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Are we in the eye of the perfect data storm?

Are we in the eye of the perfect data storm?

By David Hoar, head of client services, AgilOne

It seems that every day we are subjected to more headlines about the tsunami of data that continually flows into our organisation. As marketers we are supposed to catch all of the data that is sourced from customers, transactions and social interactions, before taming it and using it for our own ends.

Whilst this is true, it sometimes feels like there is not really a revolutionary solution out there. There has; however, been a revolution amongst database technology software which gives marketers some real hope that their buffeting from the data storm might well be easing.

Database marketers have been on a long journey since the domination of slow-responding, black-box Bureaus who relied on huge mainframes to crunch through direct mail campaigns. We then had real progress with the growth of data agencies, powered by new affordable relational database software who gave us a place to store our data and provide RFM models, and power our evolving email marketing.

That step change was revolutionary, but since then we have seen the exponential explosion in data from all sides, powered by consumers and their unquenchable thirst for digital lifestyle. From the e-commerce bubble to social shopping on smartphones and tablets, the world of retail has become unrecognisable in the past 10 years. This revolution in consumer behaviour has brought with it a wave of customer data which has helped to shape the most recent database technology.

The latest leap in this continual technology journey involves the applications powered by the new unstructured so-called Graph, or NoSQL databases. Initial applications of these took off in online-dating to help match people based on a set of similar or compatible criteria.

A simple example helps demonstrate this:

“Find all men who are connected within three friends of my women friends who like cycling, but not bowling and who live within 20 miles of my postal code, aged 30-45.”

An SQL based database would need a lot of SQL queries to try and get the answer to this and take a while, whilst the NoSQL database is better for this type of analytics, it’s easier to ask the question, and its much quicker to get an answer. The other advantage of this new technology is its ability to understand relationships between data better and so finding patterns and trends powers data analytics to new heights.

As our digital world expands, the amount of available data generated from every aspect of people’s lives will exponentially increase. New applications will emerge, to challenge the old ways, including new recommendation and predictive marketing capabilities, something marketers everywhere will benefit from. If we are in the eye of the perfect data storm it could be about to get very windy.

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