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Unpacking the Big Data Catchphrase

John Gaffney |

You don’t cheer for big baseball. You cheer for the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cardinals, or maybe even the Cubs. You don’t focus on big food. You focus on tonight’s dinner. In the same manner, I would suggest that we don’t focus on big data.  Focus instead on making data relevant to your business.

Events of the past week show that now more than ever, businesses need to focus on the data that mean something to the dynamics of their growth. In other words: find the data that show the trajectory of your consumer value. “Big” data’s big week was actually big enough to make the word “big” lose all of its significance. Big news from the FTC. Big research reports from Forrester adding to a tide of big analyst firms like Frost & Sullivan looking for a big data value prop. All of them showed that upon deeper inspection, big data will continue to add digits. All of them showed that more actionable consumer data has a bright future.

Take the FTC report shows that at the macro (big) level, consumers don’t have a handle on what data does for them. They only understand that given the question and the choice, they would rather understand more about what is collected and how it was used.

As FTC commissioner Julie Brill stated:  “Consumers don’t feel they can manage the process.” The takeaway from the FTC report is that consumers shouldn’t have to manage the process. They should trust responsible companies to manage it for them. In the end, managing consumer data means identifying the behaviors that make marketing and operations efforts more relevant. Anonymous data collection should result in a company providing more value to the consumer as a result of viewing that data.

The valuable phrase is “actionable data.” If an issuing bank wants to increase mobile payment adoption rates, the data points that matter will help identify consumers that are most likely to see mobile payments as a value. Online bankers (data point 1) would be a good place to start. Blasting information to all consumers about mobile payments could alienate consumers who aren’t interested. Big data informs the more relevant (and much smaller) consumer base. When that smaller consumer base sees responsible data usage, consumer engagement should increase.

Forrester’s report sounded a warning. In a survey of 259 marketing and business-development executives at large and medium-sized retailers, financial-services companies and consumer-products companies, Forrester found one-third of the respondents said the term big data was “very confusing.”

“Big data rhetoric is at an all-time high,” the report stated. “Technology vendors tout products with claims that seem incredible.”

Drop “big” from the phrase and the picture becomes focused. No executive would find “data” very confusing.

Topics: Big Data, Payments Strategy

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