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Humanize Big Data to Realise New Business Opportunities

It is only possible to go so far in analysis of data without a rich understanding of Human behaviour

It’s fair to say that an increasing amount of our lives are lived online, whether through our transactions with companies when we shop and buy online, our relationships with each other through social networking sites or indeed our relationships with government as public services are increasingly digitized.

We are also seeing the ‘datafication’ of what was traditionally considered to be our ‘offline’ lives. For example, our voices are recorded and analyzed by call centres seeking to classify the emotion we are portraying and our faces are captured and software used to recognize our demographic profile.

We live in a world where our lives are captured with data in a hugely detailed fashion.

Clearly, this has created huge opportunities and challenges for brands and governments which now have access to very detailed information about us. But just how good are we at using this data? Do we really know how to read and interpret data about these complex beings we call ‘consumers’?

The current big data analytics industry has made huge commercial gains for many organisations in their use of personal data for marketing purposes including:

  • Targeting relevant advertising
  • Customising customer experiences
  • Developing new products and services

But are we reaching a plateau? Can we really continue to generate value using the same approaches that we have to date?

I would argue that much of the agenda is driven by technologists, mathematicians and economists – who do not always understand human behaviour. And ultimately it is only possible to go so far in the analysis of data without a rich understanding of Human behaviour.

My book, Humanizing Big Data, sets out an agenda for this. The subtitle is ‘Marketing at the meeting of data, social science and consumer insight’ and it is these three elements that are needed to work together to really deliver value for brands (and indeed government organisations):

  • Data: we can easily fall into the trap of thinking that data can ‘speak for itself’, but in fact, humans are centre stage in determining how we gather, select, clean, analyse and interpret data. It is becoming increasingly clear that we can fall into pitfalls at each of these stages, with the only reliable means of navigating data being a coherent conceptual framework of how consumers behave. 

  • Social science: this provides just such a framework for navigating big data. As technology costs plummet then the playing field for the collection and analysis of data is rapidly levelling. As well as investing in new platforms, brands will increasingly need to invest in new ways of thinking to create real differentiation.

  • Consumer insights: market research has always relied on a deep understanding of consumer experience to filter the real insights, or ‘signals’ from the mass of ‘noise’ in the environment. And surely this is what is needed when looking at the results of analysis of data about consumer behaviour.

Humanizing Big Data brings together these themes to provide brands, and indeed government institutions, with a fresh perspective on big data and how employing a more human-centred perspective will help realise these new opportunities.