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We’ve all heard a lot about it but, well, what is big data? Here’s a copy and paste from Wikipedia.


That’s actually not a bad starting point. The stand out points for me are the following.

  • large data sets
  • analysed to reveal patterns
  • relating to human behaviour

If you deal with data on a day-to-day basis I’m pretty sure you’re thinking – standard, we already know this. The reality, however, is that we may not. In my almost two decades of analysing data, I believe we treat Big Data as the following.

  • large data sets
  • analysed to reveal patterns including those pertaining to human behaviour

We tend to group the actual human/consumer behaviour element into traditional segmentation bandings such as demographic or even possibly recency and frequency to transact. Is that an actual indication of the ‘behaviour’ of the consumer or a by-product of who they are?


In my opinion, the behavioural element is more often than not missing from our understanding. Behaviour, for me, is adapting to how a person is likely to change in the course of their personal life. A great example of this was the advent of the smartphone. Not only have we seen a 57% decrease in footfall to retail stores but also 34% of online retail purchases are being made on mobile devices.

In this situation, not only would we need to capture the channel in which the customer makes their purchase i.e. retail or online store but we almost need to take a step back and look at what led to the final purchase decision. In this case, a consumer purchasing a mobile device. It sounds obvious but the propensity for a consumer to purchase online through a mobile device increases following the purchase of a mobile device! Additionally, technology news and a shift towards mobile device viewing on Google Analytics would have given you a couple of big hints on changes in consumer behaviour.

The reality, however, is how many of us actually do take a step back to understand behaviour in it’s truest sense and are happy to rely on data being flushed through our systems? Remember, Woolworth’s didn’t.

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