For some, insights from big data are the promise of super-smart nuggets of information ready to guide that one great strategy or one big idea. For others, they’re the same old pony dressed in new clothes and the chance to play with a shiny new toy. However one thinks, big data analytics are here to stay. Here are five thoughts from the Future Foundation’s conference on Big Data and Insight held in London last month.
1. V is for Value
Big data has, by-and-large, been described as data that is high volume (think petabytes, where one petabyte is 1MM+ 1GB USB sticks), high velocity (now take the petabyte and imagine processing one per hour; Google does that) and high variety (i.e., multiple sources and formats, such as social data, spending data, customer data, location data, etc.). Now, at the center of it all is the high value, as brands are increasingly relying on data for strategic value. Big data-driven insights become an asset class of its own.
2. Surveys Stay
As most of our lives unfold in one digital format or another, we embrace different voices. We tend to put on our best behavior in public, social forums, as friends scrutinize our every post, like and comment. Meanwhile we allow our inner thinking to be expressed in private, more anonymous platforms, for example when Googling. This voice disparity is covered in detail in Future Foundation’s latest book, The Big Lie. The authors uncovered the voice disparity by coupling big data analysis with traditional survey-based market research. Contradictions in customer insights are not new, but both surveys and digital behavioral analysis have their limitations. Future Foundation proposes an overlaying of the two to ultimately allow for super smart insights to shine through.
3. Human Experiences get Datafied
Wearable technology – such as the Nike+ FuelBand or Fitbit Flex– is putting us all another step closer to the datafication of the entire human experience, according to Dom Harrison, global trends director at Future Foundation. In Britain alone, 1 in 6 people born after 1981 responded to an nVision survey conducted this year saying they use personal health tracking apps. These apps track the calories you consume, your heart rate, how many steps you’ve taken, and, perhaps most engaging of all, how it all stacks up to your friends’ performances. In real terms this is big data directly impacting our personal health.
4. The Revolution Will be “Impossible to Suppress”
All this datafication has led to privacy concerns which have, in turn, fueled political efforts on data protection laws and regulations that may limit the universe of big data. Stats such as “92 percent of Europeans say they are concerned about mobile apps collecting their data without consent” are quoted by the European Commission (Oct., 2013) to support the Data Protection Directive, for example. According to James Murphy, editorial director of Future Foundation, “politics cannot make a single dent in the future of big data”. The big data revolution is such that it would be like trying to stop a tsunami by standing in front of it and raising your hand.
5. Big Data Will Not Replace Creativity
The infamous story of Netflix and its big data experiment, House of Cards, was mentioned at the Future Foundation’s conference, only this time not for its predictive analytics, but rather its creative power. The claim being that brands require new creative approaches to compete in an insight-driven world. “Big data cannot replace the creative soul,” said James Murphy, but it is the job of insight to “look back stage” and determine why we like particular stories, what excites us and what bores us. So, while big data has a place in the creative process, it should not be seen as a substitute for creativity.
Where do you envision big data and Insights making the most impact this year?
Teodora Beleaga is a Digital Analyst at Edelman Digital London.