What is Big Data and How Can It Help Marketers?


Big data has been a popular topic within the business world for years now. But what is it exactly, other than a large amount of data? According to Gartner, big data is “high-volume, -velocity and -variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision making.” When looking at data, it’s important to understand these three V’s – volume, velocity, and variety – and the challenges they present.

  • Volume: A seemingly simple concept, volume is the amount of data available to be analyzed. But when data is collected from an increasing amount of devices – such as sensors, cell phones, and computers – the amount accumulated can be overwhelming. The challenge is to sift through this data and determine what is useful and what is not.
  • Velocity: The speed at which data is generated is velocity. Because data comes from so many different sources, it can accumulate rapidly. The challenge is to collect the data as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • Variety: The concept of variety indicates the many different forms of data available for collection. Examples include audio, video, email, and in-store purchasing data. The challenge variety poses is the need to compare and contrast these many types of data in such a way that is useful and reveals patterns.


After high-volume, -velocity, and -variety data is collected, it must be analyzed so as to provide insights for companies. Nowadays, there are many companies that specialize in big data analytics. Patterns discovered from big data through analytics can then be used to provide value for a company.

So how can big data help marketers? The uses of big data within marketing continue to grow, but below are four examples of companies that have found success with their big data marketing efforts.

  1. General Electric: GE uses the big data it collects to produce data visualizations, or infographics, for its consumers. These data visualizations educate consumers on topics such as energy, transportation, engineering, and health, and are a successful form ofcontent marketing.
  2. Zara: The world’s largest apparel retailer, Zara derives its success from a system that involves collecting customer feedback to maintain a superior product offering. Employees in Zara stores collect customer feedback and send it to company headquarters via handheld computers. This big data is then analyzed and used to determine what products to make, how to price these products, and how many to make. Due to this system, Zara spends next to nothing on advertising, gets new products from the drawing board to stores in an unheard of two weeks, and rarely needs to markdown products.
  3. Financial Times: The Financial Times allows anyone to read eight articles per month for free online. However, before you can begin browsing the articles, the Financial Times requires you to register with the website, which involves handing over your zip code, email address, and basic job information. While that may seem like simple information, it translates to extremely useful big data that the Financial Times can use for more targeted advertising.
  4. Amazon: The world’s largest online retailer, Amazon uses big data to target its advertising and improve the customer experience. Complex algorithms coupled with large amounts of data from customers’ previous purchases allow Amazon to predict which products consumers want to buy. As a result, Amazon is able to customize its website for each individual in terms of ads and suggested products.


Do you use big data as a marketer? How? What are some ways big data has helped your company?