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7 reasons why small data is more valuable than big data

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shutterstock_220214671In my blog entitled “The Big Data Debate” I explored the varying definitions of both big and small data and the role that they play in marketing. And let me first reiterate my belief that both have a role to play. Any data that provides marketers with insights into consumer behaviour cannot be dismissed. But for me, it’s small data that marketers should really be paying attention to. Here’s why:

1. Think like a consumer

It’s a smart marketer that can put themselves in the shoes of the consumer that they’re trying to have a conversation with. That can understand them, empathise with them, know what makes them laugh, cry and ultimately buy. It’s small data that provides the insights marketers need to understand consumers on an individual level.

2. Big data is difficult

By definition (depending on which one you lean towards) managing big data is difficult. The Wikipedia definition stipulates that big data is: “an all-encompassing term for any collection of data sets  so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand data management tools or traditional data processing applications”. Note the words “complex” and “difficult” and big data is definitely one for the big kids.

3. We can’t see into the future

Using algorithms to analyse big data, marketers can predict future behaviour based on past behaviour. Or so the theory goes. But the past doesn’t always accurately reflect the future, especially when the age we live in is so fast moving. What’s more, by definition big data is collected over a period of time, most likely years. Is the way in which consumer’s behaved even just three years ago going to accurately predict how they’ll behave in the future?

4. Small data is everywhere

Literally. Social media is one of the richest sources of small data. Over the past few years it has infiltrated every aspect of our lives socially and professionally, it provides a footprint of how we live and ultimately how we consume. From posting photos to checking in, commenting, blogging and tweeting we leave a trail of small data; our social footprint. It’s this footprint that helps businesses better understand our changing needs as consumers. In short, small data is more accessible.

5. Data-driven marketing is the new black

It’s been around for decades and perhaps marketers have “got it” for equally as long. But it’s never been sexy. Gone are the days of advertising agencies presenting multi-million dollar brand campaigns to depict the glamourous lifestyle consumers will enjoy if only they purchase your jeans / mascara / bottle of beer. Now it’s all about consumer insights, test and learn and ROI (see point below). Data is king. We’re entering an era of marketing as science, it’s no longer an art and a borderline “creative” industry at best.

6. ROI rules

To my point above, companies are no longer throwing millions of dollars on brand campaigns with no way of accurately measuring ROI. By creating campaigns using small data, everything is measurable, from a consumer’s social media interaction right through to sale. Small data ensures that marketers can account for every marketing dollar spent.

7. Less is more

Mass marketing is gone. A brand may have less to say (because they’re not mass broadcasting) but what they do say has more meaning to consumers on an individual level, if it reflects the insights gained from small data. In an environment where we’re constantly bombarded with a plethora of brand messages, this is the only way to cut-through. Serve me an ad for a sugary soft drink when I’m a health obsessed gym junkie and you’ve failed.

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