Big data has facilitated many business operations: with the huge amounts of customer data out there, you can get a very clear picture of your customers and figure out exactly what they want. The problem is, most businesses miss out on the most crucial sources of data. Why? Because the most important sources of data are usually unstructured and messy, and companies tend to fear this type of data because it’s difficult to understand.
Instead, businesses choose to rely on more straightforward data sources like Google Analytics, reviews, and surveys. You’re about to learn why doing so is a mistake and what the best data sourcing practices are for your business (read more about data sourcing).
Structured data isn’t enough
Structured data remains one of the most common types of data that companies use to understand their customers. Examples of structured data include surveys and reviews. Businesses love to send out surveys to their customers or ask them to leave reviews: this is a great way to get structured and easily understandable data. However, don’t overestimate how valuable this data is in getting to know your customers. The truth is that only a fraction of your customers (5-10%) will leave a review. Same goes with surveys.
Another example of structured data is website analytics (available through platforms like Google Analytics). Through platforms like this, you can figure out how your website visitors are reacting to certain ads and how they like or dislike your website. Obviously, all of this structured data is very important, and you should always keep track of it. However, it should not be the only data you focus on.
Website analytics, reviews and surveys often reveal how customers feel, but not why they feel that way. The good news is that there are various other sources that can provide this information, and we’ll get into that right now.
Don’t be afraid of messy data
The reason why companies like to focus on structured data like surveys is that it’s easy to understand. You can easily see how many people like your product or service and how many don’t. There’s no denying that such data is useful. It gives a great starting point and a general understanding of your brand perception.
However, companies that rely solely on structured information are usually the most misinformed. To truly understand how your customers feel and why, you need to dig a bit deeper and collect “messy” data as well.
Examples of “messy” (unstructured) data include social media posts, forums, blogs, help center calls and emails, etc. This kind of data is only available because of the rise in technology and big data, and it offers much more insights than regular surveys.
By analyzing all of this unstructured data, you can delve deeper into your target audience and figure out what they like or dislike. You can also uncover certain flaws that your company has that don’t necessarily show up in reviews and surveys. Why would you choose to blindly run your business based on limited data when all this information is right at your fingertips?
Yes, it will be a bit more tricky to collect unstructured data vs structured data, and it’ll be even trickier to try and make sense of it. If you’re completely new to collecting and interpreting unstructured data, consider outsourcing these activities. There are various data collection, data interpretation, and data analytics companies that can help your business out.
Why do many modern businesses fail? Because they don’t understand their customers. Simple as that. The only way to understand your customers is to collect the right data and use it properly. Structured data like website analytics, surveys and reviews reveal how your customers feel. Unstructured data like social media posts let you know why they feel the way they do, which is much more important.
Running a business without 90% of customer data means running your business blindly. The most successful companies out there (like Facebook or Amazon) are also the ones that have the most advanced data management solutions. If you want your company to stand out from the crowd and overcome competition, big data is the way to do it!