All Things Digital

Big data is getting bigger And simplifying marketers’ understanding of customer behavior

The other day, I bought two tickets for Kapoor and Sons and guess what?
My friends and colleagues starting posting on my timeline, asking me for a review of the movie.

How did they find out?

While booking my ticket on the portal, I may have checked a box that permitted the world’s biggest aggregator of personal information (Facebook) to access my customer data from India’s biggest show time booking site,

To be sure, bookmyshow was not breaching my privacy, since inadvertently I allowed them to share my movie choice with FB, and left a digital print of my purchase on the social networking site. These are footprints that brands are becoming clever at analyzing, in order to understand my likes and preferences, and use that information to upsell and cross-sell new services and products to me.

If you have ever travelled by GoAir, and left a customer feedback form, you should be on their email list by now, receiving countless discount deals and offers, designed in association with their channel partners and customised only for people with your kind of demographics.

Okay, this may be an oversimplification of a complex metric. But then as any CMO worth his salt would tell you, the laws of commerce work only when you keep them simple.

“Big Data” may be a sexy buzzword but companies still don’t know what to do with the zillions of data points that customers leave behind in their digital footprint. This despite the fact that Wikibon expects the Big Data market to top $84 billion in 2026, implying a 17% compound annual growth rate over the 15 year period.

Data analytics helps brands become consumer-focused and competitive. It helps them know their customer better.

Let me explain that with a real-life scenario. During the many years of our ‘influential’ marriage, my wife has managed to convert me into a health food fanatic. I pick my daily brown, multi-grain, vitamin-enriched white bread from a neighborhood bakery, the same store that my mother shopped at, when the baker’s mother ran it for him. Two generations of bonding makes me a loyal customer. Therefore, every time I walk into the store, and before I place my order, the over-fresh loaf is laid out in front of me – in a recyclable brown paper bag. I linger on a wee bit, trading news about the weather and last night India-Pakistan’s cricket match, before I take my leave from the ruddy-faced baker.

I appreciate the personalized service and wouldn’t think of switching to, even if they were to make me a free-of-cost doorstep delivery. If there was a data analytics team at the online store, they would use this insight to make their service more personal, come up with innovative loyalty schemes and invest more in execution than in the newest CRM package. Smart companies invest big in big data only so they can provide better services for their customers and not just to seek next round of funding from their existing investors.

Example OLX’s Dashboard of Dreams that invites visitors to the general classified site spell out their “product wish list” – study the trend, and then, possibly address some of those consumer needs with a relevant product or service offering.  Sites like,, and are doing the same by keeping a meticulous record of their visitors’ browsing history, purchase behavior, and demographic profiles to make relevant product suggestions.

“The world’s largest marketplace can feel small when the online store remembers your name and what you bought the last time you logged into the site,” says a Forbes scribe.

Southwest Airlines, for instance uses speech analytics to mine data from live-recorded interactions between customers and their front desk.

In the healthcare industry, big data’s use improves not just the quality of doctor-patient interaction but also saves lives. Healthcare providers in Singapore are using multiple sources to gather data insights in their understanding of chronic, lifestyle diseases. They hope to cut hospital costs by understanding each patient’s unique condition, lifestyle choices, work and home environment, so they can prepare a pre-emptive prevention plan or create personalized treatment plans tailored to a patient’s individual behavior. For example, if a patient is forgetful about her drug regime, the service provider can set up app alerts to jog their weak memory.

Some HR honchos are using data to address work-related stress factors, thereby reducing employee turnover, identifying training needs and optimize the company cost on top performers.

Online retailers are using heat maps to maximize customer satisfaction and increase their profit from every transaction. Where it’s used for designing an attractive promo, resolve a pain point, or direct them to a new product; an accurate application of data tools can help retailers make a customer’s’ shopping experience more satisfying on their sites.

A few years ago, an Italian retailer installed a face recognition device at his store. He was surprised to discover that at the strike of 5 pm, a huge number of Asian customers passed his entrance. A canny businessman, he stationed his Asian employee at that entrance during that period.

The outcome?

His sales went up by 12 per cent!

All gain. No pain.

The only big challenge before marketers however is that they are practically wading in a humongous amount of data pools. Only a few of these are useful enough to sharpen their marketing strategies. The rest, the noise factor – has to be intelligently filtered out. Finally, they would do well to remember that eventually, it’s not about the quality of data they are able to mine, but about the decisions they make based on this data. Capturing relevant data is just the starting point. The differentiator is how it improves your decision making. At the end of the day, data is useful only if it can be converted into actionable insight.

Incidentally, half a dozen friends my FB review of Kapoor and Sons useful and booked their tickets for the next show.