UK not ready for data deluge

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An explosion of data has begun, and it has marketers worried. Nearly nine out of 10 chief marketing officers in the UK feel underprepared according to IBM, so are they really so far behind or just avoiding complacency?

In IBM’s global study of 1,700 CMOs, 87% of top UK marketers say they are not ready to deal with the deluge of data that is on its way, compared with a worldwide average of 71%. Every purchase, every online action, even every physical movement can now be tracked by technology we use on a daily basis and matched to an individual’s personal profile. More and more of that data is going to be generated and will flood into businesses of every kind.

Lacking preparedness means more than just missing out on the chance to target customers more effectively. It could mean organisations becoming overloaded by the sheer volume of data they need to sort in order to keep their heads above water. It could also mean losing track of data sets entirely, which in turn might lead to civil or criminal liability under data protection laws.

Looking to the world of direct marketing offers plenty of evidence of how easily a business can be overrun. Many companies still fail on tasks as simple as cleaning and updating mailing lists, judging by the envelopes addressed to previous tenants piling up in my hallway. Relatively innocuous errors such as these can be scaled up through databases of all sizes, but they could have serious consequences.

It is enough to make you bury your head in the sand.

It would be somewhat unfair to suggest this is what the UK’s CMOs are doing. According to IBM a majority say they plan to increase their use of technology in every one of 14 areas of data management, except email marketing. This goes up to 83% who plan to invest in customer relationship management systems.

But in all but two of the 14 areas, a lower percentage of UK marketers plan to increase their use of technology compared with the global average. They are furthest behind in adapting to applications on tablet computers, where only 55% of CMOs in the UK plan to increase their focus, 17 percentage points behind the global average. They are also well behind in planning to adopt technologies for predictive analytics (16 points) and search engine optimisation (11 points).

Technology is not a silver bullet, but given that UK marketers feel so underprepared for the amount of data that is about to hit them, you would imagine they would be placing greater emphasis on finding tools to help them catch and sort it.

More reassuringly, IBM’s study finds that UK marketers are keener than their global counterparts on using traditional research and other sources of market data. However they are ahead only on drilling down into the numbers that help them to understand industries on a broad level – they are behind when it comes to mining data sources that relate to individuals.

There is no getting away from ’big data’. Ignoring the wealth of information out there will only put you at a competitive disadvantage, so it is time to make a case for investing now. The rest of the world is already doing it.

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