There are, at present, more bytes of stored data than there are stars in the observable universe. And that number keeps growing, with quintillions of bytes of data produced every day. In fact, it’s estimated that by 2025 the amount of data generated each day will reach 463 exabytes globally.
Over time, people have naturally realised that all that data has value. Utilised correctly, it can impact everything an organisation does, from the way it communicates with its customers to its overall operations. As much as the phrase “data is the new oil” has started to feel like a cliche, there’s still a lot of truth in it.
In fact, the metaphor is more apt than its original formulators probably imagined. Just like crude oil, data in and of itself has limited value. In order to get the most out of the data at their disposal, organisations have to refine it, be able to put it in context, and ensure that they are in a position to take action according to the information it provides.
Refining for relevance
As valuable as data can be, it’s also true that not all big data yields quality customer insights. In order to get to that point, organisations need to be able to bring together disparate data sets and refine them in such a way that it improves the overall customer experience.
In particular, organisations should look for data that includes, but is not limited to the following:
- Information about the person: at the core is a system that identifies each individual client. This system should store identification data alongside contact information, geographic location, basic demographics, communication preferences, and data processing consent.
- Information about what the person does: supplementary information that is found in other internal data sources, such as ERP, sales, communication - needs to be either integrated into a central warehouse or accessible to the system that is creating a single view.
- Big data: external sources of data are valuable in refining the shape of the customer. These can be structured (which adheres to a predefined data model and is therefore straightforward to analyse) or unstructured (that is, information that either does not have a predefined data model or is not organised in a pre-defined manner).
By consolidating and refining that kind of data, organisations can go a long way to ensuring that they have a single view of the customer. That, in turn, means that they can provide organisations with the kind of hyper-personalised experiences that contemporary customers desire. This should, of course, be an ongoing process. With continual work, organisations can both utilise existing customer data and get better at collecting new customer data.
A matter of responsibility
Organisations also need to remember that there’s a lot of responsibility when it comes to how they handle data. Outside of regulatory obligations such as the EU’s GDPR and South Africa’s POPI, organisations have a responsibility to keep their customers’ data secure.
That’s increasingly challenging to do, especially as cybercriminals find increasingly sophisticated ways to breach organisational defences. You only have to look at the fallout from the recent TransUnion breach to see how much fallout both consumers and organisations face any time there is a major breach. It’s also true that the more data an organisation holds, the more difficult it is to keep secure.
Additionally, data storage and security use up a lot of energy and can significantly contribute to an organisation’s carbon footprint. At a time when environmental concerns are top of people’s minds, an organisation’s approach to its carbon output can be an important factor in the overall customer experience.
It’s clear then that organisations don’t just have to refine the data available to them, but also dispose of data that is no longer useful or relevant.
Data’s power and meaning
Data, like oil, can be incredibly useful. When refined and used as efficiently as possible, it can help organisations create good meaningful experiences for their customers that foster loyalty and repeat purchases. But if left alone in silos, its value can be limited and can even be a liability.
It’s pivotal therefore that organisations understand the potential of data and how to extract as much value as possible out of it, while safely disposing of the data they don’t need.