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Is ‘Big Data’ Big Enough?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been surprised at the number of times I’ve been asked about Big Data and, more importantly, what’s next. What’s next – as in what is the next big thing? At first, I found this a little surprising. After all, we are a decade or so into the eCommerce era and many companies are still mastering ‘transactional eCommerce’ let alone making fundamental changes to their business models. As they build digital experience they are also growing their ability to capture more and more data…a big driver of the Big Data movement. It feels like there is still so much to do.

After thinking about it, I wonder if the ‘bigger’ question being asked is more about ‘how’ than ‘what’ – as in, how do I take advantage of the new data and technologies already available and create something that is truly new for my organization and customers? Now, to answer that question, I think it’s important to ask what else is changing in the world of marketing.

I’ve been at Merkle for two years now, and in that time one of the things I’ve come to appreciate most is the insight into market forces that were not quite as ‘real’ to me before. For example, it’s clear that media are becoming digitized. But beneath that truism is the implication is that we are now in a world where the boundaries between print and digital, online and offline are blurred.  Customers move seamlessly between these channels using multiple devices and consume media in irregular, unplanned timeframes. Second, advances in ad technology are enabling increasingly granular customer and prospect targeting – in real time and at scale. Digital media that used to be lumped together with brand TV as ‘broad reach’ (i.e. unmeasurable) are rapidly moving toward the targetability of direct mail. Third, after years of discussion, companies are just starting to move away from ‘last touch’ measurement and are now willing to allocate marketing dollars based on a more realistic view of the customer event stream. Finally, customers themselves are becoming more ‘social’ and ‘interactive’. They are engaging brands in rich, personal and interactive experiences across multiple platforms.

Over the past few months, I’ve been privileged to be part of a conversation about these trends that is relevant to the ‘what’s next question.’ I’ve come to believe that there are a few specific ‘connections’ that companies can make to take advantage of all of these forces. At Merkle, we’re now calling this conversation connected CRM and with it I believe we’re starting to understand how to move forward companies who are otherwise stuck managing the pace of 21st century forces with 20th century CRM tools. 

At its core, connected CRM is about pulling customer strategy throughout a company’s organization and infrastructure, operationally linking strategy with financial management and experience delivery platforms. Over the next few weeks, I’ll talk about how the components of CCRM are coming to life within the insurance industry, beginning with an illustration of the framework that is its foundation.

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