Concentrate on your customers

Technology and new strategies are enabling mid-size companies to compete with giant competitors and deliver big returns, says Chris Penfold, vice president mid-market Europe and Latin America at Criteo


It is reasonable to think that big data means something to most businesses from the largest multinational to the smallest startup. While the definitions, perceptions and uses of big data may vary dramatically, one common belief is that big data equals big cost. For that reason it has traditionally been the domain of the global giants, but a new generation of technology and a new approach to data is opening the door for smaller businesses to join the party and reap the commercial benefits.

Big data is everywhere. As of 2012, every day 2.5 exabytes – a million terabytes or a billion gigabytes – flood on to the web and become available to organisations and individuals everywhere, providing useful information and insights.

We all think we know what big data means, but very few of us have a real understanding of how powerful it is. Having a clear view of what big data can do for your business is a critical first step in unlocking the wealth of high-value business intelligence that can help companies of every size grow and develop.

Put simply, the more information you have, the better decisions you can make. Collecting and analysing data enables businesses to fine tune and clarify messaging, helping them to be as relevant and personal to customers as possible.

For example, most mid-sized businesses will find it very challenging to capture and sort all the real-time data being generated by their customers through their website. But by using data to understand key trends at a macro level, companies can move to the micro level and take a consumer-centric approach with messaging and customer targeting based on individual behaviour. The aim of this approach is to be more focused, hitting “markets-of-one” so that each message is perfectly targeted.

Having the data is one thing, but the other critical factor is speed; specifically, how quickly you are able to access and then action the data. This directly impacts the value and relevance of the information. This is important because big data is all about making decisions based on customer behaviour, which can change significantly on a weekly, daily and even hourly basis. Therefore, data that was accurate today is likely to be of lesser or no value next week as your macro customer behaviour changes.

The challenge is that the sheer volume of data makes it almost impossible to manage manually. The key is automation. The ability to automate this process in real-time means that an organisation of any size can benefit from a new level of response to client needs and to performance marketing.

You need to assimilate the right data to deliver fast output and action with a customer-centric approach

It is this type of data and insight that, until recently, came with a high price tag and was, until recently, reserved for only the largest organisations, which could store it and use expensive analytics systems. But now, with a host of technologies that provide an economical and, crucially, a fast way of interpreting data, coupled with an action and output, smaller businesses are able to play and compete on a level playing field with the giants of their industry.

A NEW BIG DATA WORLD

So what has changed to bring about this new world order? Let’s look at the online advertising and marketing industry as an example. It is a highly competitive environment where typically the largest advertising spend and marketing budgets dictate success. The louder you shout, the more you are heard.

We also know that the majority of online browsers will leave a website without actually buying. But technology and new strategies that enable companies of all sizes to engage and convert their web browsers into customers, based on their online behaviour, is putting smaller companies on the same stage as their global rivals and delivering big returns.

Instead of needing to spend large amounts of money on costly brand-based banner advertising campaigns in the hope that your ad might be seen by a prospective customer, companies are now able to take a customer-centric approach and recommend products relevant to an individual by following and learning from their behaviour. In doing so, smaller businesses are able to build the type of strong brand identity and return on investment from advertising spend that previously they may not have been able to afford.

The result is customers who engage and trust your brand. This leads to increased sales and improved conversion rates. Why? Because the customer has been made to feel like an individual who has been shown the right product at the right time, rather than part of a one-size-fits-all approach with some traditional marketing and advertising campaigns.

The world of big data is changing. Just when we all thought we knew what it meant, technology has continued to evolve. Now it is not about understanding big data as a concept, but understanding what it can actually deliver for a business.

Big data is a term that for a long time will continue to be thrown around with shifting definitions and strategies. But the core lesson for any business is you need to be able to assimilate the right data to deliver fast output and action with a customer-centric approach.

The only way to do this is to learn about your customers and their behaviour, accept that this will be a constantly changing data source and then make your marketing decisions based on browser behaviour. The good news is that not only is this an extremely cost-effective approach, it is specific, targeted and measurable.

This strategy is by no means a standalone key to success. However, it’s clear that big data and select technology companies are creating a level playing field to deliver opportunities for smaller businesses which are now able to compete, no matter what their size.

CLIENT TESTIMONY

“Criteo gives us the reach we need,” says Chris Sumbler, performance marketing director at HouseTrip

Holiday rental online booking site HouseTrip offers a wide selection of self-catering apartments, cottages, villas and chalets. Founded in 2010, it is now one of the largest holiday rental websites in the world, providing an alternative to hotels, with more than 320,000 properties on its books.

Mr Sumbler says: “For HouseTrip, the focus is on reaching potential customers as fast as possible in the most targeted way possible. Criteo gives us the reach we need through its programmatic buying. It also offers us greater efficiency, saving time and money, by automatically segmenting a large and complex user-base into intent groups. This makes sense for our business, thereby maximising the efficiency of our lead retargeting. Given the complexity of our customer journey, this type of algorithmic segmentation and optimisation is key to our success, and to our ability to out-bid our competitors on our most valuable audiences.”