POSTED : April 5, 2016

Big Data is revolutionizing the consumer space, and the organization that is prepared to leverage its opportunities can realize a distinct competitive advantage. Among the effective uses of these high-volume datasets are four key areas in which decision-makers are currently utilizing data to streamline operations and bolster competitive advantage:

1. Predicting customers’ future whims

Have you ever walked into your favorite coffee shop and had the barista start making your drink before you even ordered it? Online retailers are trying to create a similar experience and increase their sales through the use of Big Data.

Companies can combine all the information they have about a customer – for example, age, purchase history, websites visited or apps downloaded – to make meaningful predictions about future purchases. Amazon has been recommending products to their customers using such data for years, and Netflix and Spotify use Big Data in a similar way. The vastly expanded depth of customer intelligence afforded by Big Data makes this type of customization increasingly accurate — and successful.

2. Choosing where a business is located

A wide range of businesses, from Starbucks to Petco, use mapping software that visualizes Big Data to learn about the neighborhoods they are considering for retail storefronts. They can find out how many residents in an area have pets, how far people may be willing to drive to get to a store, the percentage of people who commute by foot, what types of people are moving into the area and more.

Big Data replaces time-consuming, on-the-ground tactics of earlier years: For example, the CEO of the now-defunct Mervyn’s department store used to drive around the neighborhoods of proposed store sites to make sure he saw Mervyns’ target audience in the area, according to Forbes. Shrewd retailers know that Big Data is the new way to make those essential market assessments.

3. Detecting Fraud

If you can’t keep your customer’s information safe, they’re not going to shop with you. Thanks to Big Data analytics, companies are able to detect, prevent and eliminate both internal and external fraud. For example, JP Morgan Chase analyzes calls, emails and purchase transaction data to identify fraud that might otherwise be difficult to detect. The company also uses analytics software to track employee communications and recognize any signs of potential fraud internally.

4. Gauging Customer Sentiment

Companies leverage their data to analyze what customers are saying about them online. Systems can capture negative comments and reviews the moment they are posted, empowering companies to provide instant responses when appropriate. In addition to facilitating reputation management, analyzing customer sentiment can give a broader picture of a company’s consumers and what they are thinking and feeling about a brand.

Delta Airlines, for example, uses real-time customer sentiment analysis to avert PR crises. If a passenger tweets about a lost bag between flights, the company can track that passenger down and offer them a free upgrade to First Class on their return flight and information about their missing bag.

Other uses include integrating social media with CRM for a 360-degree view of customers.

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