4 Ways Big Data Can Help You Know Your Customers BetterExploring big data may feel like falling down a rabbit hole, but it can open up a world of new information about your customers if you know where to look.
What is big data? Essentially, it’s huge data sets — from digital sources outside your business and digital and traditional sources inside your business — that can be analyzed to reveal important patterns.
Perhaps one of the best uses for big data is learning more about your client base. Consider these four ways big data can be used to paint a clearer picture of who your customers are and what’s important to them.
Exploring purchase history
You can use big data from social networking sites to dig deeper into your own customers’ buying habits and also identify cross-marketing opportunities, said Bryan Trilli of Optimized Marketing.
Facebook, for instance, buys consumer purchasing data. When creating Facebook ads, you can upload a list of email addresses from your current customer list to target them, or even target their friends. In the process you might learn that a lot of your customers buy Hondas — and you can then target other consumers who buy Hondas.
Trilli said you could even “target a mother of three with a dog who leases a Lexus.” While most businesses won’t want to drill down that far, exploring purchasing data can paint a more detailed picture of your target customer and their lifestyle.
Seeing what customers are searching for and talking about online
You can’t assume you know what your buyers want or need. Big data can help by revealing what your target audience is searching for online.
For instance, small businesses can leverage Google’s vast research repository in Google Think and Google Insights, which provide search-based consumer, industry and even content trend data.
Hashtag analytics tools such as Keyhole can give you a better idea of what your customers are talking about on social media. Eric Zaworski, marketing coordinator, explained Keyhole allows you to run searches on social media hashtags, then zero in by interests, location and more.
Having a clear idea of consumer search habits does more than help you choose better keywords to use on your website. It can even influence decisions around which products or services to offer by identifying what’s popular.
Understanding your customer’s buying cycle
Big data can also provide insight into the buying cycle of your typical customer, such as how long it takes for them to arrive at their purchase decision or the average timespan between purchases, said Trilli. Website analytics and tracking cookie data can follow a customer throughout their entire purchase journey, from their first visit to your website to purchases made years later.
“For instance, in the auto industry this can provide great insights into when a previous customer is back in the market for a new car,” he said.
This data is also highly effective for remarketing strategies, which allows businesses to target their online ads based on a person’s browsing history.
Learning which messages have the best reception
“Your customers are what keep you in business, so understanding them is key,” said Mandy McEwen, owner of Mod Girl Marketing. “Key marketing data, such as what day of the week has the highest email open rates, what price point is driving sales and other trends and patterns can help businesses tailor their marketing campaigns to be more successful.”
Because small businesses are more agile than larger brands, they can quickly correct course if a particular message isn’t working.
Where to start
“The first step in all of this,” said McEwen, “is to think about what questions your company wants answered and what data could potentially provide you with the information needed to make informed decisions around those questions.”
There are a number of free tools available, but it may be worth paying a marketing firm that can provide data using advanced tools you don’t have access to and make that data user-friendly and actionable.
“Knowledge is power,” said Zaworski. “We have more tools than ever to help us gain knowledge of our product, the marketplace, competitors and what customers really want. Use them.”
She added, “It’s one thing to acknowledge that data is constantly around us, but to capture these metrics and translate into meaningful, actionable lessons that help guide business to a profitable and growth-oriented direction is the secret recipe. With an understanding of what you want to learn, big data, especially how it relates to audience, doesn’t have to be scary.”