Don't wait, embrace Big Data
May 05, 2017

I LIKE pizza. Especially the thin crispy New York Crust pizza, with less cheese. I am also blessed because my wife and children love it too. Hence, when we are dumbfounded by life’s profound questions like “What to eat for dinner?,” the decision usually comes easily.


There are several pizza places to go to. The more well-known brands are, of course, Pizza Hut and Domino’s Pizza. There are other choices too, such as Canadian Pizza and Papa John’s.


I had for some time thought that the fast food restaurant where my family buys pizza is the largest. But I was wrong. I recently tracked brand perception and social media fans of local pizza joints.


I realised how far off the mark I was. With social listening tools, which are part of big data analytics, it is easy to do a quick real-time survey of market perception. Big Data is already here and it can make your business smarter.


Obtaining information


Having research data on your customers is very important, especially if you are in the retail or service-oriented business sector.


Companies typically opt to get this information by doing a customer satisfaction and perception study. This usually involves face-to-face interviews or several focus group discussions. To save costs, some companies sometimes conduct the study themselves. Others may opt to hire a market research company to conduct the study on their behalf. But this approach has at least four organisational hurdles to overcome.


Firstly, most organisations usually do not allocate much funds to regularly measure customer satisfaction. Ironically, not knowing the level of customer satisfaction can be detrimental to food and beverage, retail and service-oriented companies.


Moreover, depending on the scope of study, the market research cost can be quite high. Even if one manages to get the research funds, it usually is insufficient to complete a thorough research. The mood of organisations today is to slash operational costs and reduce overheads.


Secondly, it can be a time-consuming exercise. Depending on the scope of research, it can take about six to eight weeks to complete a market study. And following that, a final report is tabled before the management and the various assumptions and findings are debated.


After this, several meetings will ensue to devise strategies to tackle challenges unearthed by the study. This can add a few more weeks to decision making. By the time you decide to implement the recommendations, the target market may have shifted position. Your customers’ tastes may have changed.


Thirdly, constrained by limited funds, most organisations tend to compromise on the scope of work. This defeats the purpose of the research itself. If a company decides to do the study on its own, it will also be beset by issues such as encountering “research bias” and “blind spots”.


Finally, most organisations tend to carry out an “introverted research” approach. This means that companies look only inwardly to improve operational issues. Additionally, they also seek customer views only on their level of service and quality of their food products. This approach is a waste of time and funds. Taking an “introverted approach” ignores the milieu that companies operate in.


For instance, why look for information on only your products while ignoring what other products your customers are buying? How do you stack up against your competitor?


Is the competitor’s business growing? What else can you do to ensure your company grows sustainably? Understanding your customers’ world can help your business to delight them in ways not possible before. How can companies do this? By using Big Data solutions.


Cost reduction approach


The term “Big Data” can be daunting to some. This is understandable, given the fact that tech companies often tend to glorify technology. Moreover, in creating newfangled tech terms, it is understandable that business organisations respond with skepticism.


Truth is, Big Data can be much simpler than what some tech companies make it out to be. It can be easily deployed to yield research data in real-time. Consider, for instance, social listening tools. Companies can now track customer satisfaction, trace origin of poor brand perception, detect the beginning of a crisis, and even monitor your competitor’s movements via dashboards and daily reports.


You can even monitor your marketing campaigns online to understand what works and what doesn’t. Many businesses use social media listening tools to reach out to disgruntled customers and solve problems. Above all, everything can be done in real time.


Now, why is all this important? Well, it greatly helps to speed up the decision making process and reduces the cost of information to grow your business.


In a challenging economic situation, reducing cost and delighting your customers will ensure you stay relevant and grow sustainably. Want a business tip? Start by immediately putting social listening tools to work for your organisation.


Prathab V is with Anderson Market Analytics. He enjoys social listening and Big Data analytics, which brings order to the “chaos” of unstructured data on the internet. He can be contacted at