Big Data's Challenges and Opportunities

Data Analytics
Customer Experience
Big Data was on everyone's minds and lips during <a href="">Pitney Bowes Software's </a>Insights 2012 conference this week in New Orleans, where customers spoke about how they're turning customer insights into positive business results.

Big Data was on everyone's minds and lips during Pitney Bowes Software's Insights 2012 conference this week in New Orleans, where customers spoke about how they're turning customer insights into positive business results.

Here, John O'Hara, president of Pitney Bowes Software, sat down with me to discuss Big Data's accompanying challenges, as well as the opportunities it affords marketers who understand how to best leverage it within their enterprises.

On Wednesday, you told the audience that every customer journey starts with data. But so many companies today grapple with how to aggregate and analyze all the data pouring into their enterprises. What's your advice for starting on this journey?

The first thing to do is to really look and see what kind of data they want to actually consolidate and then define a master data management strategy that will create a single source of truth around the customer. Find out to what extent they are going to integrate these different data sources. There's also a level of data cleansing required, data governance, and enrichment of the data. They have to look holistically at what they want to do with the data to make sure they get insight from that as a result.

Who from across the organization do you recommend should be involved in this process?

It starts with the CIO who is the guardian of the company data, but it should also involve marketing, sales, and several other guardians of data across the organization.

How are social and mobile changing the game for marketers and how are they creating additional complexities?

I see many companies actually setting up social media dashboards which they monitor closely. They take feeds from social media like a hose pipe and they check it for sentiment. I think social and all this unstructured data will be increasingly important and the analysis based on sentiment even more so. Big data will just get bigger because of the mobile revolution. Just as people use devices...all that data will be transacted on a device that they carry everywhere.

That translates to even bigger challenges for marketers.

It means bigger challenges and bigger opportunities. It comes down to how you use the data from social and mobile. So many companies are gathering data but not analyzing it. I think this will raise issues around governance of that data and compliance. Governments themselves will need to decide at which stage privacy laws are actually breached.

Pitney Bowes Software also offers geo-location technologies. How are they also innovating the way marketers communicate with customers?

Most people want to type in an address and from an x and y coordinate carry out a number of activities...if you're targeting customers then you can create polygons within which you can specify particular demographics, and based on that polygon, it's about how you can target all males between ages 30 and 50, for example. We're seeing a big increase now in location-based marketing.

Which industries would you say are leading the way in leveraging data to enhance the customer experience?

The banking industry is one such area right now. For banks, it's not only about reducing costs, it's now about how they win more customers, retain existing customers, and more Importantly--how they sell more to existing customers. We're doing exactly the same in the insurance industry. Retailers are interested in site location to determine where they should open new branches. Telecommunications is another industry that is creating billing mechanisms through digital and physical document composition capabilities as well as helping with customer care techniques so companies can better serve customers online.

What trends do you predict we'll see in the customer experience space over the next year?

I think customers are getting much more demanding and will expect so much more. Having outstanding customer service will be taken for granted. Organizations expect you to know more about them and many are already considering the question of big data. I think more organizations will start thinking about data enrichment. You will see more powerful data analysis tools and technologies emerging that will provide more insights on that data.