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Big data is big business. Enterprises are spending billions on big data. They’ve been using it to drive decision making for years now. But executives are realizing that this type of transactional customer data isn’t enough.

Though they had high hopes that big data would answer all their questions and solve all their problems, the truth has been unveiled:

Customer data can show you the “what.” But it can’t reveal the “why” behind customer behavior. At the end of the day, big data isn’t actionable, making it difficult to make the right decisions.

Fortunately, you don’t have to rely on customer data alone as your source of customer intelligence. You can complement and augment it with customer insights to reveal the “why” you’re looking for.

While transactional data can tell you that your customers aren’t buying your new product as expected (which is a great jumping-off point), small data (customer insights) can tell you why the product is failing in the market.

Big data – An incomplete picture

Big data is helpful in many ways:

  • It can tell you what’s happening.
  • It can give you the where.
  • It can give you the when.

But where it becomes an insufficient source of customer data is in the why. It can only take brands so far. Human interaction with consumers is still vital to form a complete picture of what’s going on. True insights only come from understanding the nuances of customer behavior – the motivations behind what they do.

At least for now, customer data doesn’t have all the answers. Maybe it never will. Companies need to identify changes in customer behavior to determine what can be done to address business problems, and this can only occur when customer insights enter the picture.

The data-value plateau

Quickly evolving customer expectations are also diminishing the real-time use of big data. Many companies have hit a plateau where it’s now too difficult and too expensive to bring new insight from the same transactional data.

Customer data simply isn’t serving stakeholders' needs anymore. Stakeholders need context and they need agile insight borne from smaller data sets.

Giving customer data more context

As we’ve mentioned, customer data can be a great jumping-off point. It can be that big red flag telling you that something isn’t right – that a product isn’t selling well, that an experience is missing the mark with customers, or that a marketing campaign isn’t resonating. It can also give you the evidence you need to determine that something is right.

Either way, though, you’re going to want to know why.

Is the product failing due to its features or its price? Ask your customers to find out.

Why is the customer experience missing the mark? Ask a relevant segment of your community to determine where you went wrong.

Using customer insights, you can give your transactional data all-important context, so the results you receive become actionable. At the end of the day, blending big data with small data ensures you capture more and better information about your customers, so you can make the right decisions.

Using new tech to uncover small data

The traditional methods of gaining one-on-one customer feedback don’t match the cadence of business today. Customer interviews, focus groups and beta tests are slow, time consuming, costly and difficult to scale. The results are often too subjective. And it can be a struggle to interview a statistically relevant sample of the population.

Insight-driven businesses need ongoing access to agile insights. They need a structured, repeatable and scalable way to uncover small data. While big data is still important, insight professionals now have the opportunity to adopt new technology to uncover agile, ongoing insight to match the speed of business today.

The right technology can provide on-demand access to a group of opted-in and highly engaged known customers who can be engaged at scale. Insight can be delivered quickly – often within two or three days – to ensure all stakeholders can get a quick pulse on how their customers think and feel. With a better read on their buyers’ attitudes and opinions, companies can make customer-led decisions with confidence. Uncovering customer insights will help you get to the root cause, to add context and color to transactional data, so you can fill in the gaps left behind by customer data and successful inform a course of action.


Why you need to embrace new customer-centric strategies

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Sarena Brown

Director of Content Marketing here. I steer the content ship at VC to serve you interesting, engaging resources you can't wait to get your hands on. Why? They are simple and straightforward answers to your most pressing questions. Just like this guide about how you can embrace new customer-centric strategies.
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