The term “big data” implies far more than just a lot of data. It is also more than just data sets that are too large for conventional tools to manage, analyze and capture. Big data gives you access to data that is arriving via new streams, such as data collected from social channels, devices connected to the “Internet of Things,” online browsing histories, interactive kiosks and GPS locators.

Big data offers you new opportunities to engage your customers and enhance their experience. However, using big data properly presents certain challenges. The following tips can help you make your data both actionable and useful.

Do not Assume Your Legacy Data is Irrelevant

Unless you are a relatively young enterprise, you have already accumulated quite a bit of valuable data. You may have created customer personas to represent the behavior of specific groups of buyers. You may have created or modeled your ideal customer. There is usually no need to toss out the data you have already accumulated. Instead, develop a strategy to integrate existing data while planning appropriate improvements to your collection and analysis methods.

Specify What You Need

Big data is delivered from a great number of different sources, both unstructured and highly structured sets. Some of the data is more relevant than the rest. In fact, once you evaluate your data carefully, you might find that the “80/20 rule” applies — 80 percent of the value gained is derived from only 20 percent of your data. By examining the quality of your data, you can identify which data sets and sources are the most useful for your needs.

Determine What Others Need

Certain data might be useless to you but priceless to another department. Make sure that you consult other departments to gain a solid understanding of the types of data they need. Do not assume that you know what is best for marketing, for example, if you have no information on upcoming campaigns.

Focus on the Steps in the Customer Journey

For years, marketers have mapped the steps on the customer journey to identify pain points, determine their causes and find ways to correct them. However, in the past, such analyses have had to rely on static, historic data that could be outdated. With big data, you have a chance to harness information to predict what a customer’s behavior is likely to be at any step on the journey.

Do not Forget the “Human Touch”

No computer has yet been designed that can duplicate the human thought process. You and your staff have acquired a great deal of information on how customers respond to different stimuli and how they behave in different situations. Rely on human perceptions — and intuition — to identify problems, define goals, generate theories and identify opportunities. Use your data to test your theories and refine your strategies as needed.

Combine Content and Actionable Data

Content marketing can be an excellent method of enhancing customer engagement. You can gain valuable insight from data collected on social networks, for example, to help you determine what your target customers find most engaging. Your data can help you determine what to present to each customer in the each context. Used effectively, big data can help empower your marketing by offering new ways to interact with your customers.

Understand What Big Data is Not

Big data is not a magic bullet that can solve all of your problems with customer engagement — although if you harness its power effectively, it can be the solution for many of them. It is not an adequate substitute for human intelligence, common sense and intuition — it is a means of supplementing them. Big data does not always mean better data — the sheer volume can make it difficult to identify the critical information. Lastly, big data is not a license to violate customers’ privacy. You have a responsibility to make sure that you do not overstep the boundaries of appropriate use.

In Conclusion

The age of big data has brought a variety of opportunities that did not exist previously. You can use the data you accumulate to be proactive in enhancing the customer experience and engaging them in ways that were impossible even 15 or 20 years ago. However, big data is no substitute for common sense and instinct — it is merely a tool that you can use to enhance your natural abilities.

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