Brands and retailers are sitting on a goldmine of data, but questions still remain as to how to engage the customer in a more meaningful way. The emergence of big data has created a buzz of both excitement and skepticism, and despite developing technologies, many wonder as to how this big data will be used and how it can benefit humanity. The answer largely depends on one question: How much data are people willing to share in order to increase its usefulness?

Consumers are in control, and hesitant to share data

Terence Kawaja, CEO and founder of LUMA partners, pointed out three concepts defining the current dilemma the industry currently faces at last week’s CM Summit:

  1. We are at an inflection point brought about by big data.
  2. Fragmentation of the industry is here to stay.
  3. Within the marketing realm, the consumer is in control.

Before the dot.com bust there were many questions as to what implications that the internet would bring to how humans interact and share information. Today, more consumers understand how much of their data the internet lets businesses gather. Part of the struggle in reaching big data’s maximum worth comes in balancing using data to its fullest potential while approaching consumers in a non-invasive manner. Many consumers are distrustful of businesses, and learned behaviors are hard to break. Said Walter Knapp, EVP at Federated Media:

“Big data is mostly hype right now… We are currently entering the trough of disillusionment that will last roughly 12-18 months.”

If a new attitude towards this resource is achieved then perhaps our understanding and application of this data could bring about a new age that would further bridge humanity and technology.

Infinite innovation possibilities lead to fragmentation

The beauty of technology is that it inspires and fosters innovation that is continually expanding on itself – which leads to fragmentation of industries as people innovate in different directions. Fragmentation of the tech space is no exception given the growing need for relevant media that will resonate with consumers and empower them to interact with brands and retailers. Some businesses resist this natural order, but it’s futile said LUMA’s Kawaja:

“Get over fragmentation… it’s here to stay.”

The internet and ecommerce specifically is a big, very big, opportunity with close to infinite innovation possibilities, and all this green space sets the stage for a wide variety of solutions, software, and organizations to be players in the space. One thing they have in common is their need for data that consumers control. To get this data, they’ll need to prove how their solutions benefit people as well as businesses.

Data solves simple tasks so businesses can focus on more important ones

With regards to marketing, big data used correctly follows a very simple hierarchy according to Kawaja. Above all else the customer is the focal point of this data, the foundation for a successful data-driven marketing mix. Second then comes the marketer or brand; ultimately it is their responsibility to use their data in an effective manner. Last comes everyone else in the space that wishes to use data and contribute solutions.

When used efficiently within this hierarchy, big data can provide creative and innovative solutions for everyday problems. George John, CEO of Rocketfuel, explained how artificial intelligence can liberate humans from menial labor, freeing them from monotonous tasks. He used a pizza shop as an example, and asked the audience if anyone knew what the optimal amount of pepperonis for a pepperoni pizza was. Data analysis could study people’s satisfaction with a pizza over number of pepperonis to find the best amount – analysis that would benefit a pizza maker and let them focus on other aspects of their business.

Take this simple example and expand it to much more complicated problems with greatly more impactful answers. If consumers are convinced to share enough data to solve these problems, how much better might our world be?

The marriage between human needs and big data will provide great insight and intelligence that will continue to propel us forward in the years to come. One thing is certain, and defines our ability to use data in this way in the coming years: The customer is in control.