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Big Data - Its make or break time for marketers: Sandeep Sharma

Sandeep Sharma is President of R K SWAMY MEDIA GROUP and has had stints in the past with Lintas, Star India and Times Now.

We are now about half a decade into the big data revolution without actually knowing it. Big data, now, is more than just a buzzword. In fact, the huge amounts of data that we're gathering could well change all areas of our life, from improving healthcare to helping  manage traffic levels in our severely clogged cities (let’s hope this happens sooner than later) and, of course, making our marketing campaigns far more sharper.

AI and machine learning are just starting to make their presence felt in our culture. Marketers are now starting to parse huge amounts of data to draw conclusions, build more robust sales & marketing strategies and predict future outcomes more accurately. The impact of this is being felt maximum in politics and governance where Aadhaar is being touted as a future game changer for India. Marketers are starting to penetrate India’s semi urban and rural markets by using a judicious mix of big data with a dash of AI and machine learning  and in addition the B2B marketers are also implementing IOT led products that are helping them understand the next 200 million customers.

In this article I have tried to look at five areas that big data will majorly affect the ad & marketing industry. The battle for attention has now shifted to being a battle of insight and fusing the right mix of product and communication to a customer who is wowed by the ingenuity of the brand & is becoming pivotal to client retention and future survival

Targeted ads that will regularly hit the spot

Remember the politician who believed that the opposition advertises on a rival nation website to undermine the country? Well, the internet is a flat world without any boundaries and we live on planets called Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc; The ruler of this galaxy is Google & FB, the big daddy of big data. As publishers gather more and more data about their visitors, it'll enable them to serve up more and more relevant advertising. In the same way that Google and Facebook already offer up detailed targeting options, third-party vendors will offer the same array of choice.

Targeting has already reached dizzying heights with the help of big data, AI and machine learning. Apps that deal with weather and climatic conditions are able to geo point its users and serve them relevant ads pertaining to the region they are living in. For example, people living in extremely hot and humid places can be served ads of a large prickly heat powder brand. All this while the same brand spent very little on traditional advertising. Big data and machine learning alIows for smart targeting of the customer and served ads depending on what the customer in the region is likely to prefer on the basis of the climatic conditions.

And we are just getting started.

SEO,SEM and now Search Engine Targeting

Semantic search is the process of searching in natural language terms instead of in the short burst of keywords that we're more used to. Big data and machine learning make it easier for search engines to fully understand what a user is searching for, and smart marketers are beginning to incorporate this into their site search functionality to improve the user experience for their visitors.

In India we believe that the addition of voice based search and even chat bots will help reach a huge volume of customers and add them as prospective customers.

In America, Walmart, cleverly uses text analysis, machine learning and synonym mining to improve the accuracy of their site search. According to Walmart, adding semantic search to their website has increased the conversion rate by 10-15%. For a company like Walmart, that adds up to hundreds of millions (if not billions) of dollars.

Smart content

It is true that when you watch Netflix, Netflix watches you.

If you are a ‘NARCOS’ fan and have watched all the seasons of the show you will have noticed a clear pattern where the blood, gore, action and sex scenes have been tailored and modified as the seasons have progressed. Netflix realized, understood and constantly learnt from user data generated by the millions across the globe when they watched Netflix and based on audience reaction made sure that the show evolved without compromising on its core content. ‘NARCOS’ has been one of Netflix’s biggest global successes and the insight generated has been used to plan many such global crossover shows by Netflix including the India targeted show ‘Sacred Games’.

Big data has helped Netflix garner a multibillion dollar valuation making it one of the biggest success stories in big data,

In the same way that Netflix can serve up personalized recommendations, publishers will be able to serve up more relevant content to their visitors by tapping into their wealth of data to determine which content people are most likely to enjoy. Even content marketers will be able to get into the job, and digital marketers will need to learn to stop thinking of their blog as a static site. In the same way that you get different results when you Google the same phrase in different locations, your blog should look different depending upon who's looking at it.

 Conclusive testing

No more shooting in the dark or simply risking client dollars on ‘gut feel’. Big data will take the guesswork out of the business and help the marketer take direct ‘Yes/No’ decisions based on the insight thrown up by the data. The fact that we're able to gather and analyze data in huge amounts will enable us to conduct much more conclusive testing because instead of just testing variants of a single factor, the algorithms of the future will enable us to factor in all sorts of additional data including visitors' prior histories to give us more accurate - and more conclusive - test results.

This will also result in stronger engagement of the customer with the brand.

Machine-powered analytics with a humane touch

Marketers of the future will need to work in tandem with machines to analyze data and to make decisions based upon it. Technology will continue to gallop at the rate of knots but humans will always be needed to rein it in the right direction - and that's even truer when it comes to the complicated field of big data analytics. No human could do it alone, and neither could any single piece of software. The combination of the two will be far more powerful than just the sum of its parts.

What's next?

There's huge potential for marketers to take advantage of big data in the here and now, and we're likely to see a future in which each company's big data repository is its biggest asset. In India we are just getting there. We are yet to see an explosion but big data awaits take off in the biggest manner possible and with 5G around the corner we might be nearing a tipping point.

As with most things, it'll be the early adopters who have the most to gain, because it'll give them a head start on the competition. The organizations that are moving towards a big data approach and fundamentally including BIG DATA in their strategy are the likely winners of tomorrow.

A Dynamic leader with over two decades of experience in the best of companies in media, advertising and fmcg marketing, currently as president at R K SWAMY BBDO, Sandeep Sharma manages the entire media group companies comprising of Media planning & buying, Outdoor, Digital, PR & Marketing Consultancy, managing 130 employees, 110 clients across 7 offices pan India. With experience in managing top brands and building businesses, he has worked with TIMESNOW, ETNOW and STAR TV at CSO & CMO leadership level.

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