in the past and can make predictions on future events but it's not able to explain “why” it happened.  With all of this data that is coming in, it’s easy to forget about the customer as an individual. As customers, our actions are not always rational and therefore our reasons “why” can’t always be easily identified. That is why Market Research will continue to be a powerful tool because it is difficult to represent the clarity of insight without it. Market Research aims to provide emotion, meaning, and reasoning. Its purpose is to ask individuals to predict their behaviours in a scenario or ask for their opinion.

A perfect example of a company that acts upon the “why” with Big Data is Facebook.  Each time a user likes, comments, and shares a post that information is gathered to create a detailed profile of its users. With all of this personal data, you would think that understanding why the user makes their actions could be justified with the use of Big Data. However, as reported by the Huffington Post Facebook regularly polls its users about their experience with the social media platform. Facebook sees the value of surveying its users and has even created a Facebook Feed Quality Panel to harvest their research. Big Data can’t replace the need of Market Research and they should be encouraged to be used more to complement one another. Each has their own purpose and benefits that if used correctly can be effective in understanding the behaviour of customers.

Since Big Data is already out there, it holds significant value for marketers to turn it into “smart data”. It helps answer two important questions marketers are faced within their organizations:

1) Who buys what when and at what price?

2) Is there a way for us to link what consumers view, read, and hear to what they will buy and consume?

The value in Big Data is the ability to eliminate some of the guesswork (and dollars) by improving targeting to predict a customer’s next transaction. Marketers are able to predict a detailed image of each consumer by understanding their buying habits, media preferences, interests, and desires.

In the era of Digital Transformation, just about everything can be measured, meaning every decision should be supported by data and analytics. Analytics refers to the process in how we gain value from Big Data with statistical analyses. By having relevant and specific analytics, it shows us what customers want, how they think and how the market views the brand and guides us to decision making.

2016 was the year that we saw more organizations storing, processing, and gaining data from all different types of sources. In 2017, we will continue to see this progress even more. Data collection, storage, and analysis will always be around to help guide organizations. Big Data will not be able to explain our motivation anytime soon and therefore will not be replacing Market Research. Big Data is an addition tool and can complement traditional Market Research methods of understanding our customers better. The question we need to keep in mind is how are we going to get this customer to remain loyal and what will be their lifetime value? We need to shift our way of thinking from how we can better target customers to how using Big Data will create value for our customers.

At Stantive Technologies, we’re constantly looking at how we can use data to create a winning experience for our customers and even more so for their customers. The customers we work with are some of the most progressive brands and in return we work to give them the tools to succeed in the digital and customer experience. Download our Customer Success eBook to find out how!