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How Big Data Can Help You Identify Customer Needs

Big data

By Dawn Wagenaar

According to a recent informal poll of professionals, most of them spend time researching industries, but not much time researching their competitors or buyers.

Without researching your competitors, you don’t know how to differentiate your value proposition against theirs. Then the decision for buyers comes down to price and basic first impressions. If you don’t research your key buyers, how do you know what they really care about when buying a product or service?

Fortunately, the Internet is providing an abundance of data for you to research buyer behavior and preferences. The age of information is giving way to the age of technology where translation of data will be a huge value to your company.

What is Big Data?

Big data is large samples of data collected to predict behaviors and preferences. By looking at the data, we can draw conclusions about which products or services may interest someone. To see big data in action, you only need to go online to Amazon or Facebook and wait for those sites to automatically suggest a product or page “you might like.”

SMART Market Research

By looking at the patterns of how people choose and buy, you begin to understand how your communication needs to change to land more customers. You don’t need a giant algorithm machine to figure it out. You can conduct some SMART market research.

1. Strategy.

Why do you want to — or need to — conduct research? What is your end game?

What information are you missing for decision-making that this research can support?

How will you measure success?

2. Methodology.

What vehicle will you use to collect the data you need? Is it a survey? Interviews? An outsourced expert? What questions are you asking and why? What’s your budget?

3. Action.

What is the timeline and logistics of conducting the research? What happens after you collect the data? Who is in charge of overseeing the collection of data to make sure it’s thorough and meets goals?

4. Review.

Who has the expertise to review and draw conclusions from the data once it’s collected? Who can translate what it means?

5. Tell the World.

In what ways will you leverage this data to take action? Will it be internal action or external action or both? Who is in charge of communicating the conclusions and who will confirm the accuracy of the communication?

Through big data analysis, you may conclude that the key phrases you are using to rank well on Google are the wrong key phrases to attract buyers. You need to really understand how your buyers think when they have a need.

Does a consumer really type in the key phrase “sporting goods stores” or does that potential buyer type in, “rain gear for women?” Think about it. Narrow your search key words to fit the narrow interests of your buyers as well as the products or services you most want them to see and buy.

Market research will help you determine how your buyers are thinking about their needs and how you should easily answer their questions. Big data is here, and it can help you predict the next big business opportunity. But you have to be SMART about it.

Dawn WagenaarDawn Wagenaar is principal of Ingenuity Marketing Group. To learn more, visit