Big data in reach of minnows
Local small and medium enterprises are joining the big data revolution, which is helping them embrace a marketing paradox known as mass customisation.
Marketing expert Barry Urquhart says big data was once the sole domain of major companies but in the past year SMEs have started using the technology to target individual customers en masse.
Big data is a large collection of personalised information that is usually stored and analysed in the cloud. The data often comes from a variety of mediums such as emails and financial transactions and is quickly merged to provide targeted information about each individual’s likes and dislikes.
Mr Urquhart, who heads up Marketing Focus, says SMEs such as privately owned supermarkets, accounting firms and even car mechanics are using the technology.
Typically, it involves collecting information about the purchases made by their customers and then automating emails and phone calls to contact the customers after a certain period of time.
These personalised messages are deigned to appeal to their needs or preferences.
Mr Urquhart says it is a sensible strategy because it is cheaper and more effective to strengthen existing customer relationships than to win new ones.
“I got eight catalogues in the mail today but most of it was an information overload, ” he says.
“What you can do with big data is turn those 12 pages of advertising into the one page that your customer is really interested in.”
Big data is commonly used by supermarkets to track and target their loyalty card customers.
The supermarket chains monitor the purchases of customers and analyse their spending habits.
They then send emails to these customers about the cost of their regular purchases, highlighting the ones on sale at their usual shopping venue. To top off the personal, if not slightly disturbing touch, the emails are sent a few hours before the customer’s regular shopping time.
Woolworths says data from the Everyday Rewards program is analysed by a firm called Quantium, in which it has 50 per cent non-controlling stake following a $20 million deal during 2013.
Mr Urquhart says there are plenty of opportunities for SMEs and local entrepreneurs to make an income from the big data revolution.
Human resources consultant Darren Nelson says his company has invested in two WA start-ups in the field, called DX West and DC Limited.
While his consultancy is in a completely different sector, he says he was compelled to make the investment because he saw it was a new growth industry.
“Big data and storage is the oil of this century, ” Mr Nelson says.
“Everything that is online, from medical X-rays to archives, needs to be stored somewhere.”
DC Limited is constructed a 5000sqm tier III data centre in Balcatta, which went live last year.
DX West designs and manufactures a range of transportable, modular data centres and supplies the physical servers, storage and networking infrastructure used in those modules.
Mr Nelson says the Asian market, where he has several clients, considers WA a good place for data storage because it is less prone to natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes.
They are also attracted by Australia’s low sovereign risk and good energy security.
While it remains to be seen whether WA’s fledgling footprint in the sector will make a significant mark, the global expectations for the industry are high.
The International Data Corporation recently predicted the big data market will grow six times faster than the overall IT market, making it a new force.
© The West Australian
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