JANUARY 25, 2012 - Market research and data analytics have undergone a massive transformation as the process of collecting huge amounts of customer and transactional data has become more automated and the cost of storing the information has dropped steeply.
Hitachi Consulting's Harlan Smith recently wrote in a column for All Things D that Big Data, a business tool that's rapidly gaining popularity, has a few more developments in store for 2012.
That technology will serve a vital role as companies work to dig out from the mountains of data that consumers and businesses are creating. Smith points to IDC research that measured the amount of data generated in 2010 alone at 1 trillion gigabytes, or one zettabyte. This was a result of 20 billion searches online every month, 30 billion bits of content posted to Facebook per month, people using 5 billion mobile phones and more, he added.
With the costs dropping and the technology becoming more accessible, a growing number of companies are starting to work Big Data analytics into their processes, gaining insight on consumers; monitoring financial transactions; finding ways to improve their supply chain, manufacturing and logistics operations; and a variety of other functions.
"Companies who don't offer online services but do have an ecommerce or other online presence will benefit greatly from understanding customer behavior and buying patterns via clickstream, cohort analysis and other advanced analytics," Smith commented.
However, with so much information coming in, organizations will be hard-pressed to make sense of it all unless they automate some of the analytical processes with integration and analysis tools, he says.
"As we move into the age of Big Data, companies that are able to put this technology to work for them are likely to find significant revenue-generating and cost-savings opportunities that will differentiate them from their competitors and drive success well into the next decade," Smith concludes.
A host of companies have been rolling out the tools necessary to make data scientists' and market researchers' lives easier. IBM recently announced that it has created an analytics appliance for retailers that is capable of analyzing consumer sales data and online shopping trends.
The solution could be especially useful for brands that have both an online and offline presence. IBM said that up to 70 percent of consumers' first impressions of a service or product happen online, meaning that understanding and improving the customer experience will be of the highest importance.