Data – The new chapter that will be added to our History

Imagine a scenario where each of one’s customers constantly “broadcast-ed” his or her needs, personal likes and dislikes as well as those of their friends and peers, and even the intent to purchase something before actually stepping into a store. Would that not be a tremendous boon to retailers and shop keepers? This scenario is not as far fetched as it seems with the technology that is already present today.

Modern mobile devices constantly spew out vast amounts of information as cell phones rack up trillions of minutes of talk time or trillions of text messages and smart phones download billions of apps that then generate and use huge amounts of data. Similarly, Facebook and Twitter users with millions of members, generate monstrous amounts of data. While this data flow is human generated, soon the data generation will grow several fold as devices, like Google Glass, start automatically generating data. This tidal wave of information is called the ‘Data Crush’. The major forces of the ‘Data Crush’ are mobility, digital retailing, virtual living, cloud computing, online entertainment and Big Data.

Companies like Groupon are already acting on this ‘live’ data and offer discounts, price comparisons and suggestions in real time to customers on their mobile devices. Cloud Computing is now a viable alternative to traditional in-house infrastructure as more operations are outsourced. As more non-value added operations are outsourced, significant cost savings are possible as personnel are reduced. Successful organisations will be able identify operations that add value and keep this in-house and steadily outsource all others.

“Contextification”, with the integration of GPS with communications, allows retailers to do ‘micro-marketing’ by knowing where and when customer needs are present. A big retailer is venturing into a new marketing strategy – The monitors in store will record your activities along with what you see and touch in the store. When you purchase the items that you do not touch, the check out counter will offer you a discount on the ones that you touched or looked but did not purchase! This price is customized for you and you have to make a decision to buy or not while you are at the counter. Isn’t that interesting? Social media enables the formation of ‘digital tribes’ with common traits and these will increasingly become profitable targets as members endorse specific products and services and promote them to fellow members.

Apps have enticed users away from large software packages and with the proliferation of apps, a new breed of apps to integrate these will become popular as user demand shorter attention spans from their apps. This evolution will lead to exponential growth in data traffic.

‘Big Data’ is the processing of huge amounts of data. Businesses will be expected to handle both structured as well as unstructured data and combine data from internal as well as external sources. Data analysis tools will be used to mine this dynamic information flow and enhance understanding of customers. Assortment of digital tools will assess the company’s products or services and customer reactions and digital media will publicize your improvements.  A new breed of staff that is comfortable with these new trends will be needed.

How all these trends will come together is given in some possible scenarios. A biking enthusiast driving to attend a weekend conference is constantly fed with advice on gas stations en-route, tempted with coupons for his favorite drink at Starbucks, and discounts for his favorite bike model. A bride,  starting on a weight reduction program,  links her diet app to her social media links and as she continues , several apps monitor her progress and inform her friends who encourage her by pledging to her favorite cause which further attracts other discounts from retailers. These scenarios use a mixture of crowd sourcing, contextualization, codification and socialization.

The article is based on Chris Surdak’s concepts.

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