The focus of big data should be creating value FOR customers


Big Data is one of the hottest trends at the moment, as shown in this Google Trends chart below.

However much of the big data discussion is about how to market better to customers, gathering data ABOUT them so companies can sell more to them.

This seems to me to be the wrong way to think about it. Big data should be used to CREATE VALUE FOR CUSTOMERS. From that good things will flow to everyone, including of course attracting the most customers.

In the mid-1990s I became involved in knowledge management. I thought the ideas were immensely valuable, but I could see absolutely no consideration of the customer. So I wrote my first book, Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships, to frame knowledge as primarily about creating value WITH the customer.

Today it is back to the same story. In big data there are fantastic tools and capabilities, that are being applied to selling to rather than creating value for the customer.

In a number of my recent executive briefings for clients the financial services sector I’ve used the example of Simple, the startup online bank recently acquired by BBVA for US$117 million. It uses rich customer data to provide insights for the customer on their financial situation, including “Safe-to-Spend” recommendations.

Another example from the financial sector is driver feedback apps. Insurance companies such as State Farm in the US and Ingenie in the UK provide mobile phone apps that use the accelerometers and other sensors in phones to provide detailed analysis and recommendations on driving style. This is of course useful not only to drivers, but to the parents of newly-minted drivers. The data is valuable to the company, but the way it can be captured is to provide this in a useful format to customers.

Across all industry sectors the first question in thinking about big data should be: “How can we use data to create value FOR our customers?”

Answering that will drive competitive differentation and value for everyone.