ad:tech: Challenges and Opportunities of Big Data: What it can and can't do'

Globally, there are some great case studies that have defined the success of Big Data.  One of the most impressive ones is Netflix – who, in a bid to acquire and retain customers, analyzed customer behavior data and categories they were interested in.  This led their foray into the original content business.  Their confidence in their analysis of Big Data was clear when they outbid HBO for the commissioning of the political show “House of Cards”.  A beginning that is continuing with “Orange is the new Black”, “Arrested Development” and others.

In India - is Big Data just a headline in the “Tech Trends Marketers need to look for in the next year” every New Years Eve along with wearables, Internet of Things, Mobile Payments (as it has been in the past 3-4 years) or is it really what is driving the CMO’s entire organization - creating business insight & innovation in the futuristic enterprise?

I moderated a panel with talented leaders from a varied group of industries at AdTech India 2015: Chetan Kulkarni, Co-founder & CEO, Vizury; Yashish Dahiya, Co-founder & CEO, Policy Bazaar; Madan Mohapatra, Head – Customer Strategy, Future Group; Sagnik Ghosh, VP & Head Marketing, AXIS Bank; and Vyom Upadhyay, Head – Biz Intelligence, ICICI Bank.  Some highlights from the panel around Big Data.

Vizury, who help brands optimize their marketing using Big Data, had some good examples – amongst them one for a leading airline which saw tremendous benefit from “linking seat fill rate to 1:1 promotions by route” said Chetan Kulkarni. 

The financial industry has several initiatives around using Big Data – that go from empowering branch staff with the right information to address the needs of their customers to finding usage patterns that help customize channel and product usage.  “We have a platform which enables the RM and branch staff to understand the customer profile real time – both from a cross-sell and from the service perspective.” Said Vyom Upadhyay. “The challenge is to not be spooky, to not cross the intrusion line” advised Sagnik Ghosh. Clearly, relevance is a key factor – if what the consumer is getting is relevant/valuable, they see the benefit. “Long before the word Big Data became popular, Wall Street was doing algorithm based trading on pretty real time data.  The stuff was expensive, and remains expensive” said Upadhyay. “Big Data brings the I in IT to the centre of things for the first time: exciting ride ahead”.

“We are still learning what Big Data can do.  Right now we are focusing on retargeting consumers with the help of Big Data.  Data is powerful.  And results can be conclusive.  The key is how you are co-relating the same with your own market insights.  Data provides confidence to decisions.  Which at times can be dangerous. When data and gut have clashed historically, the latter has proven to be the winner in most cases” said Yashish Dahiya.

“In our search for looking for all answers from the Big data, we should never forget that this is one of the business enablers and not “the” enabler . It is less about how much data we have and more about how effectively we can mine that”, was Mohapatra’s take on it.

Sensitivities around privacy and data security are just one hurdle that companies and governments need to overcome if the economic benefits of big data are to be realised.  Where the possibilities could be many more for offering a cluster of services to the customer based on profiling, brands are very conscious of legalities. “There needs to be more concern for consumer privacy”, stated Dahiya.

“Privacy is very very important.  Sometimes it is important to define boundaries – not send out that offer even if it appears relevant.  Customers have silently voted against intrusion by registering on NDNC – lets not repeat that for any other channel of communication.” said Upadhyay.

The key challenge was the ownership of driving Big Data initiatives within the organization.  While there was general agreement that the current silo structure was completely wrong for the organization, Dahiya felt that it “should fall in the CMOs remit”. Vizury’s Kulkarni, from past experience of having worked with a varied range of companies, advised that “the Product Team should be responsible for Big Data – with a structure created around them that facilitates collaboration and decision making” to drive efficiency & innovation.

“Attribution and retargeting will get smarter in 2015.  Personalization through mobile will become bigger in 2015 too.  Analysis is critical today, but attribution is the key that holds the future” said Dahiya.

Routing applications which are increasingly getting pre-loaded on phones with GPS capability represent a clear opportunity for customers to get the benefit of Big Data.  By 2020, more than 70% of mobile phones are expected to have a GPS capability, up from 20% in 2010. The estimated potential global value of smart routing in the form of time and fuel savings will be about $500bn by 2020.

“Personalized recommendations on retailer sites is a clear benefit for consumers from big data” said Kulkarni. “The ability to compare insurance products and get recommendations on what you need to purchase is clearly a consumer benefit too” said Dahiya.

How does an organization start? Create a roadmap with the ultimate outcome you have in mind.  “Take small steps, experiment, learn, try again” reiterated Ghosh.  There are substantial costs attached to decisions you make – so making the right decisions is key.  At the same time, analysis-paralysis is something to be wary of.

Leaders across industries are thinking through their strategies around Big Data.  There is a lot that still needs to be done – but clearly organizations that are putting data at the centre of their decision-making are going in the right direction: optimizing their marketing efficiencies, creating differentiation and potentially driving new revenue streams.  And most importantly, future proofing their business. 

The article is written by Ms Tripti Lochan, CEO, VML Qais

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