UPS is one of the most popular delivery services in operation worldwide. Part of its more recent success can be attributed to the company’s mining of big data.  Through the analysis of data generated by its services, UPS has managed to save nearly 150 million litres of fuel and reduced travel distcace by 586 million unnecessary kilometres. The company attributes this efficiency and success to data analysis.

Big data does not only refer to online activity but also to behaviour offline, including use of credit cards or even smartphones, which send GPS locations and record behaviour. The existence of large volumes of data that can be used for different applications provides those willing to data mine and analyse with several opportunities.

In recent years, big data has become something of a game changer. However, having large amounts of data by itself is useless unless it is captured accurately and in a structured fashion, cleansed, tested, mined and analysed by competent people. Transforming data into intelligence has to be done by professionals capable of looking at data in a novel and more meaningful way.

Big data does not only refer to online activity but also to behaviour offline, including use of credit cards or even smartphones, which send GPS locations and record behaviour

The strategic importance and best value which can be derived from big data is the ability for companies to gather insights and predictions which might ultimately lead to making better decisions and strategic business moves.

Most businesses have their own website, some form of social media presence and almost every company accepts payments via credit card. This means that even a micro company collects data on its customers, user experience, web traffic and social media interaction. Analysing this data properly can lead to business operation optimisation, predictions about which products will sell, forecasts of customer turnover rate, as well as upcoming trends related to the particular industry. Analysis of such data can give a company a competitive advantage or will ensure that it’s not left behind to catch up with competition.

Big data can aslo be the base for several uses beyond commercial application, such as optimising traffic flow, the prediction of infectious disease propagation and finding relationships between lifestyle aspects and certain illnesses.

However, while big data has its merits and can provide us with a great deal of information about what people do, it does not tell much about why they do what they do, or about the meaning people attach to objects and actions.

This is a limitation and in order to delve deeper into the more nuanced dimensions of human behavioural patterns, different methodological tools such as participant observation and similar ethnographic methods should be employed to substantiate big data analysis.

Marketing Advisory Services and Redorange believe in using business intelligence to base decisions upon, rather than working simply with gut, myth or just hearsay.

So whatever data you have, remember that some of us can turn that into gold.

Daniel Abela is director at Redorange.

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