From banks to e-commerce biggies, big data means big business
Big data has its early adopters & usual suspects: banks, retail chains & telecom. But now its appeal is extending to several categories & businesses.
According to Nishant Kalra , business leader, IBM Commerce India/SA, "81 per cent of the CMOs in consumer brands believe they have a holistic view of customers, but only 22 per cent of customers believe the average retailer understands them." The first challenge: to capture customers as individuals, focusing not merely on transaction data but their interests, preferences and interactions. The second challenge: changes in the customer journey with 50 per cent to 80 per cent of the buying process taking place before the brand gets a chance to speak. "How do we seamlessly give an integrated experience across channels?" puzzles Kalra.
Says Sandeep Mittal, founder & MD of marketing analytics firm Cartesian Consulting, "The trick but take the decisions with better information and predictability."
The answer it would appear is in the numbers and knowing what to do with them.
Big data is how companies both online and offline are trying to solve the personalisation challenge. It's a brave new world out there, one that requires yes, a great deal of left brained number crunching but also some good old right brained creativity.
The goal: to leave consumers feeling less like a test subject with the barest illusion of privacy and more like a special valued patron of the brand who manages to snag the best. Here's how four companies are doing it.
Right Brain, Left Brain: Big data is how companies, both online and offline, are trying to solve the personalisation challenge... it requires a great deal of left brained number crunching as well as some good old right brained creativity.
IBM/Matrimony.com - NOW MARRIAGES ARE MADE WITH DATA
According to IBM, time taken for Matrimony.com to identify a market segment, tailor a campaign and launch it has been reduced by 90 per cent.
As any Indian will tell you, getting hitched is a serious business. Even more so for a site in the business of getting people hitched: Matrimony. com. With 150 customised websites, call centres and even physical outlets, and an estimated 3 million users at any given time, the task of getting relevant messages across was getting incredibly complicated. To say nothing of giving a user a seamless experience irrespective of which touchpoint was used.
Says Nishant Kalra, business leader, IBM Commerce India/SA, "For a bank, churning is bad. For Matrimony.com it's good. The task: How do you deliver consistent messages across multiple channels? And how do you make users opt in for paid services?"
The No 1 challenge with this born on the web company was its data was on open source standards. IBM applied its predictive tools to segment data, assign weightages and built campaigns around these. For instance, it helped the site run a campaign encouraging users to update their profiles with more information, something that significantly raised their chances of finding a match. Says Kalra, "We started with predictive analytics and marketing campaign solutions which were rolled out in real time across multiple channels" including physical stores.
Once the users began to enrich their profiles with data, Matrimony.com was able to send them prospective soul mate profiles and run offers for its paid services. A third objective that data helped with was to serve up the next best option in case a potential alliance fizzled out.
Askme (and AskmeBazaar) - ALL THAT SHE WANTS
Over 70m searches per month on Askme produces 7 billion data points... combine it with deals and classifieds, the number would be 10 to 20x more.
Creepy, she thinks. How did the Internet know she needs a dupatta to go with the kurta she just purchased? And then it suggests matching accessories. "What sorcery is this?" she cries. No Hogwarts degree needed though, one simply stalks the individual within an inch of sanity. And we're just scratching the surface of what our digital footprint reveals.
Consider what transpires on local search and classifieds portal, Askme and its online marketplace, AskmeBazaar. The company captures every touch point in the consumer's journey on its sites and then refines algorithms to churn out tailor-made experiences. The goal: Create serendipity moments. Says Manav Sethi, group CMO, Askme, "The future will belong to those who create personalised experiences that will build stickiness and engagement." Let's face it, there is no differentiation between, say, the top four or five ecommerce companies clamouring for your phone-swipes.
"Expect the same discounts and 2 million SKUs everybody shouts about. What is the value proposition?" asks Sethi. That value proposition is buried under mountains of data on consumption triggers and consumer history.
But if marketers can't leverage billions of data points to create individualised experiences, the entire exercise is pointless.
The future of grocery, for instance, is in predicting what Lalitaji will need next on the basis of her consumption history. And not just stopping there. Using mapped consumer identities and purchase patterns, Askme can help convert a P&G customer into a Unilever loyalist or vice versa.
"Big data can give the company an edge that becomes a strategic business lever. That's where the long tail comes into play," says Sethi.
Maruti Suzuki - FROM KITNA DETI HAI TO KITNA DATA HAI
Maruti Suzuki realised as early as 2006 that their dealers were sitting on reams of data that needed to be aggregated, organised, cleaned and then analysed.
Most marketers prefer to hide under a rock the moment their CRM guys start talking about Big Data. Sanjeev Handa, vice president and head of marketing at Maruti Suzuki isn't one of them. Big Data intrigues him. "It is this stream of database from your phones, credit cards, TV audience measurement metres and even airplanes these days. The total data collected in the last two years is larger than the data collected throughout human civilisation and it is in Zettabytes (1 zettabyte = 1,000,000,000 Terabytes)," says Handa.
Awareness of Big Data hasn't got him caught in the hype cycle though.
"We use relevant data of the 15 million customers that we have accumulated over the last 30 years. We don't want to know every detail, just their profile, likes and dislikes, insurance status et al."
Maruti Suzuki realised as early as 2006 that their dealers were sitting on reams of data that needed to be cleaned and then analysed.
"Last year, we sold 50,000 extra cars purely because of data mining," he says. This was 4.5 per cent of the sales for the year. They plan to sell two million cars through their CRM initiatives by 2020. The internal target is to get 10 per cent of the sales via database management..
And management of database is not expensive, he says, especially since "we spend crores on advertising." It's just a pinpointed effort — keeping a track of customers who've had the same model of car for five years, for instance, helps them inform dealers about upselling to them. Maruti Nexa, the premium dealer network, is also a byproduct of data mining. "Psychometrics showed that more people were flying business class, keeping relationship managers and switching from Maruti to Ford. That was the trigger."
Club Mahindra - COUNT YOUR HOLIDAYS
By data mining members' past holiday behaviour, customised and personalised mailers were sent, often layered with an offer.
One of the prime challenges that inhibits brands from deep-diving into data and analytics is an obvious one — lack of rich data. In case of Club Mahindra, lack of data was not the challenge. Being around for almost 20 years has helped the brand build on a formidable width and depth of data about its 1.8 lakh membership base. Says, Deepali Naair, CMO, Mahindra Holidays: "Having database of 1.8 lakh members as against 18 lakh members (for example) can be an advantage since it makes the data much more manageable."
Holidaying, especially in India, is dependent on both the climate as well as vacation time, which for a category that Club Mahindra is operating in, creates challenges of erratic occupancy. Data was sought to resolve this issue via the 'Reshaping demand' project. The idea is simple: solve seasonality-led low occupancy challenges by reaching out to members and nudging them to plan holidays through the year. Maybe getting people to go to Goa during the monsoons and to Jaisalmer in the summer heat. Backed by the data mining on the member's past holiday behaviour and other analyses, customised and personalised mailers were sent out, often layered with an offer as well Member nights which can be attributable to 'Reshape Demand' are upwards of 15 per cent, shares Naair. Big data is making the difference to the life of the businesses, points out Sandeep Mittal, founder & MD of marketing analytics firm Cartesian Consulting, thanks to its ability to frame a hypothesis or post a business challenge and actually get results with correlations across multiple data sources, very quickly.