Big Data's holy grail

Big Data analytics has the potential to turn customers into an 'audience of one', matching consumer preferences to create breakthroughs in profitability.

Big Data has been widely described as "the key to understanding what a customer wants before even they realise it.” However, just over two thirds (68.2 per cent) of the 668 C-suite respondents who qualified for the recent Business Spectator survey indicated they have ‘very low’ to ‘moderate’ involvement with this game-changing data mining approach, selecting three or below on a scale of five, indicating a significant gap in Australian executives embracing the opportunity.

However, of those who do ‘get’ Big Data’s potential and are involved with it, one respondent commented: "Truly insightful customer and industry data will allow us to deliver targeted value to our various customer groups and leapfrog our competitors.”

Australian retail is clearly leading the charge in unlocking the potential of Big Data, with almost 40 per cent of its executives (38.23 per cent) indicating in the survey that they were involved in it at a high or very high level. Perhaps the most widely understood Big Data mining exercise in Australia is the recent Coles FlyBuys campaign, closely followed by Woolworths’ Everyday Rewards.

In exchange for a discount on a consumer’s favourite five items and participation in a loyalty scheme, Coles’ customers willingly trust the retailer with an enormous raft of personal information ranging from their key household demographics to preference of toilet tissue – and are surrendering details of the frequency and location of their shopping patterns.

Effective Big Data management will theoretically allow Coles’ upstream product management team to better match consumer preferences and either more quickly eliminate unprofitable items, or predict what new products will most appeal. Ultimately, the holy grail of advanced data analytics is to make the customer feel they are an ‘audience of one’ when shopping at their favourite retailer, enhancing store profitability.

Drawing industry participants from mining and natural resources, banking, energy, administration and retail, as well as a broad range of other sectors, the Business Spectator survey of almost 700 C-Suite executives revealed that almost a third (29.6 per cent) per cent of businesses had a rating of either four or five – on a scale of one to five, with five the top rating – for how high Big Data and analytics are on their investment agenda.

Clearly there is significant pent-up demand for these market leading management tools within our business elite and intention to access the power of up-to-date Big Data management technology and software in the near future. "You can only manage what you can measure – the better the tools the better the management,” one senior respondent to the survey said.

The effectiveness of the current tools being used to manage data analysis received the highest rating of just 5.9 per cent of people who completed the survey, with 38.4 per cent giving a mid-range score of three out of five, indicating C-Suite executives hold the view there is a lack of sophistication in how data is being managed within the existing Australian context.

Clearly there is a significant disconnect in the minds of Australian business leaders between what is currently being used for data management and the smarter, more powerful predictive algorithm writing and efficient technology which is available to manage the elusive holy grail of consumer behaviour – offering what a consumer wants, where and when they recognise they want it – that you find in a true Big Data delivery environment.

Unsurprisingly, given the potential ‘game changing’ impact on the business, it is a small group of executives who will make the key decisions to rectify this situation. Almost two thirds (63.1 per cent) of respondents identified that just one or two executives were responsible in the decision making process with regard to the use of analytics within their organisation.

While the power of Big Data management is widely acknowledged within the Australian business community, it is clear that most participants in the Business Spectator survey, who identify as being C-Suite executives, believe they need to invest more in Big Data analytics – and therefore risk being left behind until their employer decides to. They also identified a significant roadblock to achieving this – the limited number of people in the organisation who have the authority to make the key Big Data decisions.

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