Big Data and What It Means for Your Business
You may or may not have heard about Big Data, a concept often confused as one thing as opposed to another. Like the concept of cloud computing, which didn’t find a place in popular parlance until 2010 with the popularization of remotely-hosted backup storage, Big Data wasn’t well-known among the industry as a whole. Even so, it has been an essential feature of many large retail-oriented businesses like Amazon for close to a decade.
However, there is a difference between Big Data and every other form of “data.” It is not what it is so much as what you do with it as a business: to gain value from it. You can use large files, including videos, to show your sensitivity to your customer’s needs and desires. Other types of data are seldom touched because they are merely static objects kept in the books for compliance and reference (e.g. credit card information). Any data, therefore, that can serve a purpose aside from being kept in storage can become Big Data, and hence valuable for your bottom line.
As an example, you get an email from amazon.com confirming a completed order. On that email, you’ll find several other items that Amazon wants you to consider for your next purchase. In the instant you bought the item, Amazon analyzed it, compared it with similar merchandise, and sent the names and pictures of those items to you. By taking this extra humanizing step, they’ve indicated that your item is as valuable to them as it is to you, and they are willing to do more fast and easy business with you, the customer.
Another example is something we don’t really surf the Internet for: advertisements. (Unless you missed Super Bowl commercials, though they’re not the sort of advertisement we need to consider for our intents and purposes.) On any given Google search results page, they sit at the top or some distance away from the right side. Why? Any terms and combinations of terms that you enter into the search box are indexed and compared with pre-assigned terms — usually those supplied by the advertisement author — in a database somewhere. Along with other data that can be determined outside of the search box, such as the user’s IP address and physical location, these terms then get matched to a set of terms corresponding to the advertisement, which is fetched for your eyes to see (or avert).
Data in general is just stored somewhere, but whether the data can be transformed into something bigger than itself — thereby creating more value for your business — is determined by ingenuity and applicability. How do you think you can turn your manufacturing and distribution data into something greater than itself? Let us know in the comments.