"The world is generating more data in 10 minutes than from between 2003 and pre-historic times." These words by Professor Wil van der Aalst are put into clearer context by the fact that that as of 1995, less than 1% of the world's population was connected to the internet. As of today, however, that number has risen to 40%. This has caused an explosion in the amount of data being generated daily, that cannot be handled by traditional and classical methods; hence the name big data.
Big data is rapidly changing every facet of the world, including the way decisions are made. Perhaps a simple example of this is how the police now use social media updates as an important part of their surveillance and investigation of crimes. That said, the potential for businesses to take advantage of the large streams of data at their disposal to influence every business decision can only increase their bottom line. One of such decision is the web design of the business' virtual home.
The goal of every business is for their website to yield better conversions — this is tied to the web design and the content around it. A/B testing is an example of a utility that helps companies make a choice between two different variants of their web design. The difference between the two variants can be as subtle as color, fonts, and use of different pictures. For example, author Mike Michalowicz had a conversion increase of 20% just by changing a picture on his website to one where he was wearing a wedding ring. This drives home the point perfectly.
After finding the perfect web design, perhaps the hardest things for businesses is to engage new prospects and keep them coming back; and all this is anchored on just one word: value! Users will always come back to where they find value. Good examples of businesses using big data to engage viewers are Amazon and Netflix. Netflix rightly gets the credit for using big data to underpin the success of some of their shows, but the way Amazon uses big data is quite subtle, and I'll explain it briefly below.
Amazon's use of "frequently bought together," "customers who bought this item also bought," and "what other items do customers buy after viewing this item?" is the way they engage their users, and subtly encourage them to make an extra purchase. It is almost synonymous with the show-glass strategy of fast food eateries.
For enterprises and businesses, big data is akin to a map. You need to ask the right questions for it to become useful. A map is rich with different kinds of information: road networks, bicycle routes, train networks, etc. If you don't know what you are looking for, the map can be confusing. The same applies to data gotten from websites. Furthermore, big data analysis is not always an end in itself, but a pointer to where the focus of attention should be. Big data should ultimately help you define who your core audience is, and this will help you streamline, while still optimizing all marketing strategies and channels.