Marketing Rant: Small Data makes Big Data a big marketing deal

Mention Big Data marketing, and you have visions of server farms crunching huge swathes of data to give marketing insights by correlating previously uncorrelated data sources. But is Big Data analysis the panacea for all marketing woes?

Take the example of a retailer client of mine with bases in New York and Shanghai. When they offered me insights (thanks to their Big Data analysis of transactional data from both cities), it was interesting to me that most were nearly the same—despite obvious cultural differences. Great! So should we build the same strategy for both cities? Would those work? Obviously, the client’s guts was telling them that there was more to these insights.

Enter Small Data analysis. It is something every respectable marketer has been doing for ages. Taking slices of data subsets from defined customer bases and coming out with insights may unveil cultural or national nuances that may make Big Data insights more actionable. It’s a reason why some marketers see Small Data analysis as the last mile of Big Data analysis. To show how powerful this can be, you can take the example of a shoe retailer client who used an innovative floor mat at the entrance of their stores to capture foot sizes and fine tune their inventory strategy through Small Data analysis.

Don’t get me wrong. Big Data analysis comes with a host of marketing advantages. It makes correlations that would have been difficult to do with Small Data. It used to be a lucky guess, a gamble or a gut feeling, but now we have the tools and discipline to actually do it scientifically. But it is premature to say that Small Data analysis has being sidelined: Rather I believe it has found its long-lost sibling.

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