The description alone -- volume, velocity, and variety -- points directly to the simple truth that when it comes to marketing, big data is complex and hard to handle. In fact, as the number of devices per person and per household increases, the amount of data coming in from ad engagements soars to the point of being practically infinite. In addition, it seems as if every day brings new technology to squeeze new observations out of every consumer interaction. One could safely argue that most of the data that's supposed to create insights is currently lost to marketers and becomes more a hindrance than a help.
So how do you make big data work for you? There is something else that starts with a V that marketers can add that makes big data work better for them: Validity.
Validity for online marketing means making the data meaningful for the purpose at hand, making connections across channels in a privacy-compliant manner. Validity doesn't mean making sure every single user record is 100% correct, but rather that the data is accurate for the segment overall.
Companies have a wealth of data in offline systems: data that has been cleansed, corrected, and enhanced in every way possible and delivers results in those offline marketing channels. Stripped of personally identifiable information (PII), this information can be used to seed insights within the vast field of online data and interaction we see every day. Then marketers can readily see how other data elements cluster around these elements they trust.
For example, if you're a retailer, you already know your website traffic goes up as the holiday season approaches. But if you could connect your website visitor information to your top customer segments you might notice that your biggest spenders aren't even among those coming in from your online media or that your most frequent shoppers are those who visit a particular product category like electronics or shoes. In either case, this insight from data you trust can inspire more focused and efficient ad spending on your next campaigns. That's validity at work.
Using different data to make connections between online audiences drives different insights. Flags for segments from your direct marketing database can be combined in display targeting to amplify a promotional message across both channels. If you're using a retargeting tool that allows you to analyze your campaigns, you can see if there are particular audiences who correlate to a segment in your email list and excite those segments with a special offer right in their inbox. With digital marketing systems that leverage validity as a core service, you can even retarget from email to display while leveraging the insights from mobile or social to ensure you are engaging with a consistent segment/audience.
These efforts aren't just about finding audiences that look like your best customers, though. That's just the beginning. As those insights grow, the fast moving, high-volume nature of online data will reveal more subtle gradations in audiences against which marketers can further optimize their messaging, offers, and experiences. Back to the example above, because there is so much information moving around online, you might notice that your top spenders are nearly equally split between distinct household income levels or between home owners and renters. With this information, your top spenders segment can be turned into two distinct audiences for future campaigns. Without the volume and velocity of big data, this distinction might not appear statistically relevant, but by adding data you trust this insight becomes both valid and actionable.
So while taming the volume, velocity and variety issues that define big data is important, the key to mastering that big data and making the most use of it for your advertising efforts is adding a focus on validity.