Understanding Big Data

Futurist Patrick Schwerdtfeger gives a primer on analytics trends and explains where businesses are missing out.

Q: What major trends are emerging in big data in 2017?
A: There are two primary trends. First, software products like ERP and CRM platforms are incorporating powerful analytics and data visualization features for their customers. This allows businesses to become increasingly data-driven. Second, we are hearing case histories and success stories where businesses have used data-driven solutions to increase revenue and profit. Those cases will drive innovation as other companies attempt to replicate early successes.

Patrick Schwerdtfeger is an author, tech expert, founder of consultancy Trend Mastery Inc. and the host of Strategic Business Insights – a video blog that has more than 21,000 subscribers on YouTube. Previously, Schwerdtfeger spent eight years working in the promo products business on both the supplier and distributor sides. A frequent keynote speaker, Schwerdtfeger has lectured at Purdue and Stanford, and is also a regular contributor on Bloomberg TV.

Q: What are some ways data-based initiatives have already impacted commerce?
A: We have seen significant applications of data on e-commerce platforms. Things are smoother and more intuitive. Most people don’t notice these changes because they simply work the way we expect: The information we need is provided proactively, the related products we are shown are precisely what we need, and the advertisements seem to anticipate our every need.

Q: Longer term, what type of effects can we expect big data to have on how brands go to market and how people buy?
A: Innovation is always fueled by the use cases and success stories of early adopters. The top brands are investing huge sums into the analysis and optimization of their businesses. The best practices they discover will soon become standard practice, so we need only analyze the direction of early adopters to see where the rest of the industry will go. In the next five or 10 years, every aspect of human purchase behavior will be analyzed in order to deliver a fully optimized purchase experience. The result: Things will be smooth and easy.

Q: How can businesses in the promo products industry use data to their advantage?
A: The number-one opportunity promo products companies have is to better utilize the software packages they already own. Most businesses only use a tiny fraction of their CRM’s capabilities or their ERP’s capabilities. Similarly, most people only use a tiny fraction of Microsoft Excel’s capabilities or PowerPoint’s capabilities. These software packages are incredibly powerful and can provide valuable insights. Promotional products companies should contact their ERP, CRM and analytics software vendors and schedule training sessions to educate their staff on the capabilities already available at their fingertips.

Q: What type of costs can businesses expect to incur as they use deeper data analysis?
A: The vast majority of small and medium-sized businesses will interact with data through their software platforms. The customization and implementation of these solutions can be quite expensive, but it really depends on the level of customization.

Q: What other tools can small and medium-sized businesses use to better leverage big data?
A: There are many tools available; Google Analytics is an excellent example. Not only does it provide immense data about your own website, it can also benchmark that data against entire industries. Google Trends and the Google Keyword Tool also tap into big data to provide valuable insights that most businesses overlook. Business executives need to understand that data-driven solutions are everywhere today. They don’t need to be expensive in order to be valuable.

Big Data Stats

The global big data market will grow to $92 billion by 2026.

Improving customer relationships (55%) and making business more data-focused (53%) are the top two goals driving data investments today.

48% of companies invested in big data in 2016, up 3% from 2015.

By 2020, about 1.7 megabytes of new information will be created every second for every person on the planet.

Banking, healthcare, insurance, investment services and telecommunications will spend $72.4 billion on big data initiatives this year.

Sources: IDC, Gartner, Wikibon