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By now you will have heard the terms “Big Data”, “Machine Learning” and the “Internet of Things”? With all the hype surrounding these technologies, just what are they and how are they relevant to your business.
The first step in explaining what these technologies are is to understand what problems they are trying to solve. Then we can look at some of the common real-world uses for them and how they can be useful for everyday business owners.
The main marketing headaches for most smaller business owners are how to find out what their customers want, and then to get their message “above the noise”.
Back in the prehistoric days (before the internet) if you wanted to conduct market research you would buy the research, go out with your clipboard and pen or even pick up the phone and talk to potential customers.
This was (and is) an expensive and time-consuming process, you then had to decide if you wanted to spend money buying advertising space, use direct marketing or other traditional ways to get in front of your target audience.
What is “Big Data”?
Not so anymore, with the internet, mobile devices and “real-time” access to quality data is a fact of life, it is possible to track more information about your customers than you ever thought possible.
By 2020 the amount of data captured every second is estimated to reach 1.7 megabytes, that 1.7 megabytes every second for every person on the planet. By 2020 the total accumulated data will reach 44 trillion gigabytes.
This phenomenon is driven by an insatiable appetite for business to know where you are going, who you are talking to and what you are buying.
Not only can your internet usage be tracked but also via the “Internet of Things”, the devices you use including your phone, car, atm, tv, fit-pro, go-pro and the checkout at your local shops. The amount of detail that can be captured about you is staggering and most of it occurs without you knowing.
This massive repository of information or “Big Data” sits in various databases on the planet and is exchanged and sold by businesses so they can more effectively match their message with the right people and what they want – it’s like a marketing smart bomb.
Up until recent years, all of this information was largely useless and sat there in a big bucket. Everyone wanted to be into “Big Data” but no one knew how to do anything with it, besides generate some nice looking pie charts that is!
Raw data isn’t very useful until it becomes information
Then “machine learning came along” and started to transform this lake of information into a very valuable asset, you may be familiar with machine learning in your everyday life.
Have you ever noticed when you browse or buy something on the internet it suddenly starts appearing up in facebook videos, or when you watch something on Netflix it seems to know your favorite selections?
This is a basic form of machine learning called “supervised learning” that allows the business to observe how you have behaved in the past, how you are behaving now and uses that to predict what you are likely to want and do in the future.
Its also very powerful, so much data has been collected and the processing power is so sophisticated that companies can advertise to you in real-time, as you are walking past the LED TV’s in the store, on your mobile because that morning you were looking at them online.
So how can your business benefit from this?
How can you get access to this for your business and leverage some of the most sophisticated real-time marketing tools around? How do you achieve this without employing expert data scientists and spending a fortune on data and computing power?
A very simple way is to use social media platforms such as facebook. “I don’t use facebook!” you say, well your customers do and most likely your competitors as well. In fact, it has 2.32 billion monthly active users, around 68% of Americans use it.
After 15 years the platform has accumulated a lot of data, it ingests around 2.5 billion pieces of data or 500 terabytes of data every day. It uses complex machine learning models that allow you to target “with precision” the audience and the market you serve.
So how do you get started using this power in your business? It helps if you have a basic list of information about your customers. If you don’t keep records about your customers then now is the time to start.
This information can be uploaded and used to “predict” and target the locations, age, sex, habits, and preferences of your target market group.
It’s as simple as creating a spreadsheet of your customer details and uploading the information in your small list to match and target a much larger audience (receptive to your product or service) in a massive online database.
This approach alone can put you in the top 20% of business owners who know how to use the power of social platforms, big data and machine learning for their benefit.
For those that want to take it a step further, you can even target your potential customers as they go on holiday, during shopping hours or even broadcast your ad to a specific event, conference or venue where your potential customer is attending.
Perhaps you want to target your competitor’s customers as they move through their store, broadcasting special offers as they compare prices online. You might want to target them after hours as they consider their purchases or entice them into your business as they go on holiday.
Not bad for an investment starting from around $15 a day.
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