Thought leadership

Big Data has moved on from being a new, exciting fad to something that is prevalent in every boardroom across every sector. All companies – and the individual departments within them – have to embrace Big Data in order to enhance efficiency and profitability. For most, the first area to focus on is marketing – this is unsurprising when you look at how dependent marketing departments are on customer data when it comes to achieving results.

Many marketers have already taken the plunge and realised the immense possibilities Big Data has to offer, and for many it is a development of what marketers have been doing for years – there is just a lot more data now. When it comes to using this data to communicate and engage with customers the key is making sure that all of the information held on them is not only relevant but that it is easily accessible. With the vast amount of information that can now be gleaned on customers – particularly in the digital age where information is being shared online with companies at an ever-increasing rate – this is no simple task. So where should marketers begin?

Start by outlining your marketing objectives

Outlining exactly what you wish to achieve through your marketing campaigns makes the journey much smoother. For most the answer will be an increase in revenue from your database, and to link your database more closely to your overall marketing strategy. There are three key areas that need to be looked at in order to do this:

  • Increasing customer spend

  • Increasing the frequency of customer visits

  • Reducing the number of lost customers


By setting out clear goals and outcomes you will ensure that you are employing the right information to achieve them, rather than allowing your available data to dictate the company’s marketing strategy. This is a trap that many often fall into, so it’s essential that there is a clear data management policy in place to prevent it from happening. This will also help ensure that all of the information kept on customers is complete, accurate and up-to-date.

Consider what data is vital and what can be discarded

Irrelevant data is a huge time-waster across all sectors, so having a cull of all of the useless information you have on customers is crucial. This way you can be sure that any data you hold will help you to meet your objectives. Ask yourself the following questions when analysing your data:

  • Does it further your relationship with the customer?

  • Is it in a functional condition?

  • Can you link to a known customer?

  • Will employing this data boost profits?

The data should tick all of the above boxes, so you must be ruthless. If any of the information that falls under the Big Data umbrella in your organisation does not help to achieve the organisation’s marketing goals it is safe to say it can be set aside – at least when it comes to marketing communications and other elements of customer relationship management.

Find the best way of capturing the essential data

Now you know the kind of data that is useful to your organisation, you need to determine the best means of capturing it. CRM and loyalty programmes are still two of the most effective ways of gathering information on loyal customers as they allow you to not only see what kind of purchases customers are making but also when and where, meaning you can target them with appropriate campaigns and offers without wasting time sending them anything irrelevant. This also improves customer relationships as it shows that you pay attention to their wants and needs and tailor any mail-outs to them, rather than bombarding them with everything you have to offer. Customers are far more motivated to keep their contact details up-to-date if they are receiving relevant rewards.

Secure data permissions and trust

Gathering accurate information, formatting and storing it so it’s easily accessible is all pointless if you lose customer trust along the way. Using customer data responsibly and effectively is critical if you wish to maintain an ongoing relationship. Customers need to have confidence that a company is taking care of their data – keeping it secure and not sharing it without permission – and using it judiciously for appropriate and useful offers and rewards. This mutual confidence is at the heart of successful database marketing, and Big Data will not work in the long run unless it remains respected.

Put an SCV database at the heart of your activity

To achieve your objectives – gaining greater insight into customer behaviour and increasing profitability – you need to be able to properly utilise your data. You can do this by creating a single customer view (SCV) – in other words, by viewing marketing, CRM, servicing, in-store, delivery, social media and other data together. An SCV ties together your customer details, their transactional behaviour and your communications with them, enabling you to improve the quality of your interactions by enabling you to identify the following:

  • which segments are worth greater marketing investment

  • what offers and incentives will drive customer behaviour

  • how to personalise and tailor communications to individuals


The two main objectives for any company should be real value for your customer and real value for your business. Everything else should tie in with these two goals. In doing so you ensure that you don’t lose sight of your main objectives throughout the marketing process, giving you a better chance of getting results. Big Data can seem daunting, but if utilised properly it will make customer engagement a far smoother process.

For a more detailed Marketers’ Guide to Big Data and other GI Insight guides, visit:


Andy Wood, Managing Director, GI Insight



About Andy Wood

Andy Wood is Managing Director of GI Insight, which provides a complete data marketing programme covering database building, loyalty schemes, strategy, analysis, campaign execution and fulfilment. He has spent over 21 years in the field of database marketing and has vast experience in the creation and management of loyalty programmes. His particular skills lie in the analysis of data and its application to improving customer communication, turnover and ultimately profit.


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