Getting Smart With Big Data

How smaller companies are becoming increasingly sophisticated about analyzing multiple forms of data.

May 10 2013 by William J. Holstein


Of course, the most obvious gains from advanced data analytics are coming in the retail world. Digital advertising agencies can evaluate the success of a company’s television advertising or online campaign within the first few hours by analyzing how much “chatter” there is about it on social media. Advertisers can tell whether a campaign is going to be successful or not and modify it or pull it altogether. Retailers that create their own Facebook pages can monitor what teen-aged girls are saying about their latest fashions in real time and redesign the clothes to be even more attractive to them.

The Holy Grail in this emerging industry is integrating data from multiple channels, including social media, e-mail click-throughs, databases and direct mail, says Phil Hussey, president and managing partner at 89 Degrees in Boston. His company serves big companies, such as IKEA and Hyundai Motor, as well as smaller companies and it relies on SAS software.

The key is measuring a customer’s “engagement.” “We try to match up and understand what customers are doing across multiple channels,” says Hussey. “We can intuit a lot of things they are doing in [the] social sphere. We can measure how customers engage with the brand through different channels. The more channels they engage in, the better customers they are and the more likely they are to shop.”

Those types of insights allow even small and medium-sized retailers to create profiles of their customers and to keep track of their preferences and buying patterns, much as Amazon.com does. That type of more specific “behavioral” marketing is much more effective. The click-through rate in response to a traditional email advertising campaign might be 5 percent of customers, says Hussey, but it is 15 to 25 percent for behaviorally targeted emails.

Phil H